About this poet

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1962 to a Norwegian father and French mother, Caroline Bergvall grew up in Switzerland, Norway, and France with longer periods in the U.S. and England. She studied at Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, received an MPhil from the University of Warwick, Britain, and a doctorate from the Dartington College of Arts.

Her collections of poetry and hybrid texts include Strange Passage: A Choral Poem (Equipage, 1993), Éclat: sites 1-10 (1996), Jets-Poupée (Rem Press, 1999), Goan Atom (Krupskaya, 2001), Fig (Salt Books, 2005), and Meddle English (Nightboat, 2010), among others.

Bergvall's works are noted for their combinations of performative, visual, and literary texts within the same project. Her artistic and performance work has been commissioned and presented internationally at MoMA, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Antwerp.

Of her practice, Bergvall says, "Thinking of the body as always having an accent, as being marked with a social accent rather than a seamless national literature, is a part of being in language and writing." Poet Charles Bernstein calls her "one of the most brilliantly inventive poets of our time."

She has served as the director of the innovative and cross-arts writing program at Dartington College of Arts and has taught at Temple University, Bard College, and the University of Southampton. She currently lives in London.

The Not Tale (Funeral)

Caroline Bergvall, 1962
The great labour of appearance
served the making of the pyre.
But how
nor how
How also
how they 
shal nat be toold
shall not be told.
Nor how the gods
nor how the beestes and the birds
nor how the ground agast
Nor how the fire
first with straw
and then with drye
and then with grene
and then with gold
and then.
Now how a site is laid like this.
Nor what 
nor how
nor what she spak, nor what was her desire
Nor what jewels
when the fire
Nor how some threw their
and some their
and their
and cups full of wine and milk
and blood
into the fyr
into the fire
Nor how three times
and three times with
and three times how
and how that
Nor how
nor how
nor how
nor who
I cannot tell
nor can I say
but shortly to the point
I turn
and give my tale an end.

Reprinted from Meddle English. Copyright © 2011 by Caroline Bergvall. Used with permission of Nightboat Books. All rights reserved.

Reprinted from Meddle English. Copyright © 2011 by Caroline Bergvall. Used with permission of Nightboat Books. All rights reserved.

Caroline Bergvall

Caroline Bergvall

Caroline Bergvall's works, which have been commissioned and presented at museums all around the world, are noted for their combinations of performative, visual, and literary texts within the same project.

by this poet

poem

A paradoxical pleasure is both solid nor liquid that can be wet, dry, hard, soft, expansive, changeable. An intricate and hollow polymer network is energy transport at its finest, a compound structure of gas nor bubbles nor fans. Once hardened it can be tough to break. What binds. A gel for instance can envelop