by Alaric Sumner

Alaric Sumner (1952-2000) was a writer and performer of distinction and astonishing invention, an artist, an editor, critic and educator. A one time Writer in Residence at the Tate Gallery, St Ives, latterly he had lectured in Performance Writing at Dartington College of Arts in UK, where he was also undertaking doctoral research.

He was editor and co-founder of words worth (Journal of Language Arts) and founder and editor of words worth books. In addition, he edited the Writing and Performance section of PAJ = 61 which includes an interview with Reedy and work by Reedy, Upton, Cheek and Bergvall, was UK Associate Editor of Masthead Literary Arts Magazine (edited by Alison Croggan in Melbourne, Australia), and the Sound/Text section of the Fall 1999 Issue of Riding the Meridian.

His performance work has been presented throughout Europe and North America. Of particular note, the prize-winning Voices (for 9) was performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1994.

His collaboration with Joseph Hyde, Nekyia (for speaker, singer, electroacoustics and video) toured during 1999-2000. Its last scheduled performance took place at Nunnery Gallery in London, shortly after Sumner's death, with Joseph Hyde and Steve Halfyard (singer) and with Lawrence Upton taking the place of Sumner as speaker. Hyde presented a recorded version of Nekyia at the later as celebration at Dartington.

The Unspeakable Rooms (a collaboration with Rory McDermott funded by the Arts Council of England) was described by Frank Green in the Cleveland Free Times as "one of the most powerful performances I've ever witnessed, and I've attended hundreds - a difficult masterpiece".

His collaborations with sound artist John Levack Drever have been broadcast and performed in concerts around the world and published on CDs from ISEA and Doc(k)s. Joseph Hyde used Alaric's texts from Nekyia in his CDRom work for Performance Research.


Bucking Curtains (Mainstream Poetry 1999),

Aberrations of Mirrors Lenses Sight (RWC 1998),

Waves on Porthmeor Beach (Illustrated by Sandra Blow RA) (words worth 1995),

Rhythm to Intending (Spectacular Diseases 1994),

Lurid Technology and the Hedonist Calculator (Lobby Press 1994),

Songs of Nonsense and Experiment (Zimmer Zimmer 1976).

Alaric Sumner's work is anthologised in Word Score Utterance Choreography (edited by Cobbing & Upton, Writers Forum 1998), My Kind of Angel: i.m. William Burroughs (edited by Loydell, Stride 1998) and Millennium CollectionA0 -A0 an occurrence of things not worth keeping (conceived and edited by Cheek & Lavers, Object Books 2000 - posthumous publication). Sumner's work is to be included in the forthcoming anthology On Word (edited by Cobbing and Upton, Writers Forum, for publication 2001)

At the time of his death, amongst several other projects, Alaric was working on a long piece - Letters for dear Augustine - letters to a fictional person of unstable gender. A number of extracts from it have been performed in New York and in London at New Playwright's Trust's Challenging Language Conference and Sub Voicive Poetry. A text incorporating the latest additions and amendments has been established; and it will be published during 2001 by RWC.

Further posthumous publications and performances are planned.

A bibliography of Alaric Sumner is in preparation. Enquiries about Alaric Sumner's work, especially from those interested in arranging its performance, may be addressed to Lawrence Upton.

[the work] [diner] [dialogue] [theory & practice] [opportunities] [archives] Volume Two, # Two ©1999 - 2000