Strawberries: a word solo

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

This work is a performance piece; below is the script that goes along with movement. I hope to film a performance of this piece soon!

A dance instructor I know but have never taken class with, named Barbie, posted a quote by the author Maggie Nelson the other day, about how there is pleasure in relearning the same truths, returning to the same things in your work. There’s a bot on twitter called poem_exe that uses language from traditional haikus (like snails or snow or flowers or rain or lovers) and spits it out into a tiny poem. I was practicing art a few years ago by drawing one that went:

Fresh strawberry

Here and there

No one replaces you

In the third panel, I drew just two hands, one reaching palm out to accept the strawberry in the extended fingertips of the other…

As a kid I was ummmmmmmmm scared of them? Not sure when my first one was but I remember the transformation in my brain when I got to the sweet crunch. the sweet crunch. The pungent farm smell. They almost reek. Red stained fingers and plate. A good beginning middle and end. One could be enough. Different but same enough to want another.

They’re like me! Red! When I’m out in the sun for too long. They’re also hairy. Also sometimes they’re disappointing.

In college we’d get them on the last day of class senior year, soaked in prosecco. Liz, who I will one day marry, doesn’t drink, but she sits on the side of the amphitheater, determined to make her way through one terrible cheap glass. Meanwhile my friend Céline gets wasted bumming other people’s drink tickets. At rehearsal for commencement concert a few hours later she is still giggling but still dances more beautifully than any of us. Still, don’t drink and dance. the grass is wet and warm and we can see a way out of the Massachusetts winter. Bitten lower lips, vulnerable and stinging. Stomach aches/joints crack/muscles pull. Céline started inviting me to parties in the very last month of our final semester. It’s so nice to fit in.

I used to cater weddings and would steal chocolate covered strawberries from the dessert table when I bussed plates, nestling them between dishes, the chocolate coating sweating, pulling away from the fruit. The only weddings I’ve been to have been ones I worked. Plating the salad and arranging the silverware. MAY I TAKE YOUR PLATE- I’M SORRY EXCUSE ME– MAY I -OH PARDON ME–OH OOPS–OH NO WORRIES, -I’LL GET IT—IT’S OUR PLEASURE

Prosecco-soaked tang

Red stained grass stained paper plates

Crave. Eat. Sweet regret.

Swiveling tango

Pushing into grass and dirt

Stinging bitten red.

Fresh strawberry

Here and there

No one replaces you.

Maybe a robot wrote a better poem about strawberries than I did. Maybe I need to return to them over and over again. Maybe I take pleasure in building a life out of revisitations. Better strawberries than, you know, liver.

Author’s note:

The script for this word solo, produced for the spring course Embodied Writing, is a collage of associations. We, collectively, and I, personally, spent a lot of time working with strawberries throughout the class, and the quote from Maggie Nelson (below) helped me draw a through-line to connect these seemingly disparate thoughts, writings, and memories. I wanted to include all the different ways that strawberries have worked on me in my art and in their connections to my social and personal life.

“The pleasure of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again—not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisitations constitute a life.”

-Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (as quoted by barbie diewald)

Additionally, I was interested in how integrating different modes of writing—sensory memory, storytelling, personal narrative, journaling—might interplay with movement. Similarly, I was using movement generated in several ways—improvisation, “translated” gestures á la Liz Lerman, a Trisha Brown alphabet score—to take multiple approaches to “interpreting” the text, as in museum practice. My hope is that there is still a sense of interconnectedness despite using very different modes of artmaking to convey many experiences of the same thing.

I was also interested in different ways of connecting text to movement, including not moving. I was interested to know—is it still stillness if I’m verbalizing? What kind of movement is involved in storytelling? I was invested in speaking the text live to be able to find this out, and physically investing in the text beyond moving to it as a soundtrack. Learning the text in this way also forced me to really face my writing head-on and take on my own weird rhythms, sentence structures, and difficult combinations of words, and make the decision to own them.


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©2019 Johanna Berliner