Updated: Feb 10, 2022
Berlin Umbrella is a poetry/sound collaboration between Stephanie Green (poet) and Sonja Heyer, (sound artist) and launched in Berlin, June, 2018 in Viktoriapark, Kreuzberg, Berlin.
Participants are invited to listen to recordings of poetry and sound from tiny loudspeakers within an umbrella and go on an ‘aural walk’. There are 6 different sequences where many voices go on a journey through time and space down the river Spree covering geological, ecological aspects, folklore and history up the present day. The sound is natural water recorded in situ from the source in the Lausatian Mountains, to specific sites along the river where events happened and mixed with other percussive effects. 'Berlin Umbrella' also appeared at StAnza Poetry Festival, Scotland in March 2020 accompanied by 'Berlin Water' an exhibition of art-work in by Valerie Coffin Price inspired by Stephanie's poetry in 'Berlin Umbrella'.
Publicity, interviews, etc on ‘Berlin Water’ can be found on https://sites.google.com/site/stephgreen1/berlin-umbrella
Extracts from ‘Berlin Umbrella’ by Stephanie Green, (a poetry/sound collaboration with Sound Artist, Sonja Heyer).
Below the Surface
Cats’ paws scratch the water’s surface.
Below, the click, tick of air bubbles,
No Go areas.
Barbed wire, CCT.
Ponds and lakes, surface water
flowing in isochronic zones
to purify a city’s drinking water.
No oil from roads or toxic foam,
No run-offs from car-washes,
No pollutants from paint or industries.
No infiltrations from fertilizers,
No biocides nor pesticides.
Below the surface,
the voice of water is dark,
* A corpse surfaces
in the Landwehr canal.
Rosa, Rosa Luxemburg.
January ice sealed you
under a white blank
where children have only memories
of skating and hot chocolate.
Water ate through sinews
releasing the weights on wrists and ankles
and in the March thaw
you rose, without hands or feet.
Water lapping the banks –
your words echoing.
Ich war, ich bin, ich werde. Rosa Luxemburg speaks
‘I was, I am, I will be.’
The bows of boats are alight
with yellow flames.
A face flickers out of the dark:
Asta Nielson, movie star. Stumm. Stumm (German) means ‘silent’
Rimmed with kohl,
her eyes are pools
you want to drink -
glitter or murk. In difficult times,
a goddess who sets us alight.
The river’s dark braids
are loops and repetitions,
luminous as silver nitrate film.
Black smoke, the roar of water.
A mad Führer in his last days.
Mothers, children, the old sheltering
in the Underground railway,
wounded soldiers in the trains,
drowned in the flooded tunnels.
White noise of flickering reels.
Note: Asta Neilson was a silent movie star in Berlin in the 20s and 30s.
Pumps and Pipes
The old water pump
squeaks. Up down. Up down.
Spouting a plait of glints,
from a dolphin’s curled lip,
filling our buckets with gossip,
cholera and typhoid.
Horse dung, human shit,
"Waste-water… in the gutters
…. a truly fearsome smell.” August Bebel, 1870
The trickle of storm-water now a roar,
floods rising, the stranger at the door.
We said it was noxious air, a miasma. Rumours
We said it was God’s wrath.
We said it was a government plot.
We said it was the immigrants.
We did not know it was the water we drank.