Jacques Rancière – The Groove of the Poem, reading Philippe Beck


Univocal/University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-1937561697, English, 100 pages, 2016, USA

The relationship between the world of music and the world of literature is a close one, thanks to the shared sounds, some type of structures, and especially the imagary which both are built to awaken. Poetry especially can be extremely informative on the production of sounds with its own use of words and rhythm. Philippe Beck is a French poet, who has collaborated with musicians on various works including contemporary and acousmatic music. He composes poetry which can be evocative, especially when related to sound. It’s what at some point Rancière, writing and editing this book, describes as a “virtuality of enchantment and instruction”. Beck’s ability to create a sound image in his use of words actually resound in our mind. As with conceptual artworks evoking art which is then formed in our imagination, here the sounds are transmitted through a sophisticated articulation and then played through mechanisms residing in our mind. It’s a sophisticated device, very different from explicit sound poetry or abstract poetry, which are directly aiming at our ears. In his “Music”, for example, the attractive instinctive power of music is described and an acting axe is paired with an aeolian harp. This quality, together with the structure of his work, are discussed here through analysis and conversations. But his poetry is an example of how we can imagine sound art using the language as its medium of transmission and our mind as its playing device and possibly storage as well.