(SPAM Cuts) ‘from SOUND((ING))S: an on-board poetry installation’ by Amy Evans
This week’s SPAM Cut features Katy Lewis Hood on Amy Evans’ ‘from SOUND((ING))S: an on-board poetry installation’, a sequence of poetry taken from a wider installation/performance and available to read in Tentacular.
> A few days into September, I lay on the carpet of a ferry sailing through the night along the edge of the North Sea, from Orkney to Aberdeen. Shifting my body from one side to the other over the low rumbling of the ferry engine, I experienced the unnerving intimacy of half-sleep alongside complete strangers, aligned all of a sudden in the rhythm of the waves, marine propulsion, internal combustion.
> Amy Evans’s ‘on-board’ poetry has its own share of strange intimacies, yet its reasons for travel are very different. Out of shadows and shallows in the vast white space of the page, unfolds an
emerge nce sea
The sea is the English Channel, the passengers are refugees trying to get from Calais to Dover. What are the stakes of punning in this scenario? Through spacing, line breaks, double meanings, Evans breaks down language into parts, parts that might be mistaken for something else. Like Morse Code, heard fragments, or an unfamiliar language, these bits of utterance are relayed to us piece by piece:
Ship’s c logged — Triton calculates un/ conch
us that he guesses at his summms
will not search will not res cue
> In The Interpretation of Dreams (bear with me here), Freud talks about a difficult (woman) patient who had a dream in which the word ‘channel’ was inexplicably significant. After some discussion, it is suggested that the channel is connected to a joke about the Pas de Calais (the English Channel). My French isn’t good enough to get the joke. But Freud claims that the remembered ‘fragment’ of the channel, combined with the pun of the joke, ‘provides the solution of the puzzling element of the dream’ – something about ‘resistance to psychoanalysis’.  In Evans’s poem, there are no such solutions; the unconscious becomes ‘un/ conch | us’, calling back to the ‘grated shells | and split conch-shells’ of H.D.’s ‘Sea Poppy’. There is a split conscience at work at the heart of SOUND((ING))S, between the logging, calculating and policing of bodies reduced to bits, statistics, ‘papers’ – echoed formally in the division of words into parts – and the simultaneous desire to rework this strategy to break down the hostile environment and find forms of solidarity in ‘us’.
Triton’s chest g rows d ark f ills goes bust as it
ge states, created to control borders not to rescue at sea
> How could we remake the fragments into a more open politics drawn from the sea? Mielle Chandler and Astrida Neimanis on ‘gestationality’: ‘Whereas sovereign subjects (ideally) recognize the agency of other already-existent sovereign subjects, a gestational orientation turns toward bringing into existence that which is “not yet”…A gestational approach does not immediately lend itself to mutual recognition or exchange but is, rather, oriented toward providing the conditions for an unpredictable plurality to flourish.’ In Evans’s poem, ‘ge states’ holds out a hope, momentarily, before transmutating into ‘states, | created to control | borders’. Only certain subjects are sovereign. Only certain subjects are subjects. Is there another language we could use?
> I turn to Gloria Dawson’s poem ‘What dreaming makes’, published in the second issue of FRONT HORSE. (This poem is unfortunately only available in print but you can hear Dawson speaking about no borders politics on the SoulyVida podcast here). Subtitled ‘for sisters detained as migrants’, the poem begins the rhythms of a gestational thinking, ‘[w]orld words boat shape in, my thoughts hands moving toward something’, the something that becomes a chorus of ‘shut it doooooown / shut it down’ sung at the tops of our voices at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre. This is the kind of interpretation of dreams that I want. Evans leaves us in transit though, in the eerie submarine site of the
longest tunnel under
smallest of the shallow seas
> However, Evans’s poem is part of a larger piece, PASS PORT (2018), itself part of a larger piece, SOUND((ING))S, an installation first shown at the ICA in London in 2016 and performed on-board a ferry crossing from Dover to Calais taking provisions for refugees in the French camp. In the YouTube recording, Evans’s voice has a visual accompaniment in the form of a lime-green conch. Trumpet of the Tritons, it is also a shelter, held out, glowing like ‘stars in the | dark’. Over and over, Evans sounds out her spaces, holding tension in the wait for what might ‘emerge’.
Text: Katy Lewis Hood
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. by James Strachey (New York: Avon Books 1965), pp. 556-7.
Mielle Chandler and Astrida Neimanis, ‘Water and Gestationality: What Flows Beneath Ethics’, Thinking With Water, ed, by Cecilia Chen, Janine McLeod, and Astrida Neimanis (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2013), p. 62.