Nota bene: Pulsed Poetry
by Anna Serra
Traduzione di Hellali Penanguer.
ille canit (pulsae referunt ad sidera valles),
VIRGILE, Eglogues, VI, 151 ds QUEM. DDL t. 7
Il rapporte son chant (les vallées le pulseraient jusqu’au soleil)
He delivers his chant (the valleys would pulse it up to the sun)
Pulsed poetry (poésie pulsée) combines all living forms of poetry one can come across nowadays; those are enshrined in a tradition of oral transmission of poems which was revolutionized by the emergence of recording devices and vocal diffusion systems in industrialized countries.
This revolution – more than a-century-old – actually aims to revive forgotten roles of poetry: to reconnect with cosmic rhythm through the pace of chanted verses, to bring visions of the before-world by using before-idioms; to allow the poet to be more creative than ever in manipulating the malleable, sonorous substance of languages. Besides, it provides an alternative to the limits of the poetic development of a language to that which books may offer…
We now have access to digital tools, mostly computer programs, which help develop a new craftmanship of poetic effects by allowing the manipulation of sounds down to their very grain. It represents a new approach of composition where objects and more ancient instruments are comingled. Informatics, equipped with the internet, allows us to revise the broadcasting mediums of poetry. This advancement questions the reception of words beyond linguistic frontiers, to the point that the energy put in the syllable – sometimes pared down to its particle and silence – becomes the main stylistic feature of international poetry.
Therefore, pulsed poetry is a denomination which can evoke sound poetry (vocalized), oral poetry (verbalized), as well as acted poetry and even their combinations with other means of expression.
Those practices still have many appellations, some of which may have been overused or associated with key periods. In any case, here is a new one, to add one more leaf to the tree of poetic language, thus bringing a similar yet different season: pulsed.
The verb to pulse was used for the first time by physicist Henri Bouasse in 1926, in one of his works on musical instruments.
To pulse is derived from pulsation (latin pulsatio) which refers to a heartbeat, to rhythm in music, and to the flickering light of a variable star.
But the term also comes from impulse, a derivative from the latin word pulsio, action of pushing back + the verb pellere, to push out of, to affect, to hit the road, to beat an opponent. It led to the masculine name pulsus: pulse, beat, jolt/tremor.
The definition of pulsed poetry is supplemented by every derivative, by its anagram, and by every possible flexion of the term to pulse.
Pulsed associates poetry directly with the irregular pace of a heartbeat, thus anchoring it in life. Pulsed even indicates in its very sounds that the poem is breathed out, projected. Each pulsed poem has its style, depending on the pulse of its own poet.
The pulsed poem obeys two impulses; first one going from the body to the psyche, then one transcending the psyche, going beyond the idea of being, in an attempt to leave or to get through the “ought-to-be”, to overcome it and be contemplated, exposed to the plurality of dimensions (cosmos) through the poem. The pulsed poem is an escape. It escapes the inextricable by heading for the inextricable, it escapes mystery by heading for mystery, it escapes chaos through chaos and escapes life by plunging into life.
And so, the performer, or maybe in other words the pulsar poet, manages to exit himself by pulsing the poem out of his body with his voice: the impulse of his vocal organ – using his whole body as a vibratory membrane – reaches the listeners’ ears.
Our voice is related to original forces, it links us to a primordial sonic substance through the creation of images to which the poet’s voice is drawn – if we assume that sound allows us to see.
The pulsar poet is not without knowing that his voice allows things to be seen without the word, because the voice always goes beyond the word. This overwhelming voice is revealed through pulsed poetry in its most unknown vibrations. When mediated by a machine, the voice reveals its most gorgeous intimacies and lets itself be carried by the pulse, the electronic wave. The poet then creates his voices thanks to the machine, or thanks to the microphone membrane and to the speaker detecting and generating sounds. It is not true that the exploration of the vast spectrum of vocal expression, to perform one’s cry, kills the poets’ will to work with words.
Pulsed poetry can take the form of a discursive outpour in which the word appears in different guises. At times, it is only used in light touches, leaving all the space to the spirit of breath. Sometimes the word is shown without being pronounced. Sometimes a silence reaches us, the kind of silence which defeats verbal language whilst nevertheless belonging to it.
There can only be pulsed poetry if its realisation involves a live or mediatized performance.
Pulsed poetry is acted reading, or performed reading, in other words, the extensions of a written text just as much as it can be a spontaneous leap into the elaboration of a poetic message, still using the whole body as a vocal instrument.
Pulsed poetry is to be performed by its own writer. The pulsar poet elaborates his own oral and/or sonic process, so as to write his poem in our minds. When witnessing a live performance, we are not only captivated by the sounds made by the pulsar poet or by his other instruments – which are sometimes of his own invention – but also by his entrance, his gestures, his physical posture, his fiction, his very own fiction, born from his own identity, constantly creolised, that is to say brought into contact with others on his quest for expression.
Performing an oral poem or pulsing a poem should deliver an energy inherent to nature, and a momentum. The pulsed poem affects more through the very composition of its form, rather than by its final form, because it clings to the idea of language as an activity, an Energeia, the actuation of a power.
This has nothing to do with a bellicose force, but rather, a force arising from vulnerability, from self-consciousness, from visions of epiphany (the essence of things, their spring); an idiot force in the meaning of the Greek term idiốtês: someone who is excluded based on his unawareness regarding the filters of education and etiquette. The idiot force then becomes the force one holds when their own little thing, their rarity, their note makes them feel like they stand apart…
This energy flows through the gift of the word, a uniquely exuberant bodily presence, and most importantly, through the transcendence of it. Since the pulsar poet’s momentum can arise from the concern that he may explode in his inner self, since, elsewhere, pulsed poetry may sometimes become a transgressive art, by absorbing violence as much as a fete would.
What drives the pulsar poet is his indignation against the rejection he faces because his work is not deemed consumable, against his subjection to the diktat of comprehension. His indignation when hearing words used in mouths in order to shape minds. Such lack of awareness (or spirituality) hinders the collective being, or spirit, from gathering in the same unmappable region. The region where unawareness is infinitely absorbed by the breath which comes before language and overturns the ego. Yet still, individualism is not a path towards the ignorance of the we, a we similar to an impersonal feeling one must find within: love.
Pulsed poetry exemplifies the rebellion against the death sentence issued against all who are deemed useless, all who are determined to remain free in their expression and are mutilated, murdered or imprisoned because the gift of nothingness is a threat to dictatorship. It is not true that stating so is romantic. If I get too close to the line, I can have my hand cut off for having written “dick” for dick, and “cunt” for cunt. If I step out of the line, I can get murdered for having refused to use a weapon other than my stories. If I stand a little further out, I can become a poet threatened with death for having evoked a tortured minority. If I stand my ground, I am deemed a lazy lightweight to get rid of.
The pulsar poet can embody this rebellion through oblivion, playfulness, spiralling, as a pair of opened eyes in the dark. Pulsed poetry will overcome fear. First with despair, then with joy. The 7 joys. Because there are 7 words for joy in Catalan, as there are hundreds of words for snow in different languages combined. It is brilliant. It is an act of resistance to wander off the track of the idiom, it actualises the present way more than the elevation of reality into walls of information can.
The pulsar poet is similar to the namesake neutron star, which was born from a supernova explosion, triggering the spinning motion of the star. It pulses, meaning that its luminosity varies following its cycles. The rotation reminds us of the gift of the energy of motion and the meaning of a signal lost in the infinite. Or intoxication even, the exhilarating feeling of losing it in the multiverse.
“Pulsed” thus links us to the cosmos, and this is one of the functions of poetry. That link, or cosmic pulse, is without doubt the peak to reach.
Pulsars’ poetry does not seek to perfectly articulate freedom and difference, but to break them down into particles. Pulsed poetry doesn’t seek to become universal, but to attract the knowledge of other particles of differences in the world; not in order to fuse them, but for us to know one another. Nothing works better than difference to create unprecedented connections or crossings in time.
Pulsed poetry inherits from several decades of listening to poetics of the world, but this listening still needs to be experienced much further. Pulsed poetry is a balance of the semantics offered by one’s own language, surrounded by all languages, with the conscience of every other language.
In this sense it is an open poetry. It has acquired the wandering thought which investigates reality and imagination alike, a thought which is yet another way out of closed systems.
Other languages have an impact upon us, even if we are unable to decipher them. There is no need for a knowledge of languages, but rather for an exchange of the infinite variations of linguistic sensitivities between local languages, each with their own poetics.
Pulsed poetry expects total unpredictability from the future. Yet, it has nothing against traditional poetry, which guarantees the eternal return by the reiteration of a cyclical world and by assuming the social function, hence preserving the group by tirelessly chanting its values.
Pulsed poetry fosters the desire to ceaselessly actualise the uncreated world. It offers visions of it, because life is sweet in a world whose results cannot be calculated; because predictability kills desire.
Pulsed poetry maintains the pulse of desire. Its impulse is a will for power, not for control. The key of aliveness lies in this will, in this desire for the world.
And nothing brings the perpetual announcement of a new world better than the voice; it is a “who” which one hears at the same time as the cry/the voice.
Anyone doing sound poetry, oral poetry, all who wish to learn how to speak their text with the identity of their pulse, all who improvise an utterance, alone or with musicians, all who work on language orally, for art and non-art’s sake, for the social function of a performance, all of those for whom rebellion is expressed through language, are pulsar poets.
The pulsar poet lives on the impulse of the poem, a creative and generous force, and he feels no complex about his ability to be affected.