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Tenement Press is an occasional publisher of esoteric,
accidental, angular, & interdisciplinary literatures.

My head is my only house unless it rains

Don Glen Vliet

Were a wind to arise
I could put up a sail
Were there no sailI’d make one of canvas and sticks

Bertolt Brecht, ‘Motto’
(Bucknow Elegies)

Rehearsal      /     3. Caroline Bergvall   


Issy Oakes, © 2021

Nattsong (Poems / an excerpt.)

In Nattsong, the poet and interdisciplinary artist Caroline Bergvall explores the dark of the night as a site of loss and of unsuspected findings: “To go through the night and look for directions is what many of us are doing at this moment of human history.” Nattsong is a performance work that combines vocal and verbal song, intense sonic landscapes, filmed visual patterns, and original texts including an adaptation of the Voluspå poem, the foundational Nordic creation and destruction myth spoken by the Völve, ancient foreteller and seeress.

The multi-sensory stage work, from which these texts are excerpted, is part of a longer cycle of site-specific live performance works called Sonic Atlas (it started in 2015 and is ongoing), which revisits ancient texts through contemporary concerns and collaborations.  

 1.    Refugio

Seeking shelter roadstead refuge refugio
from this X thrown on to the route the rote the routte the course (ca. 1160) the path passageway (1170) with no end in sight > seeking refuge refugium a place or means of shelter, concealed chamber, protector, Latin rupta,
via rupta, broken way rumpere break refuge Anglo-Norman Middle French refuge protector often used of God (1150), means of obtaining shelter (1175) soutien, recours (12ès.) > Old French refuge, place of shelter, protection (1278) > excuse, evasion (1440) > sanctuary, retreat (15th C.) place of shelter for disadvantaged people (1663) > hostel (1718) > sanctuary, right of sanctuary (1000), Six Cities of Refuge, ville de refuge, a Hundred Thousand Welcome (2005), rebel cities (2012), cities of sanctuary, sanctuary cities (2017), solidarity cities > refuge (4th C.) action of avoiding punishment,
way out (5thC. Augustine) > seeking refuge Old Occitan refug,
refugi Catalan refugi (13th C.), Spanish refugio (mid 13th C.),
Portuguese refúgio (15th C.), Italian refugio (1319) > 
Old French refuite from trouble 
or danger, used up every resource, refute Anglo-Norman refut
refuit, refute, > compare refu refute > compare refugere refuir 
to flee turn back flee run away 
re- prefix Latin run b
ack wards back from point reached back to or toward
starting point as in re-cēder, re-currer, re-dūcere, re + fugere flee 
see fuge flee! as fast as you can flee!
> compare fugue counterpoint, French fugue Italian fuga flight 
if roads ahead are blocked what follows 
from today   

2.   Listen Heare / The Volva’s prophecy

Listen heare me out, allar kindir kinds & kins
Völve am I, and I’ve seen it all!
Hear me,
meiri minnir minor major, from fungi to fur, bones to gills        
            I tell of fjorn farthest reaches tides, how at time start 
giants trained me, nine homes had I, nine moders wild wise markable 
all firing up from the tree nedan below
Yet no sand no sea yet, no algae nor swelling svalar
no soil no himmel sky nor gasp at starry nights       
            and nowhere green—I saw
Comes up earthland lifted from sol south moon star skein, 
like skin taut for loud drumming ground        
            fills universe with green—I saw
Islands refuge couplings, meadows and fruitfall       
            gold green are showers—I saw
Conductor fields on bright spherical earth, ash-rooted 
and alla kindir invited        
             to the well of origins—I saw

Då kjem ulykka!
Da comes ill-being, failing days befall night.
First war is total earthwreck, burn Gullveig three times and three times 
ho rises ho rises ho rises still to foretell a golden way 
Humankind berserks all kinds, explode oceans, continental drifts of industry,
frack out gleaming destruction, endless spills wastage        
            wars storms and drakar—I saw
Listen heare, insides all around insides all around
Listen until bleeding from the ears       
            to the trees to the soils to the cities
The sea the sea the saé rises up to the sunn at Ragnarok       
            Listen heare for the submerged, the cut back, the poisoned, 
the drowned, the left for dead, the voiceless despairing, 
insides all around       
            Listen heare to the bridges, the chromatic scale of the brave,
the etheric complex of the wise, the crystalline memory fields of the
reappearing, insides
all around

Listen listen bleeding
from the heare       
            Listen! for the galactic holistic anger, the cosmic vegetal,
the astral molluscs, oceanic minerals!       
            Listen! for the osseous maps of all knowing, the wombed vital energy 
of pain and all gestation inside you and all        
            around inside me
and all around

In times of catastrophe all grounds escape
What are the stratas of encounter
—the holdings of care?
What are the keepers        
            who sheltered shelters?
Who are you what are you what will you be?
Who am I what am I what will I be?

Threads all shot out
Beings uprooted from survival
Dragon gnaws at the Tree
Sink back Mani & Sol
Veit de no nok? know now enough?
I sink back too, for now

Insides all round        
            listen heare listen heare
inside you and all around        
            inside me and all around

4.  Listening

I’m listening
now that everythings
into holding patterns

yet busy with voicings 
heard through the cl
ear night

a micro flurry
of speakers sounds languages
like the glottal membranes 
of a global earful 
resonating under glass
on a cleared 



A dislodged
of living-spaces

our flickering
caught us
by surprise       


We’re working from the base
in the dark
Dig in the rote the rot deepeste root system
most undetected part of bandwidth 
while pushed further into
the raw
all insides out
threatened on alert
or hide-in

dig dig dig dig
for a patch of earth
Dig, said the noman’s poet
they were digging
still digging 
for a patch
of earth
on earth
our own great 

            oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my       
            oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my     


Coming in down the lines
voices spread out spor
adically tracked
in the room

proximity proximated
by long distance technologies
what passes for contact
draws up other types of geo-constellations


To lend an ear
tendre vers        
                tend towards 
tenderness ?
or pay attention
as in leaning 
or sitting back
aain the listening

Ancient figures
with cupped hands
the invitation

figures overwhelmed with hearing
shoot electromagnetic lines
out of all ears

unfamiliar flowers
inscribed with sound-stems 
float in deep language pools
scintillate like dew 
in the all-surround

*        *

A clearing within
a most uncharted
part of any 
—must be 
kept hollow
to sound 


Not standing        
not being cleared
nor clear
while pushing
further into       
            waves of in
creased sensitivity
retrains all basic
building blocks
yond the impasse


Rodu an ancient
la clairiere luminates 
a room at heart

There’s this urg
ent capacity 
to imagine
to adapt to think to act 
in long range extensible patterns 
out ways 
all comfort zones

Look for practical clues
applicable methods
guides accomplices
self-organised groups
in the outer fields
and take a long view closely
tents and beehives
a to k educate
unschool as fast as possible
groups and paradigms
from i to acquiesce

get past fear
just blows up bridges
rebuilds with hate
wants to prevent self-
wants to keep the future locked
into the wars
wants to maintain
only from i 
to isolates
only from i 
to times 
of catastrophe

They say NO is another way!
I say yes to no!
They say NO is another door!
I say yes to no!

Is this Not's work, is this the Volve’s dark alert,
crash course awakening, it’s now 
Unhides unhinges
Loud louder loudeste 
Is this Night’s work, is this her crash course, 
is this her Waters’ broke! 
What wisdom rip tide, or what!
vitud er enn, eda hvat! 
Loud louder loudeste

oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my       
            oh my oh my oh my
oh my oh my oh my

passages we are for passengers around
passengers we are for passages to come 
passages we are for passengers to come
passangers we are for passages around

Caroline Bergvall, ‘Refugio 2’ (2021)

Caroline Bergvall
concept, text & voice
Andrew Delaney 
camera & editing
Jamie Hamilton

Caroline Bergvall is an award-winning poet and interdisciplinary artist of French-Norwegian origins based in London. She works across media, forms and languages. Her work includes performances, books, installations, sound-works, drawings. Often works collaboratively. The recipient of many international commissions and fellowships, Caroline is an exponent of writing and performance methods adapted to contemporary literacies. Noted works inclusde such books and projects as Meddle English (2011), Drift (2014), the installation Say Parsley (2001-2020), the ongoing sunrise performance Ragadawn (2018-), and the ongoing conversation-performance Conference of the Birds (2018-). As a facilitator, she leads projects, runs workshops and provides individual mentoring with a special focus on radical forms, cross-cultural and multilingual contexts. Currently Bergvall is a Global Professor Fellow, Queen Mary University, London.

With thanks to Daniel Kramb, in all quarters ...

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