Since March 2012 I’ve been poet-in-residence with the Speech Communication Lab at UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. This is a scientific research group studying the ways in which speech is produced and processed in the brain; I’ve used my residency to think about the ways in which the group’s research can be diverted, appropriated or otherwise misused for the purposes of writing poetry.
I’ve sat in on lab meetings and experiments and been in the MRI scanner; I’ve interviewed members of the group about their work; I’ve tried out the techniques they use to take speech ‘off ceiling’, creating obstacles to communication so they can study what makes speech possible. My approach in writing these poems has not only been to use scientific terminology, or imagery inspired by neuroscientific findings; instead, I’ve tried to create new forms and possibilities for poetry from the scientific processes I’ve come across in the lab. I think of the poems I’ve produced as exploratory forays, literary experiments which test out these new forms. You can find out more about my research process at the Vox Lab website, and you can read my reflections on poetry, sound and neuroscience in Issue 7 of The White Review.
- James Wilkes
The Vox Lab is supported by Wellcome Trust