"We allude to an unrestricted form, a word that in its expression goes beyond the print, with language of plants spreads colour, and in the drifting journeys of breeze reaches the images that give colour to flowers. In its boundless expression, earth is wind and in every pulse the wind melts its rocky essence in the sun and spreads its essence to the longing planets... not to keep, but to pour into the receptive space of the observer." ("Unbound expressions", Neda Dana-Haeri and Tajilli Keshavarz)
“Unbound” is a London-based collaborative project that explores
contemporary poetry writing in the context of multilingualism and
across different media created by Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani in 2017. It has received funding from the AHRC-funded Language Acts and Worldmaking Small grants programme in 2018 and 2019. The project explores multilingual poetry in all its forms by bringing its full poetic and creative potential to the fore. At its centre lies the idea of the "territory of language" as the primary creative space to embrace by any writer/poet/artist working across languages, cultures and artistic forms.
During 2019 and 2020, Jasmina (co-)directed several performances / recitals “Reveries about Language: Word Sound Image / Reveries autour de la langue: Mot Son Image / Sanjarenje o jeziku: Rijec Zvuk Slika" in London and Zagreb as part of "Unbound". “Reveries" are imagined as a series of textual, sonic and visual and ‘promenades’ inviting and inciting the public to immerse themselves fully in the multi-sensorial experience of multilingual poetry by Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani in English, French and Croatian. They aim to show how the spoken word, sound and image can interact in an innovative way to create a series of ‘unbound’ or free expressions.
The full list of events can be viewed here.
“I don’t think that one can be a bilingual poet", claims T S Elliot in an interview in The Paris Review in 1959 (Interview with TS Elliot, Paris Review, no. 1., 1959). As the citation by the poet shows, there is an implicit expectation on the poet (and writer in general) to choose one language in which s/he can write; this expectation is largely also present today. Working against the statement based on a monolingual paradigm of thinking - one nation, one language, one identity - Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani has always been interested in the exploration of multilinguality in her poetry writing practice. By using the multilingual method, she wants to challenge, subvert those expectations. In her essay “Unbound Lines: Writing in the Space of the Multilingual” she describes her experiences of living and writing in her three languages:
"Before I started introducing multilinguality in my writing, I often felt that when I was writing in one of my languages I was losing “something”. That “something”, I came to fully understand this much later, was made up not only of notions and concepts, but also of sounds, images and smells, as well as the emotional, cognitive, pragmatic and kinetic resonances of the words and the worlds I live in. Each of my languages has its own archeology; one contains my sensory and sensual memories, the other inhabits my thoughts, my Self, my consciousness, the third plays an important role for me in terms of cultural identity. Each of the languages I inhabit has its own timbre, voice, rhythm; it has its own harmonies and melodies, its own colours. Each language I speak, mediates my experience(s) of the world differently. Only after I decided that I would not or did not have to choose a language in order to write, did I start writing poetry. In the process of writing poetry in three languages, I spend some time comparing and rewriting the English, French and Croatian versions of each of the poems, something that contributes to a more precise poetic expression in each of these languages." (Balkan Poetry Today, issue 2, 2019)
The notion of "reveries" / "rêveries" / "sanjarenje"
The term “reveries” can be interpreted or misinterpreted to mean “out of place”, “out of touch”, or “futile”; this feels especially true in the contemporary context where the reality of the pandemic has taken such a firm hold on our imagination(s). According to the Collins dictionary, a “reverie is a state of imagining or thinking about pleasant things, as if you are dreaming”. The dictionnaire du Larousse offers a slightly different definition referring to a state of drifting aimlessly, of being lost in one’s thoughts: Une reverie est une “activité mentale dirigée vers des pensées vagues, sans but précis”. Regardless of the nuances used to define this term, in both of these definitions is present the experience of daydreaming. “Reveries about language” was a trilingual poem Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani wrote at the very beginning of her practice. She slowly started to appropriate the concept of “reveries” and began to understand its importance more and more for her own multilingual poetry practice; the act of reveries about her languages lies embedded in all of the multilingual poems she has written. Reveries as a search for recovery of (lost) language(s) and an excavation of her fourth, silent language, Arabic that she used to speak with her grandmother during her first seven summers in Algeria; a language that she has later forgotten. But reveries also in the sense of play, of reinvention of language(s). Taken in entirety, the act of reveries about language(s) looks both to the past and to the future. It does not only signify (a state of) daydreaming and a melancholic feeling for the thing lost; instead, it questions and transcends nostalgia. It (re)opens rather than closes the doors of memory and forgetting. As the main character and narrator in Helene Cixous’s Rêveries de la femme sauvage says at the beginning of the novel: “une porte vient de s’entrebâiller dans la galerie Oubli de ma mémoire, et pour la première fois, voici que j’ai la possibilité de retourner en Algérie…”.
Further Reading, Listening
"Unbound" has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Language Acts and Worldmaking Small grants programme in 2018 and 2019.
"Unbound" is supported by Centre for Poetry, Arts and Culture, Centre 4 Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London and KIC, Zagreb (The Cultural information centre Zagreb).