Exercise: Asemic writing

Gave my poetry workshop an exercise in asemic writing. First time I’ve tried it & they done good. Will post some of their scriptures soon. For now, the exercise, with prelims.


In class, showed some alphabets invented or divined. Hélène Smith‘s Martian:

Smith

Something cool by Andrew Clark I found:

Clark

Razorsharp letterset, with pareidolia, by Christopher Skinner:

Skinner

Wish I’d remembered the Deseret writing created by Brigham Young:

DeseretMore widely used perhaps is Klingon:

Klingon


And then an in-class exercise: Create a new alphabet. You have 15 minutes.

There was time when they were done (!?) so I had them write their names in their alphabet and put them on the board.

photo (9)

Click this one to biggen it, so worth it.

The characters illegible but full of character – I can almost tell, weeks later, whose letters are whose. (Of course the palindrome’s a giveaway.) And that’s asemic writing for you: all the meanings semantic meaning was veiling, when we were distracted by it, shiny toy, creep forth, peek out.


The exercise they went home with: Compose a page of asemic writing. And man did some come out good. I will post post haste.

To those who had trouble with the ex, I said, try it anew with your eyes closed. (Makes me no better than some Obi Wan voiceover, I know.)


Examples of asemic writing I had for them, who now are you, to look at.

Zhang Xu‘s “wild cursive,” or loosely (or wrongly) “wild grass cursive”:

Zhang_Xu_-_Grass_style_calligraphy_(4)

A few by Henri Michaux:

A couple by Paul Klee:

And this wonderful ongoing project, The Geranium Lake Properties, by Lyn Tarczynski, maybe my favourite asemic compositor out there.

And this bed of asemic misadventure, The New Post-literate, edited by one of the mode’s current progenitors, Michael Jacobson.


Also had them read these good orientations on the practice:

Tim Gaze on asemic writing.

Michael Jacobson on asemic writing.

Minnesota Center for Book Arts, “Making Sense of Asemic Writing.”


Postscript. Orientations, orient, Orient, Orientalism. Can’t help but wonder, worry a little, as I play around in the asemic stream, what kinds of othering might be going on. It’s pleasing to make a script one recognizes and doesn’t, cognizes and doesn’t. It gets fantasy circuits firing without any durable duty to, I dunno, the actual world of beings bedded in history. Sort of the way paintings of Turkish harems might have got Euros turned on in the 19th C?

Play’s okay, we all need to sometimes. But while most of the asemic stills in SCRO, my current project, are redolent of leafs and bugs and unraced faces, there are those that might mind one of an ethnographic rattle, or petroglyphs I saw somewhere, and others please me maybe for imping the fluidity of Arabic.

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What the fuck am I redoing the Mikado for the 21st C or something? I don’t mean to, but do I get to claim the privilege of not meaning to? A couple friends and I are putting together a proposal for next year’s CCWWP Convention, theme of necessary conversations in a time of racial and gendered violence. Had thought to propose on this – show some, say my self-questions, see what other questions flew. (Our thinking’s gone another way, another post on that.)


Post-postscript. Are many Arabics gorgeous and asemic to me meaning God.

In the name of Allah
“In the name of Allah beneficent and merciful”

There needs to be room for play of equals. That astonishing face is full of play.


Post-post-postscript. The book that got me started on this whole misadventure – erasure, asemia, the limen, the lumen, the clinamen, compostery even I’d maybe say, is Imagining Language, eds. Steve McCaffery and Jed Rasula. I met Hélène Smith there, e.g. Now out of print. SAD!

Happysad snowday

This just in from SCRO.

Watch full screen for the best hit.

I think it’s a sort of breakup poem? Long after the fact but a fresh wave of it.

Oh yes, lotsa wish, loss, yearning, resolution. This little heart wants so much!

Snow’s all round today – air, ground, sky, quiet, lovely.

Yesterday a hummingbird in the snow at the lavender flowers.

Whether “life goes on,” I don’t always know, but living goes on, I do see it.

Image up top, tilt your head sideways. You’ll see the left side of the sad face is the word happy. It made the round forms in the middle, heartlike, applish, insecty.

Go, figure.

“How will this project contribute to your artistic development? advance artistic practice?”

From, ho hum, another grant application.


I’m certainly entering new terrain as an artist with SCRO. In earlier projects I’ve experimented with visual poetry and with handwriting, and worked on the threshold of legibility, but I’ve always been bound to the page, 8.5 x 11, and to the still image. The only sound I’ve brought to bear has been my own reading voice occasionally. In SCRO, projecting images on a surface, I work with the relation between embodiment (the movements that make the writing and the rocking that creates the distortion) and disembodiment (so many photons on a wall). Putting those images in motion, I have a whole new language in which to think and feel through time and change. Conjoining images with sounds, scriptural marks with audio tracks of household noise, I can create juxtapositions that are not narrative or expository but lyrical, syncretic, and happenstance. The relation of image to sound is a bit like the relation between the singing voice and the played instrument that was once the mainstay of lyric poetry: complementary and complicating. Except here the singing voice is visual, and maybe a bit ’pataphysical, a nonce botanic script.

SCRO is for me a lyric poem. If it advances artistic practice, it does so by testing the range of what’s possible or admissible in the lyric. It goes to the edge of illegibility, then pulls back a step, so its words get to mean by fits and starts – what, it asks, is the feeling tone of that? It takes chance operations, grown cold in the hands of some conceptual poets, and brings them to bear on emotionally hot material – family trauma, the degradations of old age. Can it be a conceptual poem even if (pace Goldsmith) it demands to be read? Can it be a lyric poem even when there’s really no “reading” it? The poem has no coherent “I” to hold it together; he dissolved early in the process of distorting the memoir. Can the 16:9 frame in which nameless shapes come and go do the work of an “I” – be attention, be sentience? If so, is that the acme of lyric experience, or its abolition? I don’t have answers to these questions, just instincts and biases, but faithful attention to SCRO might raise them in some viewers.

On being drawn in

Attended this evening, with two dear friends, the opening of the Bellingham National 2017 exhibit at the Whatcom Museum. An excerpt from my video poem SCRO is in a show on the theme of “Drawing Practice.” The curator, Catharina Manchanda of the Seattle Art Museum, has gone past the usual sense of drawing – an implement marking a markable surface – to investigate all the senses of the verb. What’s it to be drawn on? to be drawn to? to be drawn out? to be drawn into?

There are drawings there in the usual sense. Also torn canvases, their matter physically drawn out.

Kirk Yamahira. Untitled (stretched); 2017. Acrylic, pencil, unweaved, deconstructed on canvas.

And sheets of paper drawn across abrasive surfaces. And one video I loved drawing the lens over road lines at traffic speed. Another video watched light draw on water it appeared raw crude had blotched.

What all my favourites (here’s another

Jenna Lynch. Traveling Within, Feeling Through, Dreaming Beyond; The Lines. Watercolor on paper.

) had in common was a quality of absorption. I was drawn in. There was a mind there, its evidence made it over to my mind, and drew it in closer.

My own piece was caringly placed, in a nook of its own, with – am I imagining this? – a bench to sit on and watch.

I feel a bit of an imposter in a gallery, identify as a poet not a video artist, but I guess I do because it suits me to. “Oh I just stumbled into this by accident, I don’t really know what I’m doing …”

Gimme a break. No one knows what they’re doing. It’s no excuse.

p 7 detail

Seven one-minute vids are up. Check ’em out if you’re in town. And, fourteen still to make, so let me know what you think, if you feel so moved.

Link to the exhibition, and the pieces by Yamahira and Lynch, here.

On abandonment

 

Been my work to report from the inside of what Winnicott calls “unthinkable anxieties” or “primitive agonies.” Others have said “annihilation terror.” The feeling I’m about to be snuffed out, next instant, makes no sense I’m going on being at all. Whole universe withdrawing from me in the mode of female rejection. Times I’ve wanted to help the process along, step in front of a truck. No, not now, not for a long time – I’m okay. This is a field report not a plea.

All the childs feel them. Belongs to being human, animal part stone part star. Most of us probably have echoes in us, form of nightmares, neuroses, phobias, premonitions. And some us saints been left with ’em more wholesale.

A rupture with my lover (screwy and I hope brief) and another with my mother (my choice and I fear for good) have me in a rough pinch right now. Add an intrusive procedure this AM to look at my bladder by the only route on offer – I fucking wept, not with pain, it hurt bad but was the intrusion got my sorrow on – and I really am in a way this evening.

A life’s work, wow, yeah. Tracing and reporting on it. How I hollow out inside. Or how the whole world, every perceptible instant, birdsong say, recedes from me, becomes alien, taunting, hostile.

Those who got stuck at this juncture with me will know it already. Those who made it through may not remember it. The forgetting is salutary, why should I ask you to remember. I have no good answer to that, right now.

But also, points of exit, relief. This terror, when I’m in it, is my ground – I’m looking to speak my ground. But also to find the ground under my ground and to soar from it.

Well. I’m sitting at Menace Brewing, trying to work on my Old English ms, due sooner than I fear I can manage, but this blog post called. I want to write about Winnicott, kindest of the psychoanalysts, but if I start I won’t stop, and I’m away from my books anyway. His interfusions with the buddhadharma are many. I have a feeling he underwrites, already, my Dura Mater.

And sorrows of these women I don’t understand, and have had a hand in, and feel held to account for. Sorry I’m mysterious there. The only life I get to strip mine here is my own.

I’m a man nearing 50 with a squalling inconsolable babe in me.

This grabbed (later) from Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts:

As concepts such as “good enough” mothering suggest, Winnicott is a fairly sanguine soul. But he also takes pains to remind us what a baby will experience should the holding environment not be good enough:

The primitive agonies

Falling for ever
All kinds of disintegration
Things that disunite the psyche and the body

The fruits of privation

going to pieces
falling for ever
dying and dying and dying
losing all vestige of the hope of the renewal of contacts

Mothers they got it tough. I don’t know how any of them do it. And its going wrong, well, Winnicott thought some of the world’s hurt could be explained there.

I say to me, you got to mother yourself, no one else will, you got to father yourself, no one else will. Everything that is here is here with you. What’s the practice of that though.

A lifetime looking, and I’ll be honest, not not finding.

Hard to remember when the fear sweeps through you as nebula.

 

Dura Mater

Been working on a new project, Dura Mater, tough mother. Membrane enveloping and protecting the brain and spinal cord. First poems to come have been visual. A cruddy ochre salvaged from nearby Sumas Mountain, ground under the tutelage of H. in mortar and pestle, watered and binded with some eggyoke, and smeared on wetted paper by finger and rocked about a bit.

This one wasn’t coming right so I planted my whole palm on it, the way I do sometimes on my mother’s frameless photo on my altar to comfort her, as if by magic I could somehow, and that again – patting, petting – and beings began to come.

Image 1 col groomed
Click once for some granularity, again for more. Some text to come.