“Unbound” is a London-based collaborative project that explores contemporary poetry writing in the context of multilingualism and across different media. It has been conceived and developed as a result of Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani’s academic and creative journey as both a published researcher and poet of mixed background living and working in London.

“Unbound” is a series of sonic, visual and multilingual ‘promenades’ inviting and inciting the public to immerse themselves fully in the multi-sensorial experience of Jasmina’s poetry in English, French and Croatian. It is imagined as a series of evening multilingual poetry recitals in different cities across Europe (London and Zagreb in the first instance). These multi-dimensional – multilingual, multimedia – recitals aim to show how the spoken word, sound and image can interact in an innovative way to create a series of ‘unbound’ or free expressions. The project has received funding in 2018 and 2019 from the London-based Language Acts and Worldmaking  project (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) for the production of the multilingual poetry recital “Reveries about language”, in London, 20 March 2019, Pinter Studio, and in Zagreb, 19 March 2020, Cultural Information Centre, Zagreb.

Unbound’s originality lies primarily in the exploration of multilingual poetry writing. It brings to the fore the idea of the ‘territory’ of language as the only possible space to embrace by any writer working across languages and cultures. It aims to do so in an innovative way, linking multimedia technologies with intimately lived poetic experiences and expressions. Ultimately, it aligns itself with the claim that “poetry is currently the form of writing that is undergoing the most radical regeneration” (The White Review, http://www.thewhitereview.org/prize/white-review-poets-prize-2017/). The project’s aim is to bring poetry fully into the twenty first century by engaging the public in an accessible way that will both surprise and delight, but will also be inspiring and thought provoking.

Project Background 

“I don’t think that one can be a bilingual poet. I don’t know of any case in which a man wrote great or even fine poems equally well in two languages. I think one language must be the one you express yourself in, in poetry, and you’ve got to give up the other for that purpose. And I think that the English language really has more resources in some respects than the French. I think, in other words, I’ve probably done better in English than I ever would have in French even if I’d become as proficient in French as the poets you mentioned.” (interview with T S Elliot, The Paris Review no. 1., 1959)

Since Jasmina began writing poetry in 2014, she has been exploring and playing with the idea of multilinguality in her writing. As the citation by T Eliot shows, there is an expectation on the poet (and writer in general) to choose one language in which s/he can write. By using multilingual strategies in her own writing, she wants to challenge those expectations. Her exploration of the multilingual is the result of both her personal and academic experience of living in several different countries and speaking different languages. She was born in Zagreb (to a Croatian father and an Algerian mother) where she was educated to MA level. She lived in Bruxelles between 1977-1981 and in Vienna between 1986-1987. Between 1991-1993, she lived in Uppsala, Sweden, where she was working on her MA in Sociolinguistics. In 1995, she moved to London where I have been living and working since.

In her essay “Unbound Lines: Writing in the Space of the Multilingual” she writes: Before I started introducing multilinguality in my writing, I often felt that when I was writing in one of my languages I was losing “something”. That “something”, I came to fully understand this much later, was made up not only of notions and concepts, but also of sounds, images and smells, as well as the emotional, cognitive, pragmatic and kinetic resonances of the words and the worlds I live in. Each of my languages has its own archeology; one contains my sensory and sensual memories, the other inhabits my thoughts, my Self, my consciousness, the third plays an important role for me in terms of cultural identity. Each of the languages I inhabit has its own timbre, voice, rhythm; it has its own harmonies and melodies, its own colours. Each language I speak, mediates my experience(s) of the world differently. Only after I decided that I would not or did not have to choose a language in order to write, did I start writing poetry. In the process of writing poetry in three languages, I spend some time comparing and rewriting the English, French and Croatian versions of each of the poems, something that contributes to a more precise poetic expression in each of these languages. ‘Unbound’ is a way for me to express creatively what it means to hold these complex ideas, feelings and experiences.”

Essay

Bolfek-Radovani, Jasmina,Unbound Lines: Writing in the Space of the Multilingual published in Balkan Poetry Today, issue 2, Feb 2019.

Poet’s Readings

Reading of an extract of the trilingual poem  “Reveries about Language” is accessible on Youtube : https://youtu.be/OtTFxmDY5xE.

First time broadcast on the King’s College London radio show, 28/4/2016 (c.f. podcast on
“Translation” from de 17h:30min):
https://www.mixcloud.com/footnotes/episode-8-translation-full-show).

“Unbound” is supported by:

Language Acts and Worldmaking
Queen Mary University of London (Centre for Poetry; Arts and Culture; Q-Media)