One Breath Poem

Collaboration as a member of LabSynthE (Laboratory for Electronic and Synthetic Poetry)

What: In multiple iterations, this project invites people to contribute a breath, or a one-breath poem to our database.

When: Spring 2018 – present.

Current Version – One Breath Poem: Message for a Revolution

In One Breath Poem: Message for a Revolution the voice is used to express a poem or poetic phrase with the limitation of speaking in just one “unit” or a single exhale. This edition is a call and response regarding the uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism in the summer of 2020.
LabSynthE uses emerging technologies to create digitally mediated experiences. To facilitate poetic exchange for this project, the One Breath Poem: Message for a Revolution call-in platform is inspired by works such as John Giorno’s Dial A Poem (1968) and Heath Bunting’s King’s Cross Phone-In (1994). Participants can dial in from their mobile phones, landlines, [or in the browser–coming soon]. Calls are directed to a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) we programmed on the site Twilio.com. Using the programming language Python and the server, pythonanywhere.com, we create site-specific arrays (bundles of poetic exchanges) for exhibition and exchange opportunities. 

Ongoing Participation Prompt: 
Leave a message in which you share your poetic observation or a selection of poetry to describe your experience at or during these uprisings with one caveat: Do so in just one breath. 

Ready To Participate?
Dial ‪1 (205) 551-8577

From outside the United States, please see this easy to use reference: https://www.howtocallabroad.com/

Please be aware that we plan to publish the voice messages we receive in a creative project.

Display History:
Since July 2020 – call 1 (205) 551-8577 to listen & participate.
August 2020 One Breath Poem: A Needful Message, School of Arts and Humanities, UT Dallas, Dallas, TX.
August 2019 –  One Breath Poem: Telephone Edition, RE:SOUND Media Arts Histories (MAH), Aalborg, Denmark.
May 2019 – One Breath Poem: Telephone Edition, BEST Symposium, Frisco, TX.
January 2019One Breath Poem: Telephone Edition, Grey Matter, A Ship in the Woods, Escondido, CA.
October 2018One Breath Poem: Telephone Edition, ATEC Celebration, Dallas, TX.
May 2018One Breath Poem: Sea Shanties Edition, Plano Art Fest, Plano, TX.
May 2018One Breath Poem: Holocaust Remembrance Day Edition School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas, Dallas, TX.

One Breath Poem: A Needful Message (text by LabSynthE)

On August 6, 2020 LabSynthE presented One Breath Poem: A Needful Message at the Arts & Humanities Teach-in:, “Interrogations of Police Violence.”


illustration by Maedeh Asgharpour

One Breath Poem: A Needful Message is a telematic call and response project in which the voice expresses a poem or poetic phrase with the limitation of speaking in just one “unit” or a single exhale. This edition of One Breath Poem, LabSynthE’s fifth iteration on this interactive sound project, was prompted by the uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism during the summer of 2020. In this version we center Ross Gay’s poem, “A Small Needful Fact,” which explores the beauty of a man’s life and the legacy of his death in the span of a breath.
For copyright purposes, this version of One Breath Poem was only active for 24 hours. We collected 12 recordings of Ross Gay’s poem in that time. We also pre-recorded translations of “A Small Needful Fact” in Farsi, Spanish, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese.

One Breath Poem: Telephone Edition (text by LabSynthE)

One Breath Poem is a participatory art and technology project that synthesizes poetry, sound, and the performance of silence.

Pic by xtine burrough

A breath is the first calibration of life and expression. As a collection, breathing presents patterns and silences from the moment we are born until the moment of our last breaths. It is a unit of activity and resting. LabSynthE considers the breath as a universal performative unit, used in One Breath Poem as an auditory fingerprint.
One Breath Poem is a mechanism for contemplative and empathetic listening. Purposeful breathing initiates a multi-modal sound sculpture. In this work, we invite visitors to breathe into our tin can telephone to emancipate the sound of John Cage’s silent pauses during a recording made in Dallas, Texas.

Pic by xtine burrough

This project is informed by intimacy.  When two people perform a communicative act it is mediated by an asynchronous alternation of listening to the other and responding. This natural form of attention and dialogue replicates on a greater scale the pattern of exhaling and inhaling. When visitors engage in this act of communication with our tin can telephone, they transform the technological device into a living and breathing system.
One Breath Poem takes the spoken word beyond the confines of language and into the embodied, universal language of breath.We suggest that breathing is a metaphor for the unsaid, infused with what has been said and what is still to be said. With One Breath Poem, Telephone Edition, we intend to allow the unveiling of the imaginative possibility of language.

One Breath Poem: Sea Shanties Edition

For the Plano Art Fest, in 2018, we created a sea shanties edition of the project. We transformed a Bar Aid into a Poetry Aid. A Bar Aid is a metal box with a menu of cocktails. One chooses a number and, by rolling a gear, finds a recipe for the chosen cocktail. We opened the box and swapped the recipes for excerpts of poems about drinking and sea chants, making it a menu of short poems. We invited participants to choose a number and contribute a one breath poem to our database, and to listen to the soundscape formed by the contributions.

Pictures by Garret Chace

One Breath Poem: Holocaust Remembrance Day Edition

Pic by Ritwik Kaikini

In this first iteration, we recorded multiple poems related to the Holocaust, in several different languages. Using Processing, we created a soundscape with the poems. During the Holocaust Remembrance Day Event at UT Dallas (organized by the Ackerman Center for the Holocaust Studies) we invited people to participate by donating one breath poems that would become part of the soundscape.