For our final week of In Detail, we have been talking to JL Williams and Catherine Street, discussing their inspirations, creative process and the different ways in which their projects take place.
A lot of your work is performative. When did you first start to become interested in Spoken Word? Are there any Spoken Word artists who you particularly admire?
JL Williams: I once saw the poet Michael Longley read at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and he was asked at the end of the event whether he thought poetry belonged on the page or on the tongue. He answered that he thought poetry was (pointing to his mouth) first oral, then (pointing to his ear) aural, and then for the page. This rang true to me.
In my experience, poetry comes as emotion, sound, observation, reflection, story, image. I hear the words and write the words that form in my head so I can remember them and share them with people who aren’t in the room with me. If people are in the room, then I am eager to share the work by reading out these written down words, or sometimes even singing them. I don’t separate the two (written/spoken) in the act of creation. I don’t think of some of my work as specifically for the page and some as specifically for performance, and I would not call myself a Performance Poet or a Spoken Word Artist. Performance Poetry and Spoken Word are diverse categories, and there are artists I admire and cultures associated with these forms that I enjoy very much. I respect these categories but in my own performance and curatorial work I strive to break down divisions between the written and spoken poetic word. I find it more rewarding and creative to think of how we share poetic work in a fluid and responsive way… what does the poem desire? What does the moment desire?
In February 2016, Dundee’s Cooper Gallery hosted an evening of dance and poetry in response to the exhibition ‘ALL SYSTEMS…go’, which explored the body in relation to modern mobile systems. At this event, J. L. Williams performed “Opening Bracket / Closing Bracket: An Object Lesson in Levitation”, a piece written as a reaction to the choreography found in the gallery.
For more info: https://groupcriticalwriting.dundee.ac.uk/jl-williams-opening-bracket-closing-bracket-an-object-lesson-in-levitation/
Originally from New Jersey, US, artist, poet and performer, JL Williams studied for an MLitt in Creative Writing from Glasgow University. Throughout her career Williams has worked across a vast array of cultural projects, from the writing of an Opera to creating workshops and performing at live poetry events.
Collaboration and performance play an important role in the development of both poetry and language within her practice. Williams has collaborated with numerous artists, poets and musicians, Iain Morris, James Iremonger, Anna Chapman and Alastair Cook to name a few. One of Williams’ most prominent collaborations throughout her career has been with artist and friend, Catherine Street, performing and writing together throughout several exhibitions and sound-performances.
This collaboration is ever-present within Between poles and tides. Whilst walking through the exhibition, visitors can listen to an emotive audio recording of Williams in an abstract and imagined dialogue with Street. This dialogue became a reality at the end of last month when the two women performed the piece in the gallery space, creating a live, poetic environment.
Lauren Hawkins, Talbot Rice Gallery Intern
Nestled in the countryside surrounding Edinburgh, four beautiful pieces by Ian Hamilton Finlay can be found at Jupiter Artland.
The late Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925 -2006) forged a career as one of Scotland’s most successful and distinguished artists. Finlay was born and raised in both Glasgow and the Orkney Islands, but later moved to practice in Edinburgh where he became a founding member of the Concrete Poetry movement.
o sweet fiscal, azalea banks
or blueberry gorge
the afternoon racists mow their lawns
everything in a house should be useful
or beautiful, suite England
as Engl-ish as anxiety snagged in floral
some foliage is the stuff of paperbacks
habitual catalogue of the day, intro ft.
blossom fallen from a gated
property and crisping on the pavement’s
piss-streaked sun, kicked
out of shape by the advance of
a woman whose feet pass quickly
then recede in the distance
soon followed by a girl whose shoulders
curl a phonetic c as she frowns (at
at which point the narrative corrects
the woman as Mother & the latter
grammar as Disobedient
Daughter, and the world shakes off
its hope of distance to assume a
familiar shape: in which
the blossom becomes fallout
of some unseen conflict & we
the barely treading water, like toothless
children bobbing for apples
& ushering worlds
round their axes
today I woke
to find you squatting in my mouth again
so I shut you in, for fear
you’d come pouring out: