Friday, 18 October 2013

Christine Huber - a brief interview

Austrian poet Christine Huber's work mixes poetry with sound, music and visual arts. Her recent works include Durchwachte Nacht. Gedankenstrich made together with Magdalena Knapp-Menzel (Edition Art Science, 2010), striche streichen an Audiobook with a composition by Christian Utz (audiobeans / zeitzoo, 2011),  and alles auf anfang poems with drawings by Ilse Kilic and Fritz Widhalm (das fröhliche Wohnzimmer-Edition, 2013).
Christine Huber
You can read her poem ‘boden’ - ‘the ground ‘ in the original German with English and Welsh translations on the festival website

Christine spoke to festival blogger Nia Davies about her work. 

Nia: You work with sound and music alongside poetry and you have also collaborated on pieces for radio. How do you place words and sounds together in your recent work? Is it a form of interpretation - i.e. do you make language respond to sound or sound respond to words? Or is there another process at work such as storytelling or the construction of an atmosphere? In other words, can you describe how do these mediums interact in your collaborations?

Christine: For all my collaborations I can say that they were really collaborations - so I cannot answer what came first or second. Mostly the composer came to me with a sort of setting - they had the idea, e.g. a story or a subject / theme and also some texts, but often these texts were too long or they did not fit perfectly. So my job was to make them short enough for a composition or to find new words that would fit the given setting.

Why did they come to me? My poetry works with sounds - in this context the sound and the rhythm is the most important factor. These composers never had problems following my poetry. They understood perfectly that it is about music and not about making sense, that making-sense is something deriving and at the same time vanishing - like melodies in the context of new music - and that most of the work consists of constructions made from words. Or to talk outside the context of music I describe my work as sculptures made from words, trying to be as abstract as possible.

Nia: What is for you the ideal way to experience poetry? Reading alone or listening to performances or recordings? And: Is there something about radio that allows you to do what you want to do with a piece?

Christine: All the mentioned varieties 'to experience' poetry (by the way a wonderful formulation) are, to my mind, different emanations. And I would not like to miss one. But I, myself, cannot read poetry without a voice - that means, when I read I always have a sort of speaker in my head. If i know how the author reads his poems so it is this voice, otherwise I invent one. 

In terms of radio, in Austria, the Austrian broadcast union has not much space for poetry and the space that is given is within a strict scheme: 7 to 9 minute pieces, read by an actor or actress, a lot of music between the poems, twice a week. Private radio stations are not concerned with poetry at all.

Nia: Can you tell me something about the poem 'boden' - or 'the ground' as translated into English by Peter Waugh and yourself. My feeling is of a voice or voices placed or moving through somewhere between groundedness and flight, the experience of being present in the 'noisy' world but also being somehow winged - 'wings like hands on ground'. Can you tell me something about these earthly wings? And how did the experience of movement work on language when you wrote (and translated) this poem?

Christine: What you describe as "earthly wings" - I cannot give much commentary. I tried to start from scratch and like all beginners I had not very much awareness of what I was doing (or at least I tried to work as if I did not have too much awareness of what I was doing). I just try to trust my experience - in all kind of senses - in writing poetry. The translation (Peter Waugh made the first draft and I worked over it) helped me to realise that there is a construction there much more then I had originally planned. Nevertheless I skipped two stanzas - they seemed OK in the German version, but the translation showed that not every word had found its proper space until then.

To me it is interesting that your questions do not mention the grammar, which I like to call 'broken grammar'. I always make mistakes, on purpose. I use the rhythm of a sentence and turn halfway through it into a new period. What a hard time we had to find solutions in the English language! On the one hand it should not sound wrong, on the other hand it was meant to show that the grammatical rules are, like 'making sense', something that can always be discussed anew, at least within poetry.

Christine Huber will be performing at events tonight in Bangor, in Caernarfon on Monday 21st and at other events across the festival. Find out more on the festival website where you can also read Christine’s poem ‘boden’ translated into Welsh and English.

1 comment:

  1. I was fascinated by the performance tonight because when I closed my eyes and listened, I saw so many pictures in my head that were and were not suggested by the words that I have come home and started to doodle to try to capture these images. I hope I can make something art/art collage/word collage of the experience. Thanks.