For those of you unsure of where sound poetry came from, here is Wikipedia's version of events:
The writing of pure sound texts, that downplay the roles of meaning and structure in poetry, had it's beginning in the early 20th century. The Futurist and Dadaist movements of the beginning of the century were the pioneers in creating the first sound poetry forms. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti discovered that onomatopoeias were useful to describe a battle in Tripoli where he was a soldier, creating a sound text that became a sort of a spoken photograph of the battle. Dadaists were more involved in sound poetry and they invented different categories:
- Bruitist poem is the phonetic poem, not so different from the futurist poem. Invented by Richard Huelsenbeck.
- Simultaneous poem is a poem read in different languages, with different rhythms, tonalities, and by different persons at the same time. Invented by Tristan Tzara.
- Movement poem is the poem accompanied by primitive movements.
Zang Tumb Tumb (1914) is a sound poem and concrete poem by Italian futurist F. T. Marinetti.
Hugo Ball performed a piece of sound poetry in a reading at Cabaret Voltaire in 1916:
"I created a new species of verse, 'verse without words,' or sound poems....I recited the following: gadji beri bimbaglandridi lauli lonni cadori..."(Albright, 2004)
For many dadaists, such as Hugo Ball, sound poetry also presented a language of trauma, a cacophony used to protest the sound of the cannons of World War I. It was as T. J. Demos writes, "a telling stutter, a nervous echolalia."
Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate (1922–32, "Primal Sonata") is a particularly well known early example:
The first movement rondo's principal theme being a word, "fmsbwtözäu" pronounced Fümms bö wö tää zää Uu, from a 1918 poem by Raoul Hausmann, apparently also a sound poem. Schwitters also wrote a less well-known sound poem consisting of the sound of the letter W. (Albright, 2004)
Chilean Vicente Huidobro's explores phonetic mutations of words in his book "Altazor"(1931).
In his story The Poet at Home, William Saroyan refers to a character who practices a form of pure poetry, composing verse of her own made up words.
Sound poetry evolved into visual poetry and concrete poetry, two forms based in visual arts issues although the sound images are always very compelling in them. Later on, with the development of the magnetic tape recorder, sound poetry evolved thanks to the upcoming of the concrete music movement at the end of the 1940s. Some sound poetics were used by later poetry movements like the beat generation in the fifties or the spoken word movement in the 80's, and by other art and music movements that brought up new forms such as text sound art that may be used for sound poems which more closely resemble "fiction or even essays, as traditionally defined, than poetry".
It has been argued that “there is a paucity of information on women's involvement in sound poetry, whether as practitioners, theorists, or even simply as listeners.” Among the earliest female practitioners are Berlin poet Else Lasker-Schüler, who experimented in what she called “Ursprache” (Ur-language), and the New York Dada poet and performer Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. The Baroness’s poem “Klink-Hratzvenga (Death-wail)” was published in The Little Review in March 1920 to great controversy. Written in response to her husband Leopold von Freytag-Loringhoven’s suicide, the sound poem was “a mourning song in nonsense sounds that transcended national boundaries”. The Baroness was also known for her sexually charged sound poetry, as seen in “Teke Heart (Beating of Heart),” only recently published.
The poet Edith Sitwell coined the term Abstract poetry to describe some of her own poems which possessed more aural than literary qualities, rendering them essentially meaningless: "The poems in Façade are abstract poems--that is, they are patterns of sound. They are...virtuoso exercises in technique of extreme difficulty, in the same sense as that in which certain studies by Liszt are studies in transcendental technique in music." (Sitwell, 1949)
Theories of sound poetry:
In their essay “Harpsichords Metallic Howl—", Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo review the theories of sound by Charles Bernstein, Gerald Bruns, Min-Quian Ma, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Jeffrey McCaffery and others to argue that sonic poetry foregrounds its own corporality. Thus “the Baroness's sound poems let her body speak[;] through her expansive use of sound, the Baroness conveys the fluidity of gender as a constantly changing, polysemous signifier.” In this way, somatic art becomes the poet’s own “space-sound.”
Later prominent sound poets:
include Henri Chopin, Bob Cobbing, Ada Verdun Howell, Allen Ginsberg, bpNichol, William S. Burroughs, Giovanni Fontana, Bernard Heidsieck, Enzo Minarelli, François Dufrene, Mathias Goeritz, Maurizio Nannucci,Andras Petocz, and Jaap Blonk, a Dutch sound poet who often works with improvising musicians.
London's Penn Kemp has created the term "sound opera" for her version of sound poetry. The following is from London Open Mic Poetry Night's interview with Penn Kemp:
LOMPN: You refer to your poetry now as “sound opera” instead of “sound poetry”. What do you mean by “sound opera”, and how do you differentiate it from “sound poetry”?
PK: A sound poem is for me performed by a single voice, even though Canada fostered marvellous sound poetry groups. I’ve enjoyed pushing textual and aural boundaries, often in participatory performance work, working across a variety of poetic practices to engage the audience. Since I often work in collaboration with musicians, theatre folks, videographers and other multimedia/ visual artists, I looked for a term that was less focussed on a specific literary tradition, even one like Dada. So the sound poem naturally developed into “Sound Operas": poetic narratives that weave sound, imagery and music in a contemporary counterpoint of many voices and different forms. My writing life is divided between poetry and theatre: Sound Opera jumps that gap and allows for both. Seven of my Sound Operas have been performed at London’s glorious Aeolian Hall. Poetry in performance is the way I spread the word for the arts and inspire action to support them! It's a great joy to collaborate with artists from different media: they expand my sense of possibility.