Jakob Schweppenhäuser, Ph.D., postdoc, Aarhus University. Excerpt from an introduction to the work of Jesper Elving given at the conference The Experiments in Contemporary Poetry, Aalborg University 2015:
"Sound poetry has a long tradition. One can even argue that its
tradition reaches all the way back to the very origins of poetry: to the first rhythmically uttered cry, chanting, singing... Later, in the shadows of the Great War, the Dada movement found a new relevance of sound poetry. Nevertheless, the sound poetry of Jesper Elving does not appear as a nostalgic journey back to neither the roots of poetry or to the Dada poets, not at all. On the contrary, it appears fresh and strangely original. Over the last decade, Elving has published a remarkable amount of books full of sound poetry: kakt nimhe, belko, gilke menjer, metoj, desser, nobu, nefnur, kolme, laggi, stennel, stenne, kibnev, femp, stolek and the latest two: voggi and lendon – just to name a few...
Danish critic Lars Bukdahl has often termed the poetry of Jesper
Elving "nonsense" (with great veneration by the way). But is it true that these words do not make sense? Or do they rather exactly make sense: create sense? A hundred years ago, Russian avant-garde poets called their literary experiments заумь, Zaum: 'za' means 'beyond', 'um' means 'mind'. This Russian word can thus be translated into the word beyonsense – not nonsense…"
Anders Mathiasen, composer, musician and longtime collaborator of Jesper Elving:
"The EXPERIENCE of Jesper Elving's poems (or songs, mantras, spells, riddles, incantations, koans, it's all in there) is that of TRANSCENDENCE. Of what? Well, not just language. They call for an awareness and openness that is more characteristic of attentive LISTENING than of reading. And what you can hear are patterns of movement in a sphere of pure potentiality, before/beyond/below language, capable of who knows what. Semantic and fonetic like all other poetry (poetry is sound, sound is poetry, why speak of "sound poetry?"), they render these categories less than useful, because language is neither their primary, nor their most elucidating parameter.
To me, Elving's poems are an invaluable source of creative nourishment (they remind me that there are no rules, and I do tend to forget), a form of yoga, a spiritual practice along the lines of Plato's conception of music as stated in Timaeus: "Music too, in so far as it uses audible sound, was bestowed for the sake of harmony. And harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of the soul within us, was given by the Muses, not as an aid to irrational pleasure (as is now supposed), but as an auxiliary to the inner revolution of the soul, when it has lost its harmony, to assist in restoring it to order and concord with itself"."
David Grubbs, composer, musician, writer. Ph.D., professor of music at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center:
"Jesper Elving's prodigious columns of text arrive with a strikingly uniform organization, and within this uniformity they quiver and shake. I was tempted to write "they love to quiver and shake," but that would suggest a familiarity with the work's aims-the work's desires-that I can't say that I possess, and its apartness is one of the qualities that draws me close.
The four volumes of his writing I've encountered (lundén, bokki, broster, and skifelk, all 2016) arrive as paperclipped stacks of oversized sheets oriented horizontally that contain seven columns of uncapitalized, unpunctuated individual words that the author notes aurally resemble the Danish language. I'm inclined to dismiss similarities between words that appear in these texts and words that I know from other languages: "stet," "deli," fete," "skint." The layout of the words on the page is such that one could just as easily read from left to right or, within the individual column, from top to bottom. Perhaps the best-known text to suggest a similar dilemma is John Cage's "Lecture on Nothing" (ca. 1949-50), for which Cage gives the explanation "[t]he text is printed in four columns to present a rhythmic reading." (Cage also states that the lecture is to be read from left to right, but this doesn't banish the temptation to let the eyes roam as they wish, which can include experiencing the text as a vertical arrangement.) In these works by Elving words in the individual columns are centered, resulting in jagged left and right column margins, softened somewhat by the vertical space between words. The variable amount of vertical space is the element that, as with Cage's spacing of gaps within the four columns of the "Lecture on Nothing," suggests a rhythmic form and brings these texts closer to the category of performance score.
Elving's work also invites comparison to a much later Cage text, his 1977 "Writing for the Second Time through Finnegans Wake," which is intended to be read vertically. Where Cage's text is centered around a capitalized mesostic thread on James Joyce's name, the invisible thread in Elving's texts is the centering function in a word processing program. The nonsyntactical individual words that make up his poetry resonate with the following remark that Cage includes in the introduction to the piece: "Due to N.O. Brown's remark that syntax is the arrangement of an army, and Thoreau's that when he heard a sentence he heard feet marching, I became devoted to nonsyntactical 'demilitarized' language." I can't help but recall this statement when entering Jesper Elving's writing."
Tobias R. Kirstein, artist, writer and composer, cofounder of the Mayhem venue in Copenhagen:
"An open game of molluscs
The poetry of Jesper Elving was handed to me in an anonymous shopping bag. 10 or 15 pages in A3 format, carefully folded and put together with paperclips in 3 different colours. At first sight, this could be seen as a somewhat careless presentation of poetry. It's not that he does not care, I think. It's, I assume, that he wants the collections of new words to evade a common classification, a new modality, to slide in and gain other places to speak from.
What happens when a collection of poetry evades the shape of a book, when there is no spine, when the book as the shape for the evolution of knowledge turns into molluscs, strange transparent animals without faces and sounds. How would you ever be able to find these publications in a library – the epitome of culture and classification? And how does the taxonomy react?
Swarms of letters make words on these pages. New words. A language is a dialect with an army, is a common theory of power and representation. The tags, to be found everywhere in urban areas performed by graffiti painters or writers - 'skrivere'- as they call themselves in Danish, are sectarian communiqués or vandalism. Signs of life, guerilla dialects that only a few know the meaning of. In this perspective Elving uses stealth tactics. There's no army. The incomprehensible words slide into the area of language. The words can be read and read out aloud by anybody. They are sounds on and off paper, that represent nothing.
In this sense can his praxis be understood as a game? The perfect pass, the smash, the action of purity in sports that when it happens, out of the blue, has no reference. A very private coordination of body and mind, an impersonal intuitive praxis. It opens a plethora of possibilities, the game explodes in new combinations, but the game hasn't ended. The tension and elasticity has changed. It's not A language or a dialect, but language in itself.
He's meticulously building an evasive monument of lightness."