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Caroline Bergvall


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.

Caroline Bergvall

By This Poet


About Foam

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 like an elastic skin. It can be prodded distorted pushed about, yet will bounce back and hold its shape. Under greater surface tension, it breaks into liquid starts to flow. A resilient responsive substance is mysterious, swift to morph, ever present in all that is cellular and delivers a shake-up. It supports the many invisible synthetic demands of industry-dependent living from insulants to binding agents. It has naturally assisted in the solidification of soap, the rising of bread, egg whites, and soufflés since the 17th century. The old ponce pumice stone works on hard callouses. Once exploded it can be hard as ash. The skeletal containers of dead sponges were used by Romans for brushes and combs, and for cups. Proust's memory work is foamic in a foam-lined room. A sudden foaming from the mouth for instance is the warning of miles of a thick sluggish matter heaped along coastlines, or bubbling up, obstructing the flow of vast industrial evacuation conduits. Matter turns unwelcoming, seemingly unregonisable. A persistent reactivity to events in its surroundings acts on a profound imbalance, the sign of a system being worked beyond capacity. Foams everywhere like the letter e, down to the alveolar structure.

The Not Tale (Funeral)

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.

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