The Wire


Eve Libertine recites Jack Kerouac's Sea

January 2019

Listen to an unearthed live recording of the Crass vocalist's jazz accompanied reading

Visual artist, writer and former Crass co-lead vocalist Eve Libertine performed this rendition of US beat poet Jack Kerouac's Sea at London's Vortex in 2003. The poem can be found at the end of Kerouac's book Big Sur, a biographical novel he wrote after the publication of On The Road, when he was suffering extreme depression. Libertine's connection with this poem in particular was forged out of recognition of the text as a sensitive expression of poor mental health.

Both Libertine and her former Crass bandmate Penny Rimbaud have experimented with improvised and jazz based poetry for some time; Rimbaud released What Passing Bells (The War Poems Of Wilfred Owen) via One Little Indian in 2017 and toured the performance with pianist Liam Noble and cellist Kate Shortt.

Libertine answered some questions about Kerouac’s Sea over email:

Why is the text important?

I think that the way Kerouac has chosen to use language describes the essence of the ocean and human existence on this earth in all its phases and moods and reading it has helped me better understand what I experience.

In which way do you relate to the original text, and in which ways do you find conflict with it?
I found it difficult to make sense of when I first read it, so I read it aloud which made it much easier. I then felt the pull and push of the language so I just went with that, not trying to make sense, and then things began to emerge and they still are. There’s nothing obvious in the poem except flow and movement, but within that ideas will reveal themselves if you take the time. It’s a different way of reading.

How intuitively do you think the piece can be performed? Was it easy to translate into a musical piece?
The piece is performed completely intuitively. When it was recorded no one had played it before or heard the poem.It was completely improvised. It had to be done that way to keep the freedom of the writing. It was a joy to perform. As I have said before I felt that I was in and on a sea of sound, it was one of those magic moments when we cease to be separate from each other and something deeper and stronger takes over and it all suddenly slips into a right and easy place.

Sea is released by One Little Indian on 25 January and is available to preorder.


je suis très heureux d avoir pu écouter cette extret de SEA avant sa sortie dans 3 jours ,j attend sa parution avec impatience ! j adore la diction et les vocalise de EVE LIBERTINE ( une grande dame )merci !

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