If I am writing about the word “asemic”, I am thinking about patience and persistence. I am thinking about failure as a source of energy, as that which keeps an absurdist idea of enlightenment alive and almost thriving. Standing in the absurd center of the asemic universe, we are surrounded by unexamined exits and entrances, unexplored starting-points, multiple escape-routes leading out in all directions.
We need to synchronize our watches, then throw them all away. We need to get on the same page of the same map-book, then throw all the maps away. We need to set our compasses, and throw them away. We must promise each other to get together, at some unspecified time and place, later in our lives, to define our terms and make public our consensus definitions. Until then, we have some exploring to do, some making and some thinking, some reading and some writing.
Tim Gaze wrote, in an email responding to my recent texts (05.21.2021), that “asemic is an absolute state, whereas desemantizing is a process or matter of degree”.
He also wrote in the same email that he “consciously let go of asemic writing several years back”.
On January 27, 1998, I wrote to Tim, saying “the asemic text would seem to be an ideal, an impossibility, but possibly worth pursuing for just that reason.”
Desemantized writing is not an ideal, is not an impossibility. It is a very specific kind of writing, produced for very specific reasons. To desemantize writing is to intentionally make it less readable, less capable of participating in the language-game of giving information.
We might aspire to the absolute state of asemic writing, producing beautiful and/or provocative failures in our quest, but we achieve desematized writing, to one degree or another, whenever we choose to do so.
In response to my recent texts, John M. Bennett wrote (05.20.2021) “i like ‘desemanticized’ better than ‘asemic’ myself; the latter term was always a bit misleading, even downright wrong sometimes, I thought; except perhaps in a few situations…”
In the late 1990s, “asemic” was not the word I wanted or needed, but it was the best I had at the time. For the past 20 years or so I have been exploring alternatives to the word “asemic”. For now, and for my purposes (which are not necessarily the same purposes as those of some likely readers of this text), “desemantized” (or “desemanticized”) is an improvement, a step in the right direction. It is a provisional solution to a problem.
These days, the term “asemic writing” is very widely used, and is surely in no danger of being discarded or replaced. My thoughts about the term “desemantized writing” will circulate, if at all, within the context of the global asemic writing community. As I write this, in the late spring of 2021, the theory and practice of asemic writing are not in any sense dead, the possibilities have not been exhausted. The Sisyphean struggle to attain the absolute state of asemic writing, absurd though it may be, continues to yield moments of existential fulfillment, and perhaps every now and then even a kind of happiness.
My hope for my recent writings is that they might invigorate an increasingly faceted vision of the world of all things asemic.
jim leftwich, may 2021