A rehearsal video from May 31, 2017, showing an excerpt from the second section of the dance as a work in progress. Using videos we were able to see some of what Nikki was setting. Because both of us were dancing or at least “on stage”, it was impossible to know what the overall look and pattern of the dance were. This reminds me that Joe Goode works in a studio without mirrors. Since his choreography is collaborative with his dancers, it means that each dancer has a perspective of the piece, but no one sees the piece as a whole. The dancers are dancing to each other, rather than to an audience.
The rehearsal took place in a studio in south London. In the background the traffic noises blend with the recordings, creating a soundscape combining country and city.
The third poem we worked on that afternoon describes the flight of clouds over Dartmoor: ‘flight: amber tracings,/ shadows/ from clouds/ overhead. // the horizon’s tilt/ sheds vertical song // flashes with wings
Perhaps it’s the word amber, which described the color that passing cloud shadows turn the stiffer sturdier green grasses of the moor below, and that now describes the rough planks of the pub’s floor, but suddenly I can see the contours of Dartmoor mapped over a pub floor in Southwark.
Nikki has evoked this image by asking, ‘Am I the voice or the clouds?’
And following that, the exclamation: I’m walking around on a canvas. It’s still there.
It seems wherever we are we can throw down a meadow across the floor in our imagination. Locale has that great a power. As do words. As does the body in its flight across the surface of the earth.
Sunday, 24 May, 2015
We go out to the pub where Nikki has her Secret Salon, a Sunday afternoon dance event. It’s one of those upstairs rooms found at most pubs, with a rough wooden floor and lots of tables and chairs. Nikki clears the furniture to the sides of the room, creating a dance space in the midst of a cabaret setting. Nikki asks me to read the series and I do, several times; it’s a way to focus, to clear our minds from the train ride down to London Bridge, and the upcoming dance classes and event.
We begin with the first dance that she did over a year ago. She watches the video, refreshing her memory. And writes out the combination that she devised months ago for the poem that begins “the colour of tourmaline”.
We rehearse the poem and combination several times, and Nikki comments that the way I am reading is completely different from the first rehearsal in January 2014. It can be summed up, she says, in one word. I’m baffled; I have no idea what the word could be. She explains that the first version was about rhythm and the second about melody. I can see this in the dancing, which seems far more lyrical the second time around, but I can’t hear the difference in the reading, whereas Nikki can. We film the rehearsal and play back the two videos.
It makes sense though that the first version is about rhythm because we spent the bulk of our time in the first rehearsal trying to determine the stresses in the poem. This emphasis has switched somewhat in the following rehearsals. I have been thinking about the poems and how to speak them. I would like them to be as close to speech as possible without the rhetoric of ‘delivery’. Really, I want them to be like a caress. More present than a whisper, but without the need to compel or persuade. Something as quiet and as natural as the grass on the hills from out of which they came.
Saturday night, 23 May, 2015
One of the things discussed on Thursday was the use of the dockyards at Medway. I wondered if the text should be more site specific, referential like the poem that I just finished in response to Rimbaud’s “Aube”. In the French poem, Rimbaud chases the dawn across the surface of buildings, steeples and domes, the marble quays, until he reaches the woods. The possibility of mixing languages was a question.
But we decided to return to the small poems that make up “Passing Moments”. Perhaps because we are feeling our way in the project it just seems easier to deal with very small poetic units. Eventually the poetic units will add up and Anna’s layering of music and words and Nikki’s steps will work to tie the series into a unified performative whole.
We chose two more poems to set, and worked in the hallway, a small space but enough for marking, devising two more combinations. Working in the hallway, we seem to shift our focus to the spatial elements of the poetry. Nikki seems more affected by the content of the words. The poem with the phrase “the horizon’s tilt/ sheds vertical song” affects her sense of movement. This doesn’t seem to be a problem the next day when we are working in a much larger space.
From HD’s Poet and the Dancer:
dance for the world is dead,
dance for you are my mistress,
you are my stylus,
you write in the air with this foot,
with that foot,
with this arrow;
your flung hand
is that pointed arrow,
your taut frame
is one arrow,
I’ve been invited to give a paper on an aspect of prose poetry at a symposium in Liège. In order to maintain a degree of focus in my reading, thinking and practice, I’m working on an association between prose poetry and early jazz music. The link between these two forms was inspired by Baudelaire’s famous Preface to his Petits Poèmes en Prose:
Who among us has not, in moments of ambition, dreamt of the miracle of a form of poetic prose, musical but without rhythm and rhyme, both supple and staccato enough to adapt itself to the lyrical movements of our souls, the undulating movements of our reveries, and the convulsive movements of our consciences?
This obsessive ideal springs above all from frequent contact with enormous cities, from the junction of their innumerable connections. (translated by Rosemary Lloyd)
It seems to me that what Baudelaire is invoking here is a spirit of early jazz, avant la lettre. The hard part will be proving it.