A fast-paced monologue written in a lively mashup of Englishes by an internationally known, award- winning writer and artist.
Alisoun Sings finds its starting-point with Chaucer’s iconic, proto-feminist Wife of Bath. Her forceful voice leads the way across narratives of gender, and addresses the brutality of social conventions with caustic humor. This labyrinthine text navigates love and protest in landscapes impacted by global warming, systemic violence and solar eclipses. Bergvall continues her previous work creating texts that rest on transhistoric forms of English, beyond its dominance as a global lingua franca, and places her quest in the intersections and migrations of stories and languages.
“Caroline Bergvall brings exceptional linguistic range and sensitivity, active engagement, dynamic experimentation and intellectual passion to her poetic and artistic creations.”
GN There’s a technique I associate with your writing: including various points on the journey of translation in the text. Lines repeat themselves—one in a more contemporary English, one in a more transitory state or Middle English. The work of the middle ground has so often been scrubbed from literary cultures, and it seems that the middle ground is precisely where you work. Is that just a natural result of adaptation as a practice, or is it something you do intentionally?
CB That’s right. I have it a bit in Drift as well, with “The Seafarer,” using a process of translation as a way to reinvent or recreate the final word so that by explicating different spellings, different words for the same words, or through homophonic translation, there’s historical depth. It opens up the semantic field. It’s a way of writing.
In Alisoun you find it also in the pronouns, with “het, hem, em,” which allows us to rethink what is actually being said: Is it a pronoun? Is it a verb? That kind of play on the pronoun is similarly translated. Rather than having a translator go from A to B, it becomes an AB-type thing. Translation doesn’t have a resting point neither here nor there. But it spans that stretch. It comes across so many interactions. There’s no final mastery in translation because it’s taken over by the performative one way or another.