On Sounding

  • Sonic Word/ Spoken World
Sound Poetry is what we all do in the discovery of language. One of the ways I got into sound poetry was listening to my children when they were very young. The discovery of language comes through a baby’s babble. When you listen to a child, it is amazing to watch and hear as their mouths form what even in babble is their native language. Words emerge from incomprehensible murmurs like mmmaammmabaabbbaabbananana…, first “mama”, then do you hear “banana”?
So for us right now, you will hear English emerge through the babble. The syntax is almost there, not quite. You get the sense of subject, verb, object. But you get the rhythm of the language as a gestalt before you get the actual words.
Just as a baby moves through babble into concrete syllables and words that become more and more articulate, I get to know through what I am sounding what I want to next explore, what’s coming up, been dredged out. The poem emerges on a wave of sound. Sound leads meaning.
Sounding as well explores what you don’t yet know about language, about what you are feeling. It’s a way of allowing parts of yourself to be heard. It is a way of expressing what has not yet been articulated.
Sounding has intrigued me because it’s a way into other language, other cultures. It’s a way of experiencing the freshness of childhood again. It’s a way of lifting poetry off the page. It’s a way of dealing with experience that is too much for the logical train of subject, verb, object. Sounding allows for any eventuality. It is a hoot. It is a way of participating in the extra-segmentals of speech. For someone like me, it’s a way of entering music. I was one of those children who had a very expressive face, knew all the words to all the songs but had no pitch. No pitch. So the music teacher asked to please stay in the choir, in the back row and mouth the words. I did. Sounding is my revenge.
Sound poetry improves our communication by releasing spontaneous, inventive dialogue beyond linguistic rules. It’s a variety of wail. It explores language in widening waves of individual expression. It’s able to use the sound of the human voice to portray the environment the inner space, to sound the alphabet, to sound like frogs, like evolution, to enter into one’s own creativity.
Sound is the source of creativity for me because it allows for play. I never know what is going to be heard. Now I’d like to share the experience of sounding with you. I’d like to do a sound poem with you. Are you game? See my participatory poem on www.mytown.ca/nightorchestra.
What you’ll need to do is sit up straight and oxygenate your brain by taking a deep breath. Take your fingers and massage your voice box tension to come in between All you need to do is make every sound that I make after I make it. The piece is called Re: Solution. It might well have been called E: Volution. May the wheels of creativity keep on turning!
Penn Kemp
Photos: 1. At Open Mic London ON, Mykonos Restaurant
2. At Calgary International Spoken Word Festival

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