keep moving / jim leftwich. 2021

I was a poet, and for me that meant pushing the edges of poetry, and the edges of myself while writing poetry. The line was an edge, and the rhyme was an edge, and the stanza was an edge, and the syllable was an edge. Eventually it became impossible to ignore the idea of the letter as an edge. Once having agreed to that, it became impossible to ignore the shapes of the letter — first the shapes of the printed letters, in an array of fonts, and then the shapes of the handwritten letters.

From the outset, the idea of producing meanings had been for me subordinate to the idea of making poems. If all I had wanted to do was produce meanings, I would have written conventional sentences and paragraphs. But that was not what I wanted.

So I wrote poems, and I pushed the edges of the poem, and in doing that I was pushing the edges of myself, my sense of satisfaction and achievement, my sense of my own skills and competence, and I was never satisfied, intentionally, by choice, never satisfied, I refused to accept the sense of being satisfied, so eventually, inevitably, I found myself producing desemantized or asemic writings.

And that was a plateau, a stage, and I knew from the outset that I was only passing through, that I would never be satisfied with desemantized or asemic writing, any more than I had been satisfied with writing conventional poems.

Over the years a community of asemic writers has become active and visible and, to the extent that I am a part of it at all, my role has evolved to be a kind of advocate for incessant criticality. As a participant in the conversation around asemic writing, I can be counted on to say something similar to “yes, you are right, but…” Yes, you are right, but that is not enough, it is not even particularly important. What is important is to keep moving. Asemic writing works for you? Fantastic. Now move on and do something else.

Jim Leftwich