Project Unbound

"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. 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: Riječ Zvuk Slika" in London and Zagreb as part of the "Unbound" project. For more information, go here.


Background 

Text in French (français)
Text in Croatian (hrvatski)

“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 Elliot's citation 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 still very much present today. 

Working against the statement based on a monolingual paradigm of thinking - one nation, one language, one identity -  Jasmina 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 (between) 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"

“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…”. (Hélène Cixous, Les Rêveries de la femme sauvage, 2000).
"a door of memories half-opens in my gallery of Forgetting and for the first time my return to Algeria is made possible..." (1)

Jasmina's trilingual poem “Reveries about language” was first published in 2015 as the centre piece of the first ever issue of The Still Point Journal based in London. The term “reveries” can be interpreted or misinterpreted to mean “out of place”, “out of touch”, or “futile”; this can be especially true in the contemporary context where the reality of the pandemic - still very much present - 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. In all of Jasmina's multilingual poems, the presence of reveries about language can be understood as a search for both 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; it is a language that she has later forgotten. But, the act of reveries in her poetry also encompasses play, the reinvention of language(s); it looks both to the past and to the future and both questions and transcends nostalgia and melancholy for the thing lost; it (re)opens the doors of memory and forgetting. 

(1) Translation is by Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani.


Outputs

Further Reading, Listening


Acknowledgments

"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 CultureCentre 4 Digital MusicQueen Mary University of London and KIC, Zagreb (The Cultural information centre Zagreb).