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The Not Tale (Funeral)

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From "Shorter Chaucer Tales" (2006)

The great labour of appearance
Served the making of the pyre.
But how
Nor how
How also
How they
Shal nat be toold
Shall not be told.
Nor how the gods
Nor how the beestes and the birds
Nor how the ground agast
Nor how the fire
First with straw
And then with drye
And then with grene
And then with gold
And then
Now how a site is laid like this.
Nor what
Nor how
Nor how
Nor what she spak nor what was her desir
Nor what jewels
When the fire
Nor how some threw their
And some their
And their
And cups full of wine and milk
And blood
Into the fyr
Into the fire.
Nor how three times
And three times with
And three times how.
And how that
Nor how
Nor how
Nor how
Nor who
I cannot tell
Nor can I say
But shortly to the point I turn
And make of my tale an ende.

Part of Bergvall’s ongoing cycle of texts, “Shorter Chaucer Tales” developed using a range of writing methods and languages, including direct quotes from Chaucer in Middle English. The short “The Not Tale” was very simply created by translating and excerpting the negatives that make up Chaucer’s description of Arcite’s funeral in “The Knight’s Tale.”
Source: Poetry (July/August 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Not Tale (Funeral)

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  • Caroline Bergvall was born in 1962 in Germany to a Norwegian father and a French mother. She earned degrees from the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, the University of Warwick, and the Dartington College of Arts. Working across languages, media, and art forms, Bergvall’s interests run from multilingual poetics to feminism to issues of cultural belonging. Her work takes the form of both published poetic works and performance, frequently of sound-driven projects. Her work has been commissioned and shown by such institutions as MoMA, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Antwerp.
    Bergvall’s books of poetry and hybrid writing include Strange Passage: A Choral Poem (1993), Goan Atom (2001), Fig (2005), Alyson Singes (2008), and Meddle English (2010). A former director of the innovative, cross-arts writing program at Dartington College, Bergvall has also taught at Cardiff University and Bard College. From 2007 to 2010, she...

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