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This report is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

Sound and Fury in Geneva Nicholas Zurbrugg
Sound Poetry, Performance Poetry and experimental poetry in general receive little attention in Switzerland but the 1987 'Festival de la Batie' included a memorable series of performances by poets from France, Russia, England, Roumania and Germany. Jointly organized by Vincent Barras and Jean-Jacques Bonvin, this programme of seven nightly readings began with the work of the Parisian pioneer sound-poet, Bernard Heidsieck. A master of the multi-track, real-time/reel-time narrative, Heidsieck's meticulously timed mono-logues ranged from virtuoso endurance pieces such as Vaduz - an exhaustive repetitive listing of all the peoples living around Vaduz, 'autour... tout autour de Vaduz', to more personal, confessional pieces based upon unfamiliar words found in the dictionary.

In this respect, Heidsieck's work hovered dangerously close at times to the French Letters Syndrome: a tendency to restrict performance to rather systematic, programmatic experiment without much personal content. At its most extreme, the F.L.S. surfaced in the work of Michèle Metail, a French poet affiliated with the OULIPO group, who diligently worked her way through various recipes from this group's guide to nouvelle literary cuisine. One poem, for example, seemed something like the successive verses of 'Old MacDonald had a farm' - not so much by generating a list of 'moo moo here', 'oink oink there' farmyard cries, as by reciting successive near identical phrases in which a new initial concept replaced the previous line's final concept. So 'The colour of the sky at sunset in September', led to, say, 'The change in the colour of the sky ...


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