Performances by Ghazal Mosadeq and Katherine E Bash

reviewed by Antony John

Poets Ghazal Mosadeq and Katherine E Bash presented ‘WATER = BONE Io + FIRE AIR (Plants and MINERALS) and Planets’ at the Poetry in Expanded Translation conference at Bangor University and at the London poetry reading series Xing the Line in April. The collaboration is the development of a piece Ghazal Mosadeq has been working on that she previously presented at another London reading series, Contraband, in December 2016.
In this piece a 16th century rendering of an ancient Greek manuscript a thousand years older collides with 21st century chance readings and homophonic translation. Symbols, pictures and words from Persian, Arabic and unknown languages from the Terntem of India / Secrets of Ghasemi are mixed up with spells, alchemy and astrology. Words tattoo supernatural creatures and faces. To this, Katherine Bash has added her own symbols derived from staring at the sun.  

For most of the work, the poets seem to be responding to each other – at one point the English word ‘fog’ spoken by Katherine Bash is answered by its equivalent in Persian from Ghazal Mosadeq. Long runs of numbers are spoken. In one dramatic section, the poets’ words come together and they speak with a united voice.

In 2016, the texts were projected directly onto Ghazal Mosadeq herself. The projection saturated her in blue light and she became part of the language she was vocalising. Now in the collaboration, the projection is replaced by a video and sound recording made by Katherine Bash. The recording loops the sound of the poets’ own voices until you can’t tell what is speech and what recorded or where the voices are coming from.

This is complicated by the video that moves over the landscape of the text above their heads, lost, while intense and indecipherable static black symbols appear in the foreground as the text moves in and out of focus behind them. Concentrate too hard on the video and you feel like you are overbalancing into it. The whole work is a profound experience of incantation, ritual, modern and ancient animal and human forms.

The script is available as a booklet from Pamenar Press. The work will be performed in June at the Surrey Poetry Festival.