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Issue II – POETIC SYSTEMS – Klara du Plessis

Listen to Nadia Chaney, Katherine McLeod, and Erin Robinsong in conversation about “Disaster is a Healing Knell: A Rite of Fall,” a poetry-ritual performed at sunset in Jardin du Crépuscule in Tiohti:áke/Montréal on September 25, 2022.



Zoom conversation recorded on January 9, 2023

Audio edited and mixed by Katherine McLeod


Photo by Moema and Carlos A. Pittella




Katherine: 00:01
I'm just gonna get that rolling… I got to have a coffee with Klara du Plessis and Klara got to meet little Klara [McLeod], which was momentous. <Laugh> And so I got to hear a bit more about what she was thinking of for this. Klara [du Plessis] has thought back a lot about what we did, and, and in fact many people who I'll talk to about what we did, they'll be like, oh, you know, I really want to talk to you about what you created in the park. And I think that's so amazing because we really, we weren't intentionally trying to change the form of the poetic reading. We were just like, we want to do this thing and we want to do this together. And even if it's just us, we'll be really happy that we did it. And so, anyway, I thought that it's neat that it was read as an intervention in what a poetry reading is.


Nadia: 00:47
I'm curious also about what you've been hearing since I've been away really since it happened.


Katherine: 00:54
Yeah, we haven't seen each other since that day. <Laugh> And you've both moved out of Montreal. And so you're right. I've been the one hearing what the poets have been saying about it. And I'll say more as we're talking, but I, but people, it's amazing how when I run into people who were at it, they will say just how much they were removed by it. Carlos Pittella, who was there and who took some photos with his daughter, five-year old Moema, and at the SpokenWeb meeting right after, he wanted to talk about, you know, that he went to this poetry reading and – or rather, it's interesting to think of what people call it… this performance in the park. <Laugh>. He talked about the movement from place to place, but also even the sound of my feet on the stone… 


Recording by Carlos Pittella:
[Sound of percussive feet on stone]


Katherine: 01:57
Another thing that people will say, the invitation – inviting people to kind of come not being sure what exactly they were going to experience. And then when they were there to have this sort of openness where people felt very much like they were being invited to experience – I think that created a higher energy that people went away with too. 


[Reading] Disaster is a Healing Knell, a poetry/ritual/performance. Poets Erin Robinsong and Nadia Chaney, dancer Katherine McLeod and singer Alexandra Templier, invite you to join them in a park – a park known for its sculptures, built by Glen LeMesurier, and for its wild, communal spirit. For many reasons, this performance will be ephemeral, but mostly because Katherine will be eight months pregnant at the time, only once rain or shine, never again to be performed in exactly this way. The performance unfolds through the words of Erin Robinsong's new book of poem's Wet Dream and Nadia Cheney's poem, “Disaster is a Healing Knell” that retells the story of the goddess Kali's destruction of Raktabija, the replication demon, through movements of the body and waves of fabric, and through the sounds of Alexandra Templier's ephemeral cries echoing through the sculptures and tall grass. Join us there. 


Recording from Sept 25, 2022:
[Sound of a bell ringing twice.]


Erin: 03:26
I am Erin Robinsong. I am speaking here from the Stroud Valley in the UK, and there's lots of work going on. There's plastering going on right above me, so maybe you'll hear some scrapings and, and such.


Nadia: 03:44
Hi, I'm Nadia Chaney, and I'm actually calling from the evening, even though it's morning. I think it's morning, afternoon, and evening for us. Right now I'm calling from Bangalore, India. And so it's the, it's the time of night when the dogs start howling. So if you're going to hear something here, <laugh>, it's going to be a pack of dogs. I hope we do hear it, actually. It's very beautiful.


Katherine: 04:10
And I'm Katherine McLeod, and I'm tuning in from Tiohti:áke/ Montreal. And I'm sitting here with little Klara, the little baby that in many ways is at the center of this performance-ritual that we're about to talk about. Thank you so much for having this conversation. It's the first time that we have seen each other since the day that we performed this poetic ritual. And it's wonderful to see both of you too because the conversation for all of this – I mentioned like, it's on the one hand, Klara is part of it, but really the conversation began long before Klara, out on our balconies in the alleyway between Esplanade Avenue and Jean-Mance here in Montreal. And I can transport this back to 2020 <laugh> when we talked about wanting to…


Nadia: 05:04
Yes, I think that's an interesting place to start – is where we – because when we first talked about it one of the constraints was that it had to be outdoors.


Katherine: 05:17


Nadia: 05:18
And so we were thinking about the alley, and that park is so close… just really thinking about the limitation of movement and where, and what it would've meant to bring people together. Of course, we didn't do it for two years, but I think that – I just remember, you know, sitting on my back stairs and Erin on your balcony and you on your balcony across that alley. And that we were on the second and third floors above the ground – it was so early in what the pandemic was and really like how we were thinking about performing… and the few performances that we did in between that and this, you know, the Love and Lingams also, I think that Swapnaa [Tamhane] had done in front of Articule, I think also influenced I don't know exactly what, I just feel all these sort of tributaries of intention that we had… 


Mm-hmm. <Affirmative>


I mean, really for me that the thing was, I was expressing to you my disappointment in that, how that poem had not been – it was a commission that had not been exactly what the commissioner had wanted. And then, I don't know, there's this, there's something about the way that it transpired on the day on September 25th, 2022, that there were so many things that could only have happened exactly that way in that moment. And I, I'm not going to spoil it upfront, but I feel like there were so many things like the pandemic and not, and not having the commission accepted that you would've thought would've been themselves the disaster, right? Like, you're like, oh, no. Like, this is exactly what I didn't want to happen, but if those things hadn't happened, these things couldn't have happened. These moments of perfection that came, for me, at least, in that performance. And I'm interested in what that means, especially in, I think a lot of our conversation, Katherine, was about improvisation…


Mm-hmm. <Affirmative> 


…and, and what, what that, what it means for something to be born alive. For artwork to be born alive. So I feel like there's something about accepting these disasters, not in and of themselves, but what kind of worlds become possible. 


Erin: 07:44
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. Well, first I just love so much, Nadia, this articulation of disaster as a healing knell and this performance really as an embodiment of that – of that concept or, or actual way that things happen. That's such a, I hadn't really put that together, and it's so true. It really just made me think about all of the ingredients that were present, some of which we've mentioned already, but just the ingredients of the space of this little park that we've affectionately called Apocalypse Park. That's really a short, the closest kind of green space to our homes, just at the end of our alley to the right, then to the left <laugh>. And, and so like all of the elements of the space, of the long grass of these incredible sculptures that our neighbor also makes – and, and, and the milkweed – and these works that we read and the dance that was danced – in, Katherine, you being pregnant – like all of these elements, and of course the weather.


Erin: 09:14
So that, that day was really, it was like hurricane Fiona had just gone through the Maritimes and like the, and had, you know, caused so much disaster and destruction there. And I remember during, well, I mean, I'm skipping forward a little bit, we can get to the performance itself, but really just the idea that we were in the invitation to be outside rain or shine, like whatever, like just to engage with the elements and engage with the space. And it felt like an invitation to people to, and to ourselves and to the space, to show up in a way that's so different from how much performance is often made as a kind of careful plotting of elements in a theater where you can completely control as many aspects as you want for the most part of, of the ingredients that are present. And this felt instead quite the opposite of that – of really finding the ingredients in our bodies and in the weather, and in the place where we were, to collaborate.


Katherine: 10:31
And even thinking about the way like that then thinking of it unfolding… That on June 20th, 2022, which I remember specifically because it was the morning of my birthday and I had a lovely walk, we brought our coffees and walked down the three of us together to the little park with the sculptures. And as we were sitting there, then we started talking about, you know, how in, imagine in the fall if we do some sort of poetic ritual and you know, what, what, what would that look like? And as we were sitting and talking about it and Nadia and I were kind of starting to tell you a little bit about how we imagined like, well, maybe we could, we could walk through here. Or maybe, you know, what would it, what would it be like? I hopped up on a rock and just did a pose in a posture. And I said, you know, like, it would look like this! And because I did that and the sculptures were behind me, Erin, I remember you were like, oh, hold, like, let me just take a photo of that. And you took a photo. 

And really, I think in our mind, every time we thought back to that photo, we were just like, yes, it's going to look like that! Because it was – so like the sculptures were – almost like the sculptures were already performing in that little park. We could really imagine it all of a sudden. And we almost didn't have to plan too much. We could just imagine, well, you know, you could read here and beside this statue, or we could do this here. And that was really the kind of the, almost like the choreography for the, the performance was just, we just had to figure out how, where we were going to move three times through the park. And then that was, that was like the, that was the structure, that was the form <laugh> that that we were going to create within.


Erin: 12:17
Yeah. Which, which I was, I was thinking about how, in terms of this collaboration, how effortless it felt as opposed to, I mean, effort is wonderful, but it, it felt like it was so much listening going on between, between you, me joining you two with what you'd conceived and then, and then what the, what the, the place and the statues were proposing. And there was with the, it's, it was, it was, it was one of the most effortless, from my point of view, collaborations that I've done, because it felt like there was always the next thing like just being offered. And I wonder how that felt for, for you…


Katherine: 13:06
Well, I was just going to add too to that, that I think as well, that was why so Alexandra Templier, who I invited to join us kind of more towards the end of imagining the performance, of why that could still work so well. Because Alexandra, as a singer – she's such a listener. And so I love what you said about it being a very effortless performance, cuz it did feel like once the structure was there, then, then we could almost, we could imagine it unfolding, but also we had to kind of wait until we improvised it all together and we really all trusted each other and trusted that we'd be listening to each other as we went, and we moved through the space in that way.


Nadia: 13:46
As I'm listening to both of you, I'm thinking about the performance moment. How things move towards it. When did this start, first of all, right? Like, when did it start? Like my final performance before the pandemic was with you too, right? And so what are, what is that sense of beginning or where did Erin's book start? And you know, like that, that whole thing, but then feeling like how the elements or the ingredients, like you're calling them kind of cave in towards this moment from different parts of time. Right? Like I, I called the poem “Disaster as a Healing Knell,” but I wasn't thinking of Glen's bell when I did that. And there's this, this very evocative bell in the park that we then had everyone ring as part of the performance. And I – the idea of knell and this ringing – I wasn't like looking for a bell anywhere, but there's that bell.

And the same thing with the, I can't, I'm trying to remember if that big spear-like golden statue was there in June, or if it came between June and September, which is what I think happened. It's, and, and – and Glen seems like that type of an artist too… It's very interesting to think of like a memorized poem or a book of poems or a sculpture, which seemed like these kind of like very object type things that wouldn't morph and wouldn't be able to bend time and space or appear and disappear. But then what was happening in the performances that these things are moving in, they're moving in time, not in a linear way, and they're showing up in this, in this kind of constellation that creates this performance. So it's not just like the humans who improvise. And I think that's one thing that was super, super clear to me in this, both in the meaning of the poem itself in Wet Dream itself and in the form of flamenco dance.

And then what happened at this particular poetic ritual is like all of these things are questioning what it means to really kind of be alive and be together and be inspired, and then be full of this inspiration, and then find out what happens, right? Like you find, you find out what happens and the act of memorizing the poem, like it's a very didactic kind of an act, you know? But then when you, when I have it in my memory, that's when I'm able to be available. Somehow the poem is available to encounter this sculpture that looks just like an image from the poem, or to encounter this bell that's in the title of the poem. So I'm just, I'm really fascinated by how that happened. 

And I suspect that the, the chill that people felt, or why, they're like, what happened? What, what was that? I think it's part of this, it's part of like… Not all art and not all performances alive. It's not a given, I don't believe it's a given. I think there are, and I don't know, I'm not pretending to know what makes it come to life, but I know that it's not always alive. And I really feel like this one was.


Recording from Sept 25, 2022:
[Percussive feet on stone, and then sounds of crickets, traffic, twilight.] [Nadia’s voice] The world is quiet now and healing, but I am turned, I am inside out never again to visit my mother. I am this now always a bridge, but never again to exist. [A pause, then Alexandra Templier sings in Spanish]


Erin: 18:02
And I think because, because you weren't actively blocking out the aliveness of, of people's bodies by having them sit in rows in a specific spot or blocking out the weather, blocking out the, the changing – 


– the train 


– the train, you know, all of these elements that we were actively inviting as well, that it also felt like, it also felt like sometimes that there's performance where you, you know, where you, you do minimize the livingness of many elements so that what's on stage under the lights, that's been rehearsed many times, or something can be the main living thing on display. And I mean, and I, and I love performance in a theater like that as well – I mean, I think we've all done that and, and I know we've all spent a lot of time in that space – but yeah, it felt like also actively like not actively blocking out those things, actively inviting them, then there can be so much more of what you're describing now, Nadia.


Katherine: 19:08
It makes me think too, then because of the, with the train so easily, it would be so easy to be like, oh, and then it was so loud, the train. But the train, we welcomed that noise in and it came in at the most perfect moment. And so Erin, you start, you know, you started off the, the, the performance, well, first of all actually, Klara du Plessis, we asked her to say some words that we'd prepared to set the tone for the space, and you let people know what they were about to embark on, and a bit about who we were and how this came about. Then after that Erin, you started with reading some poems from Wet Dream, and it was right when you finished that, the train passed right by <laugh> and it would've been loud during the poems, but it was right when we were about to have a transitional moment in which we invited the audience to chant some words with us. The words that we were going to say <laugh>, we were thinking a note, you know, before about some words of Lisa Robertson’s that Erin, you had been thinking of back on that day in June when we had our coffee in the park. I remember you sharing those words with us, and we – that kind of prompted the idea of chanting together, but then on the day itself, the words, the words changed.


Nadia: 20:23
Yeah. And, and that, and that again, right? It's just like the bell and that it, we, it wasn't like, oh, here's tropical storm Fiona, so let's pick a phrase about a storm. No, it was like, oh, I don't think this is the right phrase. And then one – no, you said, Erin, it should come from your poem. So that you should have them chanting something from my poem to make this link.


Erin: 20:47
Mm-hmm  <Affirmative>


Nadia: 20:48
And then that word, those words, that line, this violent storm must be transformed. It was like someone tapped me on the shoulder and said it to me. I, I don't, I don't have the poem memorized in such a way as I can pull a phrase from anywhere, right? I have it memorized from top to bottom <laugh>. But there it was, and then, and then it began to make its sense. Like, it's like it appears in the world and then it grows into its own sense. But like in this amazing speed at this amazing, incredible speed where you think, oh, this can't, how could this be possible? 

And then even, even to the level of like, when, you know, when you ask an audience of people who don't know each other, who are, who can see each other in the light – it's not like a dark house. They're here and, and they're in this park and, and you ask them to speak in that – that can be a very difficult thing to ask people to do. But they got the cover of the train, right? The train covered their voices, so they were able to chant and walk. And then once the train had passed, we heard that they weren't even chanting in sync. They were chanting all in their own rhythms because they hadn't been able to – they, they'd gained this privacy in the midst. And I just so blown away by that. Like, what kind of dramaturgy is this? Right? <Laugh>


Erin: 22:15
And Nadia, because you're someone who thought so much about time – the kind of temporality that exists already in performance, of a ritual as well, of this very heightened presence… That maybe is a lot of why we do ritual, or go to see performances, is for that heightened sense of the present. 


Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>


Erin: 22:43
That's my sense. And so to also actively be creating and performing in that space. Showing up, I remember I couldn't get there until very shortly before we were going to start, I had completely forgotten about the Lisa Robertson line, which suddenly when we were there, I was like, oh, no, we need, like, it, it was someone also tapped me on the shoulder, some who knows who our, our dramaturge <laugh> in the, the invisible dramaturge tapped me on the shoulder and was just like, oh, no, no, it must come from Nadia's poem. And then, and then you got tapped on the shoulder and it was like, well, it's this line. So it felt to me that, that that hyper-present is such an incredible space for knowing what comes next or receiving, receiving the instructions that can only come in that space and not in a kind of more where, where time is a bit more loose and less taut with messages that need to appear in that place. So I, I both felt nervous coming cause I was like, oh my gosh, we haven't rehearsed at all, but also really trusting. But I think my trust was… was still blown out of the water by how absolutely clear our communications between us and between all of the unseen voices that were directing the piece.


Katherine: 24:17
I love too that the way that you described that is almost is it, it makes me think of flamenco improvisation and kind of why even though that energy kind of guided this in that, when Nadia and I had performed with Alvaro Echanove and Quique on guitar for our Poésie Flamenco performance, we were so amazed by the way that we all listened to each other. And how, just the way that the flamenco singer of Alvaro singing and Quique playing, Nadia could really play in that space, knowing that we were listening to each other. I could really feel solid. And, you know, I had some set choreography, but also was really improvising both to the poem and to the music. And so there's such, there's such listening just that happens.

And then with Alexandra singing she's singing in a flamenco style, and so she knows that it's all about listening and responding to the space. And so then when we emerged from chanting, almost like emerging out of the sound of the train into the space of her singing, where she was standing next to the statues and everyone kind of gathered in a bit of a – they just, again, we didn't plan it, but everyone kind of gathered in a circle around her, which was beautiful.

Recording from Sept 25, 2022:
[Alexandra Templier sings]


And then after she sang, she led everyone towards our place on the bit of rock that I stood on, and Nadia was there to start her poem. So I, you know, I loved how Alex led everyone with her song towards us and towards the poem. And again, she was willing to embrace the improvisational spirit of kind of going with what felt right. We hadn't really planned necessarily that she was going to sing along while walking, but it just felt really natural that she kind of just slowly faded out as she, as she led everyone towards us, which was beautiful.


Nadia: 26:42
And yeah, I found her very, very sensitive in that space, especially having not, I mean, we all have a, you know, of course we had rehearsed a couple of times, Katherine and I, but also we have, the three of us have so much of a knowledge of each other's energy, let alone the work, but just like to feel, to be able to feel each other. But I felt as soon as I met Alex, I felt that similar sense of being seen, and I could feel her sensitivity very, very clearly right away. But there's one thing as I'm listening to you, Katherine, that comes to my mind is like, I'm, I'm feeling all of this, the openness to what all happened and how it moved through us. And then I'm also thinking about this counterforce that was in our rehearsals, which was very specific to me. So, and I just, I wanna mention it because I, I feel like sometimes these tensions are what create possibilities, these kinds of dialectics – oh, look at the little thing! I wish it was, I wish it was a video so you could see Klara, because it's like a miracle that we're talking about this performance when she was with us, but we'd never seen her.


Katherine: 27:49
It made me think, it just, I didn't – 


Nadia: 27:50
Quite the invisible and the wet –


Katherine: 27:52
At this point. But yeah, when you said constraint, I was like, oh, yes. Also, like there were some constraints in what constraint constraints, what could, like there was a baby being grown and my, my belly was quite big and like, just how I felt in my body, the real, real constraints <laugh>. 


Nadia: 28:08
Real constraints. Yeah, actually –


Erin: 28:10
Oh, sorry, Nadia.


Nadia: 28:12
No, go ahead. 


Erin: 28:14
Oh, I, I'll just interject really briefly just to say, this was something I actually meant to mention earlier about the ingredients of like, what was, what was – you were so pregnant. I had launched my book like that weekend –


Katherine: 28:29
And we only had one day that worked <Laugh>


Erin: 28:32
Nadia, you were coming from out of town. So many of the ingredients could have also made that we're like, you know, it's, we're just too busy, or I'm too pregnant, or I can't come to town. Or, you know, all of the ways of us showing up. I felt wistfully created out of the ingredients that were also present in us, in our timings and schedules and building a baby and building a book and building all kinds of things. So that felt like a really important part of the creation as it was as well.


Nadia: 29:08
But what I was thinking, Katherine was like, you know, the poem is an inner monologue told by Kali. And so what we were, we had to really work against you characterizing, right? And dancing, dancing the story or like miming, almost like miming the story, right? And so when we were building, we had to build these kinds of constraints around both what am I saying and what are you dancing. And that I think was, that to me was the kind of the most interesting work that we were doing in those rehearsals was what wouldn't you do.


Katherine: 29:47
Yeah, that's so true. Now I have such a memory of what we did that I'd almost forgotten what we didn't, you know, what we wanted to not do. But you're right. There was such constraint, especially because your poem describes a birth <laugh>. And so yes, the very literal like birth when it's evoked I didn't want to be miming that, like I didn't want to be doing birth gestures or whatever that would be, but but <laugh> that's, that's something too, when we've, when we've worked together before, we really, we didn't want the flamenco movements to be like literally, you know, evoking what the poem is. And so we had to kind of work to think of the feeling and the energy. Like what is the energy of this part of the poem, and how can I work with that rather than the actual little words that are being said? And I'm really happy with what we did. It felt so good to dance that… and again, it was so, like, there was so much improvisation, but we knew in certain parts what did we want it to feel like, and what kinds of like energy was informing the movements in those different sections. 


Nadia: 31:04
And you know, there was actually one section right before Clara, which was that I had played those songs, those really dark time folds, the songs that I had made, I was playing them in the park –


Katherine: 31:21
That's right.


Nadia: 31:22
Again, those are improvisations too. They're long piano improvisations that I then cut and edited into these layers. And they had never ever had a home. I had made them very early in the pandemic – actually, I was making them, when we had that first conversation on the balconies, that's when I was doing those in that winter. And they had, they, what is the place for that kind of extremely chaotic, intense un-mastered noise kind of music? I don't really have a home for something like that. But then this poem, the setting of the poem is the, is this massive apocalypse caused by this blood demon? And suddenly there was a place for them. <laugh>.


Erin: 32:10
But I was thinking as well, I love this description of us each in our little apartments nearby, in a field together creating separately these things that actually end up going together in this way that's really uncanny or maybe very canny, you know… But I remember also seeing you and I never wanted to – you know, there's like a sense also when you live so close by to each other of, you know, we're in our privacy when we're nearby, if we can see each other –ut I saw you, I caught glimpses of you a few times from my balcony dancing in your living room. And I was always, for these glimpses – and of course Nadia's apartment could see into each other – so there's something about subjectivity I think in there as well. 

It's like being in proximity, being in relationship, being in this also just like a spatial field together. And you know, that like the permeable membranes of apartments, of consciousness, of all these things, but also being like, who knows how much was moving between are, you know, these separate worlds of, of creating and living, as secrets, and as friends, and collaborators. And so I'm glad you mentioned that aspect.


Katherine: 33:39
Oh, I love that. It also… it makes me think when you describe me dancing in the living room, how another part of this is thinking that when I found out that I was pregnant, I thought a lot about, as a dancer, how, what will, how will my body evolve? And what does that mean? Also thinking of my, in terms of just, you know, myself and who I am in my academic work, I worried a lot about everything stopping and this idea that somehow when you're pregnant, somehow things stop. And I had this fear of that happening. And then it was such a sort of evolution of thinking about that: the idea when the idea came to me that, oh wait, what if pregnancy is a time of creativity. And indeed, you are creating, but you're also… this can be a time of creativity. And things don't stop – things grow. There's a very famous dancer, Rocio Molina, who did a piece [“Grito Pelao”] that she could only perform well, well pregnant, that's how she imagined it. And so then she danced it while pregnant and then stopped at a certain point. And that was like that was the end of the piece. And I, I thought, oh, like that idea that you create something that is ephemeral related to this particular time, but it's like, it's creative and you don't have to think, am I in the best shape ever to perform this solo? You don't put those kinds of pressures on yourself to dance as if you are not pregnant. But to really be like, okay, this, this is something that I'm going to dance and I can only perform it while pregnant. And that's the beauty of it. The piece will be this ephemeral, ephemeral piece that lives in that time. 

We want to do this to dance this poem again. Like, I think like Erin, like it would be wonderful to explore, like, what, what would it look like to, you know, to do this in the summer? What would that, what kind of energy would it bring to, you know, next time we're, we're all in the same place? Or maybe even not in Montreal, wherever, wherever we are in the world, what would it look like to do kind of a version of this? But, so it's not, it's not going to stop, but it also will be, it will be different. It will bring, it'll have different energies whenever we meet, whenever we meet again in the, in the park or on a Zoom.


Nadia: 36:01
One, one thing I do want to, or two things actually that I want to mention before we go. On is …you had had a baby shower just before, and you had those little empanadas and you brought them to the ritual. And to me, this is a major thing. Like it's, I've done so much community work, and when there's food and when food is, is part of what's happening and it's part of the offering, it changes from a transactional performance where the artist is paid to perform. And it becomes this thing about what really happens when we really do our real rituals in community family functions, like the functions of ritual, the spiritual and religious and community functions of ritual. And the, you know, I don't know if we've actually ever talked about this, even you and I, Erin, I'm not sure, but like, I have these memories from childhood of, of these functions that, you know, cyclical, yearly functions that happen and the food and that they, the food comes from the aunties and it come, and just as you were kind of cresting this transition in your life into motherhood and to be, and to bring this offering and to transform what still could have been a performance and, and at the edge of ritual then moves into community ritual to me that that offering of food in the little tupperware was essential.


Nadia: 37:31
And the other piece that kind of made that for me was about production value in the sense that that little microphone that we were carrying around, to me that's quite a constraint. Like for the, it doesn't carry the voice easily. I found, like when I was using that microphone, I had to really watch the audience to see if my words were landing and, and actually amplify my own voice and work with that microphone quite a lot to make sure, because the words are going very fast, it's a long poem. It's probably almost seven minutes long and that microphone is not forgiving. It's not this like, it's not this theater sound that you would get this crisp, clear sound where you use the technology to make yourself almost superhuman. Instead, this thing is like, it's a tool. It's like a really, like <laugh> what, what's the word for this?

It just felt like a very necessary mediation – this thing. And then I had to relate to the microphone as well, and to, and to the, to the, because the sound is also not contained when there are no walls and there's a highway beside you on one side and a train track on the other, you know, there's, the sound isn't contained and it, and there's no monitor to bounce it back to you. So the audience then becomes the monitor and you're watching the subtle changes. And then as I was reading, it became dark and so then I lost that. But at that point I felt I had attuned enough to the audience and I, that's, these are the kinds of things like in terms of feeling like what you're saying, like how much was I able to actually take in, in the sense that I know that, that even the little reflections I got from Ez and Martin, I hadn't seen what they saw. I certainly didn't hear the sound of your feet on the rock. I didn't hear it, you know, because I'm in this like others zone of, of it's another kind of communication, isn't it? Yeah. So the, I wanted to mention both those, those two things, just the food and the microphone, which made this thing, it gave it to me, it gave it its color, it kind of gave it its tint.


Erin: 39:43
Yeah. And maybe I could just say also something about the… the wind <laugh> that night.


Nadia: 39:49
Yeah, please. Yeah, please do. <Laugh>.


Erin: 39:52
You know, because over those days I was just so aware of this massive hurricane that was decimating parts of the Maritimes and people losing their homes into the sea. And then that it was moving and, and that evening was going to be hitting Montreal around the time of the performance. So it was really like, okay, rain or shine, let's see what happens. And, and it was pretty, as I recall, it was still when we walked over there and it was like, it was, it did, there wasn't a storm. And that, as we were, as we had started the ritual as I was reading, in fact, a wind started up, and I may remember this differently, but that's what I remember. And, and that it was so gentle. Like it was really like the very kind of petering out of that wild, like very, very disastrous tropical storm. And, and so to feel, to feel that like that we just also arrived at that, that point of, of being together there. And that the storm arrived at that moment too, was another one of the, like the phenomena that felt like it was, had been traveling a long time to sort of reach this, this –


Nadia: 41:16


Erin: 41:17
– point of meeting. And then, and then to have invited everyone to chant before that storm, before that, that like breath of the wind arrived, this violent storm must be transformed with the sound of the train and traveling. Like I think the train was traveling as I recall too. The train was traveling to the e to the east and we were all walking to the west saying, as the wind had started, the sound of the incredible, this kind of like industrial sound of that train and the chanting, this violent storm must be transformed. And that was like, okay, we are in conversation with so many elements here that, that all were felt like they needed to be that exactly that way at that moment.


Katherine: 42:09


Nadia: 42:10
Another nice ending.


Katherine: 42:11
Yeah, I know <laugh>, that's, I'm just going to pause, what that's – in case that's a perfect ending – [sounds of baby cooing in the background] 


Nadia: 42:16
I didn't realize I needed to debrief. 


Katherine: 42:18
The value of debriefing after literary events – that actually almost become part of the performance. And I feel like we just enacted that here. 


Erin: 42:30
Yeah. I learned so much about it got articulated here, so thank you. 


Nadia: 42:33
It's something we're really working on here too, is like, what is the nature of collaboration versus working together. So there's the con like pre-conditioned ways of working together and like how we think, oh, well if we just put people together, then they're collaborating and it's like, no, actually what does that mean? And so I'm really going to share this also with the people here as a way of thinking about collaboration and especially the more than human aspect of collaboration. 


Katherine: 42:58


Nadia: 43:00
This was really helpful. Yeah –


Katherine: 43:01
That's another great place to end, but over there <laugh>, all these little, like, these insights. That's why I'm like, I'm not going to hit stop until we're like off the Zoom <laugh> Who knows? Maybe there's like different possible endings we're like, couldn't decide how to end this. 


Erin, Nadia:  43:21
[Overlapping voices] Yeah, exactly. <Laugh>, choose your own adventure. Yeah. The multiple endings. Yeah. Little Klara here. Would you like to end it? Would you like to end it <laugh>? 


Klara: 43:27
[Vocal sound]


Erin: 43:28


Recording from Sept 25, 2022:
[Sound of bell]


Nadia: 43:33
Nice to see you both, as always. We'll talk soon. 


Recording from Sept 25, 2022:
[Sound of the bell fades out]



Zoom conversation recorded on January 9, 2023

Audio edited and mixed by Katherine McLeod



Glen LeMesurier, https://glenlemesurier.com/
Rocio Molina, https://www.rociomolina.net/espectaculos-estructural/grito-pelao/
Swapnaa Tamhane, https://www.tamhane.net/
Alexandra Templier, https://www.alexandratemplier.com/




Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, of Indian descent, Nadia Chaney (she/her) has been professionally active since 2002 in poetry, music, creative non-fiction, visual arts, social practice, and performance installation. At the core of these tentacular practices is community art and the belief that creativity is a birthright for all beings of the world, human and beyond. She holds a master’s degree in Imaginative Education and a certificate of advanced graduate studies in Expressive Arts Therapy.  Her current work is with the Time Zone Research Lab, a non-local and nonlinear community for arts-based research into the nature of time and temporality.

Katherine McLeod (she/her) is a scholar and dancer. She researches archives, performance, and poetry, and produces research and research-creation across media. She is the principal investigator of her SSHRC Insight Development Grant, “Literary Radio: New Approaches to Audio Research.” She has co-edited the book CanLit Across Media: Unarchiving the Literary Event and, most recently, her chapter, “Audible Collections: What Remains of Voices on the Radio” has been published in Collecting Thinking: Within and Without Libraries, Archives and Museums (September 2022). Katherine produces the monthly series ShortCuts for The SpokenWeb Podcast. She has performed flamenco dance to many of the archival audio clips featured on the podcast, and over the past years she has developed a collaborative project Poésie Flamenco with Montreal-based musicians Alvaro Echánove and Quique Mado and poets River Halen, Alexei Perry Cox, and Nadia Chaney.

Erin Robinsong (she/her) is a poet and interdisciplinary artist working with ecological imagination. Her debut collection of poetry, Rag Cosmology, won the 2017 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and she is the author of Liquidity (House House Press, 2020) and Wet Dream (Brick Books, September, 2022). A PhD student at Concordia University, Erin’s research-creation work focuses on transcorporeal poetics. With scholar and place-based educator Michael Datura, she recently organized a Geopoetics Symposium & Residency on Cortes Island. Collaborative performance works with Andréa de Keijzer and Hanna Sybille Müller include This ritual is not an accident; Facing away from that which is coming; and Polymorphic Microbe Bodies. Originally from Cortes Island, Erin is grateful to make her home in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal.