My review of Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña, edited and translated by Rosa Alcalá (Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012) is now online at Intercapillary Space.
After reading Spit Temple, I immediately went back to some of Vicuña’s earlier books, her selected poems Unravelling Words & the Weaving of Water, and the writing-drawings of Instan. In documenting a separate, performance-based part of Vicuña’s eclectic and unified practice, Spit Temple also illuminates how to read these other seemingly more page-centric publications.
Unravelling Words, for example, whilst giving space to Vicuna’s installations and actions, is often the conventional bi-lingual poetry collection, English (translation) and Spanish (original) poems facing each other across recto and verso. Spit Temple makes apparent not only how Vicuña herself moves between different languages, but how printed poems and books are fluid, momentary constellations, ever liable to transformation, within ongoing relationships of oral and written that Vicuña describes variously here as “in tension like lovemaking” and “war zone.”
Likewise, Instan’s pencil writing-drawings become elucidated by the reproduction in Spit Temple of sheets of scribbled notes made in preparation for performances. The pages in Instan are much more finished, but both evidence a thought process seeking to “diagram” words, break them into syllables and space, find new wor(l)ds through multiple versionings (Kenneth Sherwood’s term, from his essay here) expressive of how “A poem only becomes poetry when its structure/ is made not of words but forces.”
Continue reading here.