asemic writing as a kind of poetry / jim leftwich. 2022

Jim Leftwich

Asemic Writing Is A Kind Of Poetry
Summer 2022 / Utah

If, at times (if not, in fact, all the time), it must seem as if I have no idea what asemic writing is, I can only defend myself through an appeal to my experience of the theory and the practice: asemic writing came into my life as a continuation and an extension of my practice as a poet.

I wrote textual poetry for a little over twenty years before I started making visual poems. After making visual poems for a few years, I started making what was originally called spirit writing (by John M. Bennett, in his capacity as the editor of Lost and Found Times, a magazine of experimental poetry and related matters).

That was in 1997. The following year, Tim Gaze published a small chapbook of my quasi-calligraphic scribblings entitled Spirit Writing. Maybe I didn’t know what I was doing at the time (the theory and history came later), but I had no reason to think of this new development in my work as anything other than poetry.

These days, and maybe for the past fifteen years or so, it seems that very few theorists or practitioners think of asemic writing as a kind of poetry.

Asemic writing, as a kind of poetry, is all but limitless in its potential. We should take the same sort of approach to it’s study. For example: I have been told that asemic writing is all about linguistics. I have no doubt that the study of linguistics, and the application of that study to an engagement with asemic writing, will add substantially to our understanding of the subject. But, as with all other varieties of poetry, linguistics is only one among very many approaches to the study of asemic writing.

I am never interested in having the last word on any of these matters. Maybe I am interested in having the next word — and then, in having had some of the recent words. The conversation around asemic writing is ongoing and, like all conversations around all varieties of poetry, it seems to have no necessary or inevitable end. I am interested in expanding the spectrum of acceptable discourse concerning the subject of asemic writing. I hope my writings on the subject will function as invitations to others to participate in this process.