Monday 3 February 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Zoë Skoulding, The Museum of Disappearing Sounds reviewed by Shanley McConnell

This crashes around the skull. It whispers and it wails. It is the sound we hear when the space around us is silent. Recently shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award, Zoë Skoulding’s The Museum of Disappearing Sounds explores the notion of sound as a codependent relationship between a reader’s external and internal ear.

The Museum of Disappearing Sounds is an intimate collection and is offered as a  gift to you, her reader. You are the initiator, the listener, the viewer, and also the silencer of sound: “You hold [its] rise and decay.” The collection itself is curated like a display, divided into “exhibits.” An image of waves form in the second exhibit, enabling you to envision external noise internally. Skillfully, Skoulding wires sound deep within the body just as a set of cables connects to a radio.

In breathe a crackle of static disturbance
A detuned radio in one lung.

Throughout, Skoulding’s lines conscientiously compare the subconscious conflation of sight and sound. The adjective in the collection’s title, “Disappearing,” a word that hinges on visibility, introduces this thematic strand. In order to stimulate all senses, Skoulding also conflates sound with language, interpreting sound as speech. In “exhibit four”, “a voice shimmers.” Can a voice shine? “Can rhythms […] cradle?” In The Museum of Disappearing Sounds, words are imbued with secondary meanings. Skoulding’s poem replaces physical definitions with psychological emotions in an attempt to connect her reader’s senses. Answering the question above, “Cradle” suggests reassurance; consequently, a “cradling” voice comes to represent a comforting rhythm. The collection continues to inquire as to how one hears what is silent and feels what it untouchable.