Sarah Dawson is a PhD student at the University of Leeds, researching the practice of failure in contemporary experimental poetry performance. She devises performances that risk failure due to a high level of difficulty, most recently using improvisation and phonetic transcription. Recently, she has performed at the European Poetry Festival, the Process, Practice and Performance conference at Leeds Beckett University, and the Runnymede International Literary Festival. expecting a different result, her collection of visual poems working through a process of mourning, was published in 2020 by HVTN’s Interruptions imprint.
The Video Recording of Physical Culture was produced by the Workshop Theatre at the University of Leeds.
Physical Culture begins with improvised performances in which I respond to audio instructions to perform physical movements. The transcriptions of these performances are then edited into poems.
Three poems from Physical Culture
Physical Culture 3
Have you tried this: having less depth of the breath? Lessen the positive connotation of the breath. I can’t discern the depth of the breath from my head that’s separate from my shoulders. I can’t isolate the movement of the breath that’s separate from my head that’s separate from my shoulders. What degree of depth of the breath to deal with the weight coming from my shoulders? I can’t deal with the full weight of the body backwards. I can’t deal with the depth of the comfort of the full weight of the body backwards. Have you tried this: a loosening light-headedness? Will my body breath wobble between my shoulders behind my head?
Physical Culture 5
Should I be upright if I dislike it immensely? To become less dizzy, I keep coming back to the floor that caresses the wobble of my body. Keep coming back to the floor, forcing the weight towards the floor, the weight like putting a sock on the wobble of my body. Should I like putting a sock on the wobble of my body? Should my hands, wrapped around each other, wrapped around the wobble of my body, become a sock on the wobble of my body? The nature of the wobble of my body is not conductive to putting a sock on. I allow the wobble to exhale fully on the floor.
Physical Culture 7
I’m being asked to collapse like a folding chair, rather than a liquid. Is that impossible, to attain a repositioning of where the muscles are? I’m being asked to collapse to the best of my ability. Am I some kind of upright wobbling apparatus, still held by the back of my throat? How heavy should I be finding the back of my throat? If I collapse on the floor, completely bent double, am I now the centre of gravity, like a folding chair? Am I now some kind of liquid rolling towards the base of the spine? I’m being asked to attain the halfway position. Held back by the best of my ability, I collapse the back of my throat. I’m recognising where the back of my throat is able to collapse.