“Seventh Half” by Ellen Redbird, August 3, 2014

Poets Kris Lew, Hillary Keel, and John J. Trause perform “Seventh Half,” an excerpt from the manuscript Unrequited Symbiosis: a Mitochondrial Mistranslation & Underwater Opera by Ellen Redbird. Introduction by Magus Magnus. Presented as part of the 5th Boog Poets Theater Night, curated by Magus Magnus, of the Welcome to Boog City 8: Poetry, Music, and Theater Festival, directed by David Kirschenbaum. August 3, 2014. Sidewalk Cafe, New York City. Videography by Kim Essex.



In “Seventh Half,” the protagonist, SIX, wakes up among the corals in a dream ocean. Can the sea creatures compel SIX to open up to the relatedness and interdependence of all life and face the recollection of rejection and loss? Ellen Redbird’s book-length, hybrid performance poem Unrequited Symbiosis: a Mitochondrial Mistranslation & Underwater Opera is a multilayered retelling of H. C. Andersen’s sad story “The Little Mermaid” as it resonates with themes, both personal and universal, of longing, unrequited love, ecology, our dangerous imbalance with the environment (and thus ourselves), failure, chronic pain, identity, descent into the underworld, sacrifice, empathy, and transformation. Intuitively using homophonic and other mistranslation methods, Redbird collaborated with the Danish source text to allow language to musically bubble up from the generative space between the outer alien and the inner familiar, finding that the two are one in the same as they paradoxically compose the same ocean. Redbird works with the idea that, because experience, conscious and unconscious, is multidimensional, the language to best convey that complexity arises from it.