Unbound presents Zoë Skoulding

Unbound presents poets and writers engaging with and / or exploring multilinguality. Meet the English-born poet Zoë Skoulding.

Zoë Skoulding was born in Bradford, United Kingdom in 1967. Having previously lived in East Anglia, India and Belgium, Skoulding now lives in north Wales. Skoulding’s first collection of poems Tide Table was published in 1998 (followed by The Mirror Trade, 2004; Dark Wires, 2007; From Here, 2008; Remains of a Future City, 2008; The Museum of Disappearing Sounds, 2013). 

Skoulding is a true master at her craft. She possesses a strong writing voice capable of transgressing the boundaries and the borders of both meaning and form whilst also exploring the multivocal and multilingual expressions in her poetry. Stylistically, she combines lyrical imagery with a (post)modernist approach and worldview, something that allows her never to fall into the ‘nostalgia’ trap.  Skoulding is particularly good at studying the relationship between poetry and city space. This relationship is the main theme of the masterful collection ‘Remains of a Future City”. In one of the poems, ‘The Old Walls’, Skoulding writes: 

The wall is who we are and they are not and
            farther in the boundaries collapse in a rush of
            security as cells multiply and break through stone
translucent grit cracks the skin open to the elements
            we go down through layers and this is history
            a low door at the foot of the walls opens into starry
arches articulate as loin bones the slender joints
            lithe as a voice disappearing from behind the
            words behind the walls where water moves  
against deep tones of trees that cloud the air
            behind the smell of wet earth the voice leaves
            the shape of itself and the footprints of walkers
trace the shell of the city its dead words
            we crawled out of our words tender like snails
            and the new city grows from the loins of the old
as lichen spreads in acid maps invading and
            retreating the city runs along fingers runs along
            roads and wires and into fields and the sightlines
run back to the city in wires and the walls
            keep nothing out and the nothing beyond as a cloud
            of eyes moves through the streets and falls like rain

Then, in her 2013 ‘haunted’ collection ‘The Museum of Disappearing Sounds’, Skoulding turns to the theme of disappearance. She intertwines disappearing words and sounds ‘shaken loose from border controls’ giving rise to a poetics of the trace. Traces of other languages, other voices, other cultures appear as can be seen in the extract below from ‘Variants of a Polish fragment’:

this is glass this is szkla or szklo depending on where
it catches its light and I can’t see anything through it
only hear the rasp of broken bottles
swept across a beach where I’m walking
towards you with bare feet in this variant
salt air wears the edges smooth

words are sharp against the town’s low roar
but blur your ears and traffic turns tidal every step
leaves a white wave of salt on my shoes
in wody wielkie in vast waters I could
drown in the undertow of any language
in this variant it would make no difference

It can be said that intertextuality lies at the centre of Skoulding’s writing. Besides her postmodern exploration of modern sonic environments one can find a series of references to the French literary cannon including Rimbaud, Valéry and Baudelaire. So is the Proustian theme of memory and forgetting the central subject of the poem in prose in three parts ‘In Search for Lost Time’. The poem testifies to the poet’s quest for time lost, as can be seen in the third part: 

He would suddenly become aware that he could not remember even time-lapse cameras recording glaciers. A reasonable attempt will be made to replace time lost but there is no magic form. Ask your doctor to complete a press release pertaining to cloud estimates after earthquakes. How can one hold joy and grief in the mind at the same time? Blame advertising slowdown, or the growing literature on the economics of migraine. Little is known why subjective time loss occurs after a novel experience but mice allowed to sleep after being trained help you shed flab in a jiffy. Between accident and absence the world had changed into something recognisable.

This is simply great poetry worth reading and re-reading again. 

Photo: ‘Stranger in the night’, ©Mina Ray 2017

Unbound presents Samira Negrouche

Unbound presents poets and writers working with / on multilinguality. Meet the Algerian poet Samira Negrouche.

Samira Negrouche was born in Algiers in 1980.  She is the author of several poetry collections including: À l’ombre de Grenade, Iridienne, and Cabinet Secret – a work with Enan Burgos. [1] Negrouche possesses three languages: French, Arabic and Tamazight. She writes in French and translates Arabic poetry and has participated in interdisciplinary projects involving drama, video, photography and plastic arts. Le jazz des oliviers was published in Algeria by Tell in 2010 and was subsequently translated and published in Italy the following year. In Paris, she recently published an anthology of contemporary francophone Algerian poets, Quand l’amandier refleurira (Editions de l’Amandier), and has created a show called “Soleils” that focuses on francophone Algerian poetry from the Thirties up to the present day.

In 2012, she wrote a poem on the Arab Spring, Sept petits monologues du jasmin  (Seven Little Jasmine Monologues, translated by Marilyn Hacker). The poem in French is structurally composed of three parts. The first part contains seven ‘mini-poems’ in prose that refer to seven Arabic cities: Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Saana, Damascus, Rabat and Algiers (in French, the author gives only the initials of the cities to the reader).  The second and third parts contain verses entitled ‘Suite a/rythmique’ and ‘Triptyque pour jeu de lignes ou de chambre’. [2]  Negrouche explains: “These fragments were finalized in January 2012, and while I use some details very specific to that period, I think they perhaps have more sense today, with a certain distance. I don’t know, what do you think?”. [3] [4] Of the English translation, she says: “The English version has its own life, and this is what I like and admire about Marilyn Hacker’s work, it never feels like a translation. There aren’t flow accidents when I read her translations.”

An extract of the poem in French and in English is given below:

Deux cent soixante-quatre kilomètres sur les routes poussiéreuses, caravane de jambes desséchées semelles fines qui avancent et se densifient comme chargées de sacs trop grands comme libérées des cargaisons débarquées Aden la brise marine s’éloigne à chaque pas je t’offre mon dos et l’ivoire de ma peau cent fois brûlée sous le soleil journalier traversant grimpant dans la foule des passants cent fois posant le grain à la porte des autres. À s’engouffrer sur le chemin visage déterminé serait-ce résigné ce chemin qui semble n’aller qu’au centre de la métaphore et qui pourtant raccourcit l’illusion.
Deux cent soixante-quatre kilomètres à flamber mon crâne rasé qu’il flambe qu’il dilue l’horizon et altère le temps au-dessus des colonnes serrées d’hommes et de slogans qu’il ajoute un pas à chaque pas et que n’arrivent jamais les routes citadines du plateau antique.

Two hundred and sixty-four kilometres on dusty roads, caravan of withered legs skimpy soles that move forward becoming denser as if weighed down with oversized bags as if liberated from unloaded cargo Aden the sea breeze becomes more distant with each step I offer you my back and the ivory of my skin burned a hundred times by the day-labouring sun crossing clambering in the crowd of passers-by placing the grain a hundred times on others’ threshholds. Surging onto the road faces determined or resigned this road that seems to lead only to the center of the metaphor but still cuts the illusion short.

Two hundred and sixty-four kilometres to set fire to my shaven head let it catch fire let it thin out the horizon and change the weather above the close-ranked columns of men and slogans to each step taken let it add one more and let the city roads never arrive from the ancient heights.)


En cette journée lézardée de déceptions où le bleu a quitté la mer pour envahir la colline chaînes blindées dans l’amas minuscule Minuit avorte le jour laissant la Casbah à ses débris. J’en appelle à la mémoire d’Alger de ses comptoirs marins aux chars de l’occupation j’en appelle à Hassiba à Djamila à Didouche et à Boudiaf aux ancêtres et aux amnésiques aux violeurs de rêves et aux traîtres de toujours j’en appelle à chaque goutte versée à chaque humiliation que jaillisse enfin la baie et qu’elle nous habite qu’elle ouvre nos paupières assommées que se réveillent Al Anka et les diwans assiégés que s’ouvrent les seuils de nos maisons et que s’élève le chant nouveau. Que se lève le TGV expresse, qu’il ramène la brise de Tanger et qu’il amorce sa course de Tunis à Alexandrie et de Beyrouth à Istanbul. Que s’ouvre un jour nouveau et que Minuit embaume de jasmin.

On this morning cracked with disappointments when blue has left the sea to invade the hill in a uniformed chain tightening on the diminishing crowds. Midnight aborts the day leaving the Casbah to its rubbish and fragments. I appeal to the memory of Algiers from its seaside bars to the tanks of the occupation, I appeal to Hassiba to Djamila to Didouche and to Boudiaf to the ancestors and to the amnesiacs to the rapists of dreams and to the perpetual traitors I appeal to every drop spilled to every humiliation let the bay gush forth at last and let it inhabit us let it open our senseless eyelids let Al Anka and the besieged diwans awaken let the doorways of our houses open and let a new song arise. Let the TGV Express awaken, let it bring back the breeze from Tanger and let it start a new route from Tunis to Alexandria and from Beirut to Istanbul. Let a new day open and let Midnight be fragrant with jasmine.

Collaborations & a poet’s reading

In 2015, Negrouche collaborated with the English-born poet Zoe Skoulding on the project ‘170 degrees’, as part of the Globe Road Poetry London festival. Listen to Samrouche reading her poetry:


Summary in French

Faites la rencontre de Samira Negrouche, poétesse algérienne d’expression francophone qui vit à Alger. Samira Negrouche est une poétesse et auteure algérienne francophone vivant à Alger. Elle est l’auteure de plusieurs recueils de poésie, de courts essais et de textes en prose. Negrouche traduit aussi la poésie de l’arabe et de l’anglais vers le français. Ses travaux ont été traduits dans plus de quinze langues, en autre, en anglais par Zoë Skoulding avec qui elle a collaboré en 2014 sur sa performance ‘179°’ à l’occasion du festival de poésie de Ledbury. Elle a travaillé sur des projets interdisciplinaires de musique, de théâtre, de vidéo, de photographie ainsi que des arts plastiques. Quelques-unes de ses publications: Cabinet Secret (2007), Le Jazz des oliviers (2010), Seuil dynamique (2015). Formée comme médecin, Negrouche consacre tout son temps à des projets créatifs.

[1] The full list of publications:

  • Faiblesse n’est pas de dire… Algiers: Barzakh, 2001.
  • Les Vagues du silence, by Yasminah Salih, Alger: Al Ikhtilef, 2002. (Translation)
  • L’opéra cosmique, Algiers: Al Ikhtilef, 2003.
  • Iridienne, Echalas: Color Gang, 2005.
  • A l’ombre de Grenade, Toulouse A.P l’étoile, 2003 ; Lettres Char-nues, Algiers 2006.
  • Cabinet secret, Echalas: Color Gang, 2007.
  • Le Jazz des oliviers, Blida: Editions du Tell, 2010.
  • Quand l’Amandier refleurira, Anthology, 2012.
  • Six arbres de fortune autour de ma baignoire, Mazette, Paris 2017.

[2] I was unable to verify whether these two parts are missing in the English version or have been left out of the source I consulted.

[3] Source: Arabic Literature in English, https://arablit.org/2017/07/11/samira-negrouches-seven-little-jasmine-monologues/

[4] Source: Sanson, Hervé, ‘Contact et blessure tout ensemble…’, in: Po&sie, 2014/2 (N° 148), https://www.cairn.info/revue-poesie-2014-2-page-24.htm#pa8

Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, 18/03/2018.

Unbound présente Amelia Rosselli

Unbound présente les poètes et les écrivains qui explorent l’expression multilingue dans leur écriture poétique. Faites connaissance de la poétesse italienne Amelia Rosselli.

Ameila Roselli est née à Paris en 1930. Son père, Carlo Rosselli, était un militant antifasciste en exil, fondateur d’un célèbre mouvement de résistance socialiste, Giustizia e Libertà (Justice et Liberté). Sa mère, Marion Cave, était anglaise. Après l’assassinat de Carlo et de son frère Nello (Sabatino) Rosselli par la Cagoule sur l’ordre de Mussolini (1937), la famille Rosselli fuit à Londres, puis aux États-Unis, avant de revenir à Rome, où Amelia Rosselli s’installe définitivement.

L’œuvre poétique d’Amelia Rosselli est marquée par un rapport fondamental à la langue et à la culture française : un lien aussi fort, peut-être, que celui qui l’unit à l’anglais. De ses débuts en 1952 jusqu’à ses derniers poèmes, parus à titre posthume, son écriture reflète en permanence cette situation « entre les langues ». Sa langue n’est pas simplement l’italien mais un « ydioma tripharium » inextricablement lié à son parcours biographique. À partir de 1952, Amelia Rosselli écrit en trois langues une série de poèmes : d’abord en anglais My Clothes to the Wind (Mes vêtements au vent), 1952, puis en italien Cantilena, poesie per Rocco Scotellaro (Cantilène, poésies pour Rocco Scotellaro), 1953, ainsi qu’en français Adolescence : Sanatorio 1954 (Adolescence : Sanatorium 1954), 1954. Enfin, dans Le Chinois à Rome, 1955, le français est la langue principale, mais les deux autres langues affleurent de manière décisive. De même, Diario in Tre Lingue (Journal en Trois Langues), 1955-1956, est écrit en trois langues à la fois. À la fin de cette expérience trilingue (onze ans d’écriture), Amelia Rosselli semble choisir l’italien comme langue d’écriture principale : la publication de Variazioni belliche (Variations de guerre) en 1964 marque le début d’une œuvre poétique surtout italophone, et qui justifie de fait son rattachement au canon littéraire italien. Mais ce choix ne saurait masquer l’utilisation constante des deux autres langues, qui se manifeste dès le premier poème de son recueil Variazioni belliche par l’insertion de mots français, anglais, ou bien par des néologismes d’origine étrangère.

(Source: “Un « chaos linguistique » : les textes en français d’Amelia Rosselli (1930-1996)”, Emilio Sciarrino, http://journals.openedition.org/coma/311?lang=en#bodyftn1)

Le temps peut s’arrêter…
Le temps peut s’arrêter en bien
ou en mal ; il frissonne impertinent
de toute sa large bouche obscure, ou s’arrête
et hurle qu’il en a assez : de
cette belligérance.

Le Temps n’est pas un ventre ; c’est un croc
qui sourit sagement ou persifle
pendant que tu sers son maître, le coeur

Le Temps coud et raccommode ! et demande
dans ton rapide, brisé penser
pourquoi tu as laissé la confiture
se gâter ? Je ne suis pas un croc dit
le jongleur, le Temps ne s’arrête pas pour moi

dit le poissonnier ; le tout est
le tout, le Temps est le Temps, bouté hors
des ciels.

Une perle, un sacrifice, un psalmodier
reportages de morts… Je ne suis pas un jongleur
cria le poissonnier, ma main
ma tête, chantent que le temps a
tous ses frissons coordonnés avec le Temps.

Onze chevaux allaient cueillant des mûres
pensant qu’ils deviendraient
vieux, mais le Temps, lui, était assis et
cousait, sans égards pour leurs
larges bouches ouvertes, leurs cavernes
qui désiraient davantage.

Commencèrent onze courses, la “free
lance” pensée vieillissait encore : le Temps
était assis encore pensant, qu’il ne
vieillirait jamais. Accidents indéfinis, paradis
aigris – tous sont dans les bouches
des chevaux, dans leurs ventres terrorisés.
Le Temps-pensant cadra le trou
le Temps-soucieux cherchait à devenir
vieux. Le Temps-assis se collait
à sa place : il n’y avait bataille plus terrifiante
que celle qui était mienne.
J’ai accroché le Temps : il est assis
cueillant des mûres collé à sa
place : mais des cris brisés glissent
de la bouche : le Temps n’a pas de frissons
n’a pas d’autre lieu que la terre !

Puis nous marquerons le Temps, qui
devint énorme beaucoup, portant des barils
à la terre déserte, ou transformant
les carottes en raves, ou différemment
occupant son âme désintéressée. Le Temps
n’a pas de butins ! il peut devenir
vieux, n’était pour mes butins,
qui partagent le total.

Des raves à gorge déployée sourirent :
n’es-tu pas préparée pour
la bataille encore ? Ta flèche est-elle si
légère ? L’encombrante nature
restituera le vol : tu mourras,
et deviendras forte, fumant des fournitures
ou autres maux.

Qui fumant des plats d’argent, creusèrent
leurs fosses légères assez pour
mener droit à ce paradis
où le Temps n’a aucun tort, ni
ornières pour t’agripper. Et encore
pendant que ton sourire blesse, avec
un vouloir de pleurs, qui mène la chanson
une misère brodée de blanc
Temps, plus moëlleux que la grâce
de mon ventre, son faire en te trop-faisant,
pendant que tu te dresses fort.

(“Time can stop…”, in; Sleep, Amela Roselli)
Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani Mina Ray, 17/12/2017

Unbound presents Amelia Rosselli

Unbound presents poets working with / on multilinguality. Meet the Italian poet Amelia Rosselli.

Amelia Rosselli was born in Paris in 1930 to an Italian father and an English mother who fled Italy. Rosselli was a poet, a musician and a musicologist, as well as a literary translator. She used multilingual writing widely in her work. Her highly experimental literary output includes verse and prose in English and French, as well as Italian. From 1952, Amelia writes poetry in three languages: first in English, Clothes to the Wind  (1952), than in Italian, Cantilena, poesie per Rocco Scotellaro (1953), and in French, Adolescence : Sanatorio, 1954. Her trilingual journal, Diario in Tre Lingue, 1955-1956, is written in three languages simultaneously. At the end of her life, she returns to Italian as her principal language. Her poetry collection Variazioni belliche, 1964, is written in Italian; however, she also uses English and French insertions in her writing.

Rosselli published eight poetry collections. Her work has been recently collected and published in Hospital Series (2015, translated by Roberta Antognini, Giuseppe Leporace and Deborah Woodard) and Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli (2012, translated by Jennifer Scappettone). She also translated English poetry into Italian. Scholar and translator Lucia Re has described Rosselli as “anti-fascist, Jewish, multi-lingual, an experimental musician and a perennial exile, Amelia Rosselli is one of the great poets of the 20th century”. She died in 1966 in Rome by committing suicide.

(Source: Poetry Foundation; “Un « chaos linguistique » : les textes en français d’Amelia Rosselli” (1930-1996), Emilio Sciarrino)

[There’s something like pain in the room]
(by Amelia Rosselli)

from Documento (1966-73)

There’s something like pain in the room, and
it’s partly overcome: but the weight
of objects wins, their way of signifying
weight and loss.

There’s something like red in the tree, but it’s
the orange of the lampstand
bought in places I don’t want to remember
because they also carry weight.

Since I can know nothing of your hunger
the stylized fountains are
precise in their will
a destiny of people separated by oblique noise
can, when overturned, fall into place quite well.

(Unbound, 17/12/2017)

Unbound presents Invisible Cities (Le citta invisibili, 1972) by Italo Calvino

‘Unbound’ presents ‘Invisible Cities (Le Citta Invisibili,, 1972) by the Italian writer Italo Calvino.

“Beyond six rivers and three mountain ranges rises Zora, a city that no one, having seen it, can forget. But not because, like other memorable cities, it leaves an unusual image in your recollections. Zora has the quality of remaining in your memory point by point, in its succession of streets, of houses along the streets, and of doors and windows in the houses, though nothing in them possesses a special beauty or rarity. Zora’s secret lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not a note can be altered or displaced”. (Cities and memory 4)

The novel refers to the travels of the explorer Marco Polo and his descriptions of cities he visited on his journey through Asia and in China. ‘Invisible Cities’ deconstructs an archetypal example of the travel literature genre, ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ (13th century) which depicts Marco Polo’s journey across Asia and in Yuan Dynasty (Mongol Empire) China. A collection of fifty five fragments on memory, desire, loss, death, disappearance and language, the text can be best described as a long POEM IN PROSE; it is divided into nine sections without title, each of them interconnected and interwoven with the others through the theme of the cities. Each fragment in turn is a poetic reverie on the imagined and imaginary cities that the explorer passes through on his (internal and external) journey of discovery.

Unbound predstavlja ‘Nevidljivi gradovi’ (Le citta iinvisibili, 1972) talijanskog pisca Itala Calvina.

“S onu stranu šest rijeka i triju planinskih lanaca uzdiže se Zora, grad koji nitko od onih koji ga jednom ugledaju, ne može zaboraviti. Ne zato što bi poput drugih znamenitih gradova, ostavljao neuobičajenu sliku u sjecanju. Zora ima svojstvo da u sjećanju ostaje dio po dio, prema slijedu ulica i kuća duž ulica, kućnih vrata i prozora, premda u njima nema osobite ljepote ili rijetkosti. Njegova je tajna u načinu na koji pogled klizi po oblicima što nižu kao u glazbenoj partituri u kojoj se nijedna nota ne smije izmijeniti niti premjestiti.” (Gradovi i sjećanje 4)

Roman se odnosi na putovanja trgovca i istraživaoca Marka Pola i njegove opise gradova koje je posjetio na putu kroz Aziju i Kinu. ‘Nevidljivi gradovi’ dekonstruira arhetipski primjer žanra ‘travel literature’, ‘Putovanja Marka Pola’ (13. stoljeće), koji prikazuje put Marka Pola kroz Aziju i dinastiju Yuan (Mongolsko carstvo) u Kini. Tekst je sastavljen od pedeset pet fragmenata o sjećanju, želji, gubitku, smrti, nestanku i jeziku; može se najbolje opisati kao duga PJESMA U PROZI koja je podijeljena u devet dijelova bez naslova, međusobno povezanih tematikom gradova. Svaki fragment je osebujno pjesničko sanjarenje o zamišljenim gradovima koje putnik Marko Polo posjećuje na svom putovanju (samo)otkrivanja.

The ‘Unbound’ project, 28/02/2018


Chained, R.

As deep down as possible. He buried his emotions diving into it as deeply as. Into the deep sea. Taking every new day, every new night in. Clouds. The passage of time. Breathing in, breathing out. Diving in again, making his feelings for her his own, burying them deep down below the earth’s darkest layers this time. Below the sea. Remain strong. He must remain strong. Untouchable. Wounds, deep. Scars, invisible. ‘It’s alright. If I don’t think about her, my feelings will go away. She will become a faded memory’. A lie, he tries to convince himself of. But, he knows, dreams of it. Sweats. In repetition. Every day, she is transformed a little more into a lingering ghost in his subconscious. A spectre. Moving below his level of consciousness, she has transmuted into an unattainable ideal. A symbol of the feminine archetype for him. Not knowing this, he walks around without seeing, trapped in the veils of his own blindness. His heart, chained to her. He can’t shake it, shake her off. So, he pushes it further down. Deeper. Deep down as possible. To the earth’s core.

photo: Ryan Muirhead.



Mona’s maritime diary: 18

9/11/2016, 17:09 hrs. Light rain, 6 degrees Celsius, moderate Northwesterly wind
(13 miles per hour)

The riverbank is almost empty. I am in the familiar
presence of seagulls. It’s becoming darker, colder
every day… A teenager, wearing a dark sweater,
a baseball cap and a safety pin attached to the
front walks by. ‘A Love Supreme’ by Coltrane
breaks the silence. It’s coming from the teenager’s
sound system. A welcome invasion; jazz waves slide…
on the river surface… They shine. I smile, feel a few
raindrops falling down my face. I am free fire. Air.
Water. The river of jazz. Flowing, meandering between
the shores of memory and forgetting. Of us. Streams
of sound flow, merge… you, me, this river… in
counterpoint. A memory lands on my palm, softly.
I open my hand… a few jazz notes fly away.