This interview is excerpted from a longer piece published in CV2.
Clarise Foster: How does a piece of poetry/art take root for you creatively? And how might you begin to work on a piece, does it most often begin as/with text?
a rawlings: Relationship. With land, self, friend, language. I’ve been running in counter-clockwise circles on North Atlantic foreshores. To make contact with. To land as in to arrive as in to touch. Down. Deeper, farther, under. To under-stand. Alternative perspective or perception. Perceptual. Any work starts from an ear, cocked. Cochlear. Or perhaps an eye.
The works start long before I know they’ve begun. Better yet, each work surfaces as a continuation of a relationship (with a site, an idea, a work preceding the work). Probably language-as-thought (more so than text) offers the clarity that a work has begun. And then a shift to the physical — whether that’s typing notes on a keyboard or running in counter-clockwise circles.
CF: I am captivated by your use of different mediums in work like Gibber —while it is true that they are, especially the photographs, often provocative and beautiful in and of themselves they also function like the actual text-work, with each piece as purveyors of other languages. It can be a challenge to integrate work that flows in different forms — but it feels to me that there is alternative fluency for you, and perhaps what I am trying to ask here is how the landscape of Iceland has given you this awareness, this way of making?
ar: Fantastic term, Clarise — alternative fluency. Growing up in a place and with a language or two, aren’t we taught that we know this place and language? Knowing suggests familiarity, and I’ve found the more I take for granted my familiarities, the more I run the risk of suffocating an attentive, respectful curiosity. The estrangements afforded through circulating in unfamiliar ecosystems and languages have gifted ever-deepening tuning-in. The mindful guidances of Pauline Oliveros, R. Murray Schafer, and Thích Nhất Hạnh have provided structural approaches to alternative fluencies, in turn making estrangement and curiosity tools to carry to known or unknown, alike.
Dwelling in Iceland has been a profound experience to circulate in the sonority of an aspirated language (in French: sons sans sens) and the physical geography of a young island. I carry with me frequently a digital camera and audio recorder to extend and frame my senses (“Go, go, Gadget Eyes-and-Ears!”). And anytime I can, I invite others to join me in seeking these transformational modes.
Published online August 29 2017.
a rawlings is an intradisciplinary artist using languages as dominant exploratory material and she considers how to perform geochronology as an LKAS PhD candidate at University of Glasgow. Her performance practice seeks and interrogates relational empathy between bodies—be they human, more-than-human, other-than, non. Meditating on languages as inescapable lenses of human engagement, rawlings’ methods over the past 15 years have included sensorial poetries, vocal and contact improvisation, theatre of the rural, and conversations with landscapes. rawlings’ books include Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists (Coach House Books, 2006), o w n (CUE BOOKS, 2015), and si tu (MaMa, 2017). Her libretti include Bodiless (for Gabrielle Herbst, 2014) and Longitude (for Davíð Brynjar Franzson, 2014). rawlings is half the new-music duo Moss Moss Not Moss (with Rebecca Bruton) and the polypoetry duo Völva (with Maja Jantar). She loves in Iceland. Meira: http://arawlings.is
Clarise Foster is the editor of Contemporary Verse 2.