Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club
Angela Rawlingss first book, Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists (Coach House Books, 112 pp.), is a sensual, magic-realist book of poetry that aligns the human sleep cycle with that of butterflies and moths.
Rawlings has spent the last several years working with a multitude of literary organizations, including Mercury Press, the Scream Literary Festival and the Lexiconjury Reading Series, and in 2005 she was host of the television documentary series Heart of a Poet. During all this, she has been developing her own poetry.
Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, her first book, grew out of concerns that have been with her for quite awhile. In fact, while procrastinating on an academic paper, she began flipping through the dictionary and was taken by the "mellifluous words that begged to be spoken aloud." Rawlings was introduced to the vocabulary-pupae of what became her long-term poetic project after transcribing "lepidopterist," "littoral," "macrocarpa," "maquette," "marram" and "parasomnia" into her journal.
As Rawlings explains, "parasomnia" quickly linked the project with some other poetic concerns. "What happens when a person obsessed with a subject dreams at night does the subject matter affect how she thinks, how she dreams, how her body processes information? Id been toying with this question for awhile, in terms of my own tendency to write poems while dreaming."
Much of Wide Slumber developed out of Rawlingss willingness to ask questions that combine genres and interests.
"If a poet writes poems during sleep, how might a lepidopterist work while she sleeps? What effect does intimate examination of insects have on long-term information processing and subconscious behaviour? What happens when you breed the vocabularies and ideas of two disparate subjects together Lepidoptera and sleep/dream studies? What does the spawn of incompatible bedfellows resemble?"
Shortly after hatching the idea, Rawlings was in correspondence with long-term collaborator Matt Ceolin, who, like Rawlings, had a fascination with insects. Ceolins work had centred on sculptural representations of mechanical insects, and their ongoing conversations led to Ceolins illustrations, which punctuate Wide Slumber, becoming an intricate part of the way that Rawlings develops her work, adding sensual, tactile depictions of insects and insect-collecting equipment.
Wide Slumber opens with a slow-building accumulation of the phrase "a hoosh a ha," like the sound of breath and a gathering of moths around a candle flame.
Affected by her background in dance and theatre, Rawlingss text has a kinetic aspect, an awareness of the body and the breath, which is unusual in such linguistically innovative writing. She brings a vocabulary of dance and the body to her consideration of how to approach text as an active, moving site, asking, "How can sound translate into text, text into movement, movement into text? How can a page act as a stage for words?"
With Wide Slumber, it was her intention to "consider text holistically, paying attention to a texts aural, visual and kinetic elements by composing with the entire field of the page in mind being aware of the structure of the poem and how the material qualities of language can enhance, can be the poem."
This awareness of how language can work outside of its normal parameters suggests the magic realist form, most typified by Gabriel Garcia Marquezs highly sensual, cyclical and extra-logical novels like, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
With Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, Rawlings says she wants to invoke that "sense of wonder at language and how language moves from and through us. When I sit down to read or write, I'm trying to be aware."