Temple Times Online Edition
    MARCH 24, 2005
NewsEventsArchivesPhotosStaffLinksTemple Home

Writer-in-residence introduces emerging forms of writing

Caroline Bergvall will teach a graduate poetry workshop and advise students on their theses

True to her roots as a student poet, Divya Victor compares tutorial sessions with Caroline Bergvall to “being thrown into a hurricane, knowing for sure that your body is safe and sound and that you will land on your feet.”

The same metaphor could apply to Bergvall’s work — a structural tour de force that lifts poetry beyond the boundaries of the page and marries it to movies, installations, photographs and other art forms.

Writer-in-residence at Temple’s graduate Creative Writing Program for the spring semester, Bergvall, a London-based cross-media artist, represents the program’s philosophy of exposing students to avant-garde writing. She uses a range of media, such as sound and photography, to display her work and challenge perceptions of poetry as a static, textual medium.

“It’s an incredible gift to have Caroline here,” program director Jena Osman said. “Certainly, her take on the performative is unique — it crosses over with visual art and sound art. Students benefit from it because it opens up realms of possibility in writing.

“The point of the graduate Creative Writing Program is to encourage students to try new things, to ask new questions and discover the exciting possibilities that working with language can provide,” Osman continued.

Through her appointment, Bergvall teaches the graduate poetry workshop and advises student poets on their thesis manuscripts. She also will talk on March 31 to the University community about the writing process and the nature of her work.

Bergvall praised Temple’s students for their talent and said they have been receptive to her ideas for stretching the conventions of poetry.

“[My hope] was to try and introduce them to a range of textual pieces they might not otherwise come across,” she said. “These are pieces both from contemporary poetry scenes and from visual and performance arts.

“The best one can do sometimes is to bring work in and frame it and then see what happens after a few months — how it does or doesn’t start to work its way into their own writing over time,” Bergvall continued. “Teaching and learning can function on awareness as slowly, and deeply, as art.”

For Victor, the first-year graduate student, learning and experimenting at Bergvall’s hand has been inspiring. She said she is already seeing the rewards.

“[Bergvall] is allowing and urging us to go away from the page and confront and embrace poetry from all directions — so we are at once coming into poetry and leaving,” she said. “It’s fantastic and has given me a lot of ideas and lot of courage to take more risks with language.”

Bergvall has written numerous books of poetry and has collaborated on audiotexts and installations with artists around the globe. Most recently, she traveled home to England over spring break to produce a text and sound piece with a collaborator for TEXT Festival, a major poetry gala held in Bury, Lancashire.

“Her transnational experience means that we are exposed to a greater variety of artists and also that we are able to offer something that can be placed in a larger grid of work, experimental or otherwise,” Victor said.

Osman hopes the success of Bergvall’s visit will serve as the model for future semesterlong appointments to the program.

“It’s a great honor for students to work with someone of Caroline’s talent and reputation,” she said. “Many practicing writers and artists can’t commit to full-time teaching jobs — even though they enjoy teaching very much — because they need the time to work on their own artistic projects. Visits like this are a win-win situation.”

- By Ted Boscia

If you go
Writer-in-residence Caroline Bergvall will lecture on “Textual Practices and Interventions” on March 31 from 4-5:30 p.m. in Gladfelter Hall, room 914. The talk is free and open to the University community.