‘Unbound’ is a London-based collaborative project that explores contemporary poetry writing in the context of multilingualism and across different media. It has been conceived and developed as a result of my own academic and creative journey as both a published researcher and poet of mixed background (Croatian / Algerian Francophone) living and working in London.
‘Unbound’ is a series of sonic, visual and multilingual ‘promenades’ inviting and inciting the public to immerse themselves fully in the multi-sensorial experience of my poetry in English, French and Croatian. It is imagined as a series of evening multilingual poetry performances in different cities across Europe (London and Zagreb in the first instance). These multi-dimensional – multilingual, multimedia – performances 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 project has recently received funding from the London-based Language Acts and Worldmaking project (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) for the production of a multilingual poetry performance in London that took place on the 20 March, Pinter Studio, London.
‘Unbound’s’ originality lies primarily in the multilingual exploration of poetry writing. It brings to the fore the idea of the ‘territory’ of language as the only possible space to embrace by any writer working across languages and cultures. It aims to do so in an innovative way, linking multimedia technologies with intimately lived poetic experiences and expressions. Ultimately, it aligns itself with the claim that “poetry is currently the form of writing that is undergoing the most radical regeneration” (The White Review, http://www.thewhitereview.org/prize/white-review-poets-prize-2017/). The project’s aim is to bring poetry fully into the twenty first century by engaging the public in an accessible way that will both surprise and delight, but will also be inspiring and thought provoking.
“I don’t think that one can be a bilingual poet. I don’t know of any case in which a man wrote great or even fine poems equally well in two languages. I think one language must be the one you express yourself in, in poetry, and you’ve got to give up the other for that purpose. And I think that the English language really has more resources in some respects than the French. I think, in other words, I’ve probably done better in English than I ever would have in French even if I’d become as proficient in French as the poets you mentioned.” (interview with T S Elliot, The Paris Review no. 1., 1959)
Since I began writing poetry in 2014, I have been exploring and playing with the idea of multilinguality in my writing. As the citation by T Eliot shows, there is an expectation on the poet (and writer in general) to choose one language in which s/he can write. By using multilingual strategies in my own writing, I want to challenge those expectations. My exploration of the multilingual is the result of both my personal and academic experience of living in several different countries and speaking different languages. I was born in Zagreb (to a Croatian father and an Algerian mother) where I was educated to MA level. I lived in Bruxelles between 1977-1981 and in Vienna between 1986-1987. Between 1991-1993, I lived in Uppsala, Sweden, where I was working on my MA in Sociolinguistics. In 1995, I moved to London where I have been living and working since.
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. ‘Unbound’ is a way for me to express creatively what it means to hold these complex ideas, feelings and experiences.
Read my essay ‘Unbound Lines: Writing in the Space of the Multilingual‘ recently published in Balkan Poetry Today, issue 2, Feb 2019.
First time broadcast on the King’s College London radio show, 28/4/2016 (c.f. podcast on
“Translation” from de 17h:30min):