Zoë Skoulding’s exploratory work as a poet and performer is inspired by European and American avant-garde traditions, as well as by feminist poetics. Her writing is lyrical and experimental, playful and seriously engaged. Skoulding’s poems explore the possibilities of human perception by looking closely at how our words and concepts are made. The human attempt to map the drift of the world is both fascinating and, potentially, dangerous when our ideas solidify into dogmas. Skoulding is interested in cartographies, both real and imagined, literal and metaphorical, as well as in cultural perceptions of time. All of these interests revolve around the central question of poiesis, that is to say, of making or forming. The human world is shaped by a collaboration between various planetary forces and processes and the perceptive capabilities of our mammalian bodies. Collaboration is a key aspect of Zoë Skoulding’s poetic practice. She often performs together with the composer Alan Homes and she has participated in a number of collective writing experiments with other poets.
“Weather this” traces an encounter between an attentive mind and the complex of atmospheric phenomena we refer to as ‘weather’. The title plays with the phonetic similarity between the noun ‘weather’ and the conjunction ‘whether’, foregrounding the importance of language, its materiality, to any act of perception, but also suspending the possibility of any interpretive closure. Words that we say or write are one form of speech among many. In a sense, our bodies always ‘speak’ in response to their environments – they do so “in blood and breath”, in “muscles”. They ‘speak’ chemical words, words of protein.
Living matter is permeated with a kind of speech insofar as living cells always ‘negotiate’ with their surroundings. What we are, the shapes of our bodies, the sharpness of our senses, has evolved in reaction to the planetary context of gravity, the chemical composition of atmosphere, soil and water, the laws of physics. Our sense of wonder, or the ability to perceive phenomena as aesthetic, has evolved in this material context, too. Now it is possible to admire “the pinkish gleam” of a sunrise. The scene depicted at the beginning of the poem – early morning – shifts quickly. A tension builds up between the transience of “weather” and the poem’s attempts to fix it, to translate it into words which are, in their own right, far from static or fixed.
When ‘rain’ becomes a metaphor (as in “a rain of events”) has it stopped raining? And when the speaker identifies with rain (“the rain is what/ I am”), what rain does she have in mind: rain that is (was?) falling outside, rain that is pulling her away from the present moment (already lost), or rain that is made into the shape of the word, rain? What are the relationships between those various rains? And what does it mean to be rain, to be a day, to be weather? It means – doesn’t it? – to be time. Time is the measure of our lives and the form of our disappearance. In the process, everything is an encounter. I, as Arthur Rimbaud famously declared, is an other.
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