Perhaps it is possible, in the field of asemic writing, to distinguish a few —completely hypothetical— categories. I insist that these are mere hypotheses, and that I am not interested in structuring a rigorous theory.
We have (1) concrete asemic writing when only the asemic glyphs and calligraphy, only the asemic letters and sentences are present on the page. No images, no colors.
We can also say asemicrete, a term coined by Michael Jacobson.
We can say we have (2) visual asemic writing when we see the asemic symbols are intertwined, superimposed or when they —in any other way— simply share the page with abstract or realistic images.
We have (3) glitchasemics when an asemic text is evidently disturbed by some kind of glitch: it may even be severely disturbed, but not so much as to make the asemic part completely disappear.
We can say we have (4) abstrasemics when an abstract drawing or image turns itself into something resembling an illegible text, an asemic piece. Or, on the contrary, when a fragment of asemic writing gradually loses any vaguely linguistic aspect and is transformed into an abstract image.
At the same time, there are examples of works that marginalize —or do not include at all— an asemic aspect, and I would refer to them as: abstract or realistic paintings (pictorial works, photographs etc.) weirdly called “asemic writing” by their authors; legible alphabets and texts weirdly called “asemic writing” by their authors; monotonous decorations that would hardly be taken for words or sentences.
Asemic Writing and The Tragedy of the Absurd
Summer 2022 / Utah
When I say absurd, I don’t mean quirky.
I don’t think absurdity is a variety of comedy.
Finding comedic relief in inconsequential weirdness does not qualify as an experience of the absurd.
Certain styles of comedy monetize a surrealist juxtaposition of clangorous items and/or ideas to elicit Spasms of Guffaw from a naptive audience. As such, they serve a purpose: to disguise the osmotic suffering of those immersed in the petroleus ooze of The Capitalist Ongoing.
The absurd does not organize itself in order to acclimate our minds around any of the currently available varieties of unbearable realities.
The absurd is: a variety of that which is incomprehensible within the human universe.
A mystery is: that which is uplifting because it is experienced as being incomprehensible within the human universe. We celebrate an encounter with mystery.
The absurd is experientially devastating, annihilating, a psychological sparagmos. We may, after a fashion, celebrate the fact that we experienced it and lived to tell the tale.
Asemic writing is capable of embodying, and conveying, the tragedy of the absurd. But only for the those who want that, who want that kind of thing. For those who do not want that kind of thing, asemic writing is also fully capable of being abstract art school dorm room wallpaper and glamping picnic tablecloth design. I know, I am not being very nice, I’m sorry. Did you by chance see Sun Ra and The Arkestra 40 or 50 years ago? They had The Look. Sparkling robes down to the floor, Egyptian Spaceman Hats 3-feet high. Marching around the stage, chanting, gesturing with their instruments towards the ceiling. I saw them with a few hundred other people in 1982 and not a soul was laughing. We’re they absurd? Absolutely. Sublime? Yes.
The Tragedy of the Absurd is experienced as a Magickal Absurdity. Asemic writing is capable of existing along that spectrum of experiences. I learned that in the late 1990’s as part of my introduction to the idea and the execution of asemic writing. I have never been able to want anything else from it.
For practitioners and theorists of asemic writing, the perceptual deviation known as pareidolia is an acquired taste and a developed skill. We train ourselves to see alphabetical shapes where there are none, and then we celebrate our inability to read them. This phenomenon could occupy an entire chapter in the Magickal Absurdities Training Manual: The Ecstasy of Asemic Reading.
Personal Perception Management (PPM) is but one of a great many Existential Self-Help (ESH) methods reinsinuated transmutably in The Training Manual. It is known colloquially among The Asemic AntiMasters as PPMESH — Personal Perception Mesh. The tradition, or parade of asemic saints, involved in transmigrating this alchemy of perception from prehistory into the present, includes William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud, Emily Dickinson, Aldous Huxley, Diane di Prima and Jim Morrison. Cleanse the doors of perception to Illuminate the arrangement of the senses.
Or the arrangement of the world(s) by the senses.
Let’s say I make a sequence of tangled squiggles…
I sound them aloud, slowly singing their shapes…
Through the processes of transcription, transliteration, and apophenia, I arrive at a deliberate mishearing of a segment from a song sung by Jim Morrison:
meatza pocca hero, Esau funk, awe yeh
The world is a poem. Some of us know that. Know it whether we want to or not. The world snuck up on us when we were young, and planted the cosmic poem-seed at the base of our tender brains.
Asemic writing works as a kind of pagan missionary for The Poem.
Asemic writing is a mutagen.
Pareidolia is one of its tools, one of its schools, a side effect, mutual aid, elective affinities, the ace of hearts up its sleeve, one foot on the other side of the grave still kicking at the pricks, reinsinuated and impoxximate.
We see what we want to see. No. That’s not right. Read what Thou Wilt. We see what we need to see. Some realities are more real than others. Asemic writing is useful, as a kind of anti-linguistic self-medication for the perpetually seeking psyche. Pareidolia is a method of ongoing research. It allows us to discover, investigate and explore provisional realities. The worlds of pareidolia are experientially real, and as such are causal agents — in our thinking, and in our actions as they emerge from that thinking.
As an entanglement with the processes of pareidolia, asemic writing functions for the perennially seeking psyche as a way of practicing reality.
The most important and interesting characteristic of asemic writing is its absolute resistance to interpretation.
The value of asemic writing lies in its semantic emptiness, and relies on the genuine frustration experienced during a failed attempt at interpretation, meaning-building, the collaborative construction of meanings.
Success in reading asemic writing implies an inauthenticity, either of the writing and it’s author, or of the reading and its perpetrator.
Authentic asemic writing denies all access to success.
The complete and utter, total failure of an attempted reading is the only acceptable measure of success for any particular instance of asemic writing.
So, to iterate — and reiterate:
1. asemic writing lies?
2. asemic writing re-lies?
3. asemic writing imp-lies?
Please refer to your copy of The Magickal Absurdities Training Manual for answers and/or elucidations.
Asemic writing has a dirty secret, hidden, as usual, in plain sight: it is all a pack of lies, and always has been.
Asemic writing is not a dispensary for recreational truths.
Asemic writing is not a dispensary for medicinal truths.
Asemic writing does not participate in the language game of dispensing truths.
We have a choice where the existential ground of asemic writing is concerned: either we admit it’s non-existence, and celebrate it for not existing, or we lie to ourselves and each other about it’s existence, and through the persistence of our collective effort, bring it — lie it — into being, no matter how provisional, damaged, and ephemeral that being may be.
Today, in the summer of 2022, there is no denying the fact that a great many things in our world are identified by one variety or another of the term asemic writing.
That in itself is good.
The concept of asemic is generative and tolerant. Let’s frolic in its wonderland! With our first mind celebrating it’s ludic absurdity, and our second mind practicing the pleasures it offers in opportunities for critical thinking.
Once upon a time, long long ago (20 years), in a far far away place (Charlottesville, VA), I claimed to have identified a category of visual poetry called (perhaps only by me) Decorative Expressionism. It was busy, crowded, colorful and noisy. I liked it a lot — for several reasons, one of them being the fact that I was making quite a bit of it myself.
If anyone had asked me at the time (no one has ever asked me), I would have told them that Decorative Expressionism was the exact opposite of asemic writing.
Ah yes, time goes by and with a little “luck of the research and reading” (recollected and ruminated upon in tranquility) maybe we learn a thing or two. How does that old hit single go?
What I didn’t know then
What I don’t know now
.. some other stuff in there, I know… 45 years ago… anyway
I would have been wrong.
That was back in the early days of this current iteration of asemic writing, when some of us still thought the prefix ‘a-‘ meant “without; not having any.” Little did we know that the prefix ‘a-‘ was soon to take on the meaning of its opposite, “poly-“. “Without, not having any” semes came to mean “having many” semes. “Absolutely thwarting the production of meaning” became “open to the invention of all imaginable meanings.”
It was a transformative moment in the history of all things asemic.
When Jackson Pollock woke up in the morning, he already had a lit cigarette balanced on his lower lip. He visited his Jungian therapist every Tuesday at 2pm. They played chess, drank beer, went to Yankees games, and chased the stately, plump pigeons through Central Park.
You’re getting better, Jack, said the Jungian therapist. Getting better all the time.
Thank you, said Jackson Pollock.
Alchemy of the vowels, Tantric Sex Mandala, said the Jungian therapist.
I don’t believe in The Accident, said Jackson Pollock.
He walked down the crowded sidewalk past The Tavern to his studio.
He lit a cigarette, opened a beer, took off his shoes and socks.
He spent the rest of the evening working, late into the night, doing The Dance of the Collective Unconscious, In The Painting.
That’s pretty much how asemic writing is still made today.
So, the next time someone tells you myriad hymnal nightpoets, hurrier, nebula nebula, tell them you know all about asemic expressionism. Maybe they’re living in a book by Donald Barthelme. What do you know? Empathy is all about effort. Let there be no bullshit between Practitioners of The Craft and Sullen Art.
«Un altro modo di comprendere la materia sarebbe, approssimativamente, di trattarla come una produzione di infinite, innumerevoli forme entro un incessante movimento di decomposizione e composizione, dissoluzione e ricombinazione. Concepita in questo modo la materia non sarebbe più un substrato passivo su cui si debba intervenire con un lavoro formale, bensì, al contrario, una molteplicità di forme che genera se stessa e con cui combacerebbe».
Gustav Sjöberg, poeta, scrittore e traduttore, vive a Stoccolma. Traduce da diverse lingue, tra cui l’italiano, il latino e il tedesco. Ha tradotto dal latino il De vulgari eloquentia di Dante e dall’italiano opere di Andrea Zanzotto, Giacomo Leopardi, Giorgio Agamben, Giordano Bruno, Gianni Carchia. Ha curato molti numeri della rivista svedese “OEI”, tra cui il n. 67/68 del 2015, monografico sulle scritture di ricerca italiane: Scrittura non assertiva!. Due sue raccolte di testi sperimentali, uscite per le edizioni OEI, sono eftre (2013) e apud (2017). Il volume di teoria letteraria ora pubblicato da Neri Pozza è stato scritto in tedesco e pubblicato a Berlino nel 2020 da Matthes & Seitz con il titolo zu der blühenden allmaterie.
Dalla nota editoriale di Monica Ferrando:
Chi ha detto che la materia è incapace di creare da sé la forma (o le forme)? D’accordo, è stato Aristotele, lo sappiamo. Ma cosa accadrebbe invece se, forzando il maestro di coloro che sanno, troncassimo il legame tra forma e arte perché «mediante un concetto di forma radicalmente altro diventerà possibile una distruzione dell’arte – e, in particolare della poesia – concepita come ambito autonomo, come sfera distinta dalla non-arte, dalla non-poesia oppure come sublime riflessione sull’esistenza. Non sarà che qui si compie una risoluzione dell’arte nella natura?» Non è alla scienza o alla negromanzia tecnologica faustiana che l’autore affida tale compito, ma alla poesia stessa […]
Una più ampia nota biobibliografica + un’intervista a Gustav Sjöberg traduttore di Zanzotto:
TIC Edizioni presenta
QUALCHE USCITA. POSTPOESIA E DINTORNI
di Jean-Marie Gleize
Incontro con Florent Coste, Luigi Magno, Gian Luca Picconi
Lunedì 31 gennaio 2022, alle ore 21:00
Tic Talk a cura di Emanuele Kraushaar e Michele Zaffarano
Online in diretta streaming sui canali:
Scheda del libro:
La poesia è per noi oggi innanzitutto ‘lapoesia’, un grande totem storico che continua ad attraversare le istituzioni scolastiche e i mezzi d’informazione e a imporre termini chiave come ‘espressività’, ‘armonia’, ‘sincerità’, ‘autenticità’, ‘visione’. D’altro canto, anche la ‘repoesia’, rovistando il quotidiano alla ricerca delle tracce di un canto essenziale, non rappresenta altro che l’ennesimo nostalgico avatar di quello stesso totem. Quanto alla ‘neopoesia’, apparentemente più in fase con il presente grazie ai suoi sempre aggiornati e spettacolari artifici tecnico-retorici, essa punta soprattutto a moltiplicare l’effetto “fantasmagorico”.
Dalla fine dell’Ottocento (dopo Rimbaud, per intenderci), alcuni autori hanno cercato di “liberare” la poesia da sé stessa, per riconcepirla sotto altre latitudini. Pensandola prima di tutto come un modo per comprendere la realtà, questi altri autori si sono consequenzialmente impegnati a ricercare gli strumenti concettuali, verbali e formali più adatti a tale nuova intesa.
I quindici interventi raccolti in questo volume partono tutti dal presupposto che esista un ‘fuori’ e un ‘dopo’. E che non ci sia solo ‘un’ modo per uscirne, ma che si possa contare su una pluralità di gesti, di atteggiamenti e di disposizioni (alla fuga), secondo le diverse maniere con cui può essere pensata una rifondazione (una riconversione) dell’“industria logica” letteraria. I cantieri postgenerici che questo libro descrive (nel loro contesto e considerandone le finalità “politiche”) sono vasti. Si tratta in fondo di atti e di azioni: d’insubordinazione.
Per ordinare il libro:
A digital edition (pdf) of Content’s Dream: Essays 1975-1984, by Charles Bernstein, has just been made available by Douglas Messerli, working with Pablo Capra, for Green Integer. Sun & Moon Press published this near 500-page collection thirty-five years ago (in 1986). Northwestern republished it, but that edition is out of print. The book is on line as a pdf, for a nominal charge, which will help support this great independent press. Get it at —>
cover by Susan Bee
Per un errore di caricamento, il post di “Ologramma”, testo di Tommasina Squadrito e Jim Leftwich, compariva su slowforward qualche tempo fa con un problema di impaginazione, ora risolto. Scusandomi per l’inconveniente con gli autori, invito a leggere il file corretto e ripristinato, qui: https://slowforward.wordpress.com/2020/03/19/ologramma-2018-19-tommasina-bianca-squadrito-jim-leftwich/ oppure qui: https://archive.org/details/squadritoleftwichologramma/mode/2up