This week’s poem is from Zoë Skoulding’s 2013 collection, The Museum of Disappearing Sounds.
The disappearing sounds of Zoë Skoulding’s collection may be either in the rich sonic environments that the poems observe, or in the resonance of words themselves, which exist in traces of speech and breath.
‘The Man in the Moone’ takes its title from a 17th century work of science fiction in which lunar inhabitants can communicate their thoughts via music alone. But rather than aspiring to reach beyond language, these poems focus on the spaces that words occupy, looking at how ‘a sentence reverses itself between two pairs of eyes’ or noting ‘the distance drifted by a word shaken loose from border controls’.
Skoulding’s characteristically inventive approach to form emerges in a fractured sonnet sequence based on the coincidences of room numbers. Repeated actions build haunting interior spaces which the reader is invited to enter, each poem becoming a room in which sound ‘bounces off four walls’, as memory accumulates in the subtle rhythms of everyday life.
These poems can provoke states of eerie unease, or of passion evoked with shimmering densities of verbal texture. We can feel the ice in ‘Gwydyr Forest’ “Freezing under feathered/ water landscapes”. Provisional landscapes in which the ground itself is ‘aslant’ call for an active state of perception in which ‘I can do more dangerous things /just with my eyes’.
Exploratory and alive to the senses, The Museum of Disappearing Sounds creates new perspectives on language and the world in which it exists.
The split slate weathers, lichen colonies
advancing where I stumble in mud, shocked
blood pulsing through limbs, vertical
I tilted in the scent of pine, violent green,
a wood’s engine buzz. Up against the wall
my voice comes back not mine: between ear
and stone a rock face turned aside. What’s
unintelligible isn’t silent, isn’t transcendent
blank: it’s most of it, including you – this
noise, irresolute as rain, where harmony’s
nothing but the hard facts adding up.