There are poems without rhyme or reason, but what about a poem without words? An arrangement of smileys that have lost their colons is all that makes up Das Lied vom Haifisch by Swiss poet-author Heike Fiedler. “This is an example of visual poetry. Haifisch refers to fish in German and the crescent shapes represent the scales of many little fish,” she says. The little fish shapes converge cone-shaped towards a bigger curve that resembles an evil grin. “This is a shark,” she says about a work that makes a point about power and predation, wordlessly.
Fiedler, 51, is among the prominent performance poets of Switzerland who believe in freeing poetry from the clutches of words and books. For her first performance in Delhi today — at Social, organised by Pro Helvetia: Swiss Arts Council and the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan — Fiedler will “read” from her book, Langues De Meehr: Edition Spoken Script, in which poems have been “written” in signs and symbols, straight lines and graphs.
Words are used, too, but never in the way the Bard of Avon intended. One of Fiedler’s poem is made up of four rows of the word “po nt” that are divided by the word “br d g”. Within these broken words are the poet’s political comments on bridges, points and people. Another work is spread like a butterfly over two pages with the titles Fall on one page and Geditch — German for poem — on the other. “I was born in Dusseldorf in Germany and the Berlin Wall was a part of our reality and consciousness. Fall Geditch or the Fall Poem, like a wall, proceeds from the bottom to the top, with every group of letters representing a brick,” she says. Amid the fragmented and fused letters, the poem contains sudden surprises in the form of familiar English words, such as “the”, “reason”, “why” and “born”. “I write in English, French, German, Russian and Spanish, sometimes in one poem. For me, a word is less important than the acoustics and emotions it conveys,” says Fiedler. Earlier this week, in Goa, she had introduced the Hindi word for bridge — pull — into a poem.
Though performance poetry is relatively unknown in India, it is a vast field with many practitioners in countries of Europe, and traces its origins to the 1900s. Poets such as Fiedler use video projections, music and vocal effects to communicate the sense of poetry — using performance to tell stories that words cannot.
The performance will take place at Social, 9A & 12, Hauz Khas Village, today at 7.45 pm. Entry is free.