The word, the true word, comes out of the body as a spoken breath, and the written word, the false word, is nothing more than a representation of a representation. A written word is a visual symbol that stands for something oral and aural, the conversion of sound into sight. The written word is merely evidence that every character in a written language was once a drawing, that all written language is part of the process of trying to draw the world into being.
Asemic writing is merely the process of reversing written language from the densely and accepted semiotic into the merely visual, but into a visual that carries the illusion of the semiotic. Asemic writing is a series of experiments, each designed to examine and, thus, recreate the visual form of language. This is a writing designed to test our recognition of patterns that don’t exist. With the asemic, we are asked to see writing only where it isn’t.
What asemics do is mimic writing in many of the ways that advance the program of writing, but without ever resorting to the transmission of direct verbal messages. By viewing asemic writing, we learn to see the writing in place of actually reading it. A human who is too literate can suck the written word in without truly looking at the writing itself, without consciously watching how the letters play out across the page, the screen, the arm of the man sitting on the subway just before the turning of the train jostles him out of view. Asemic writing is writing for the eye—and almost for the eye alone.
But an asemic text, in mimicking semiotic text, somehow takes on the character of actual writing. We can look at it as we regard a text in a script we do not know, and we can imagine its meaning. Asemic writing sometimes does this for us by playing with the convention of writing, by organizing text into recognizable forms. Sometimes, we see the page of a newspaper, or the format of a piece of correspondence, or an inscription on the monument that has cast us into shadow. And we know, and we learn, we remember, we are brought face to face with the fact that written language is not simply a set of words: it is also how those words are set, how they are set before us. A text means by the shape of its letters and by the shapes those words are put into.
Asemic writing explores the broader nature of writing by examining how writing works as a visible form separate from the usual mechanics of linguistic meaning. And asemic poetry is the farthest edge of poetry, because it exists at the point just before a symbol passes beyond reminding us of text.
At some point, the text returns to image, goes back to its ancestral home, as a pleasure of the eye alone.
Yet at the farthest edge of the farthest edge that asemic writing is, the markings made to represent writing are so abstract, so divorced of the features we believe writing should have, that they disappear back into image, or into vapors of ink or pixel, for some of us. Because the boundary between here and there is always wider than any of us individually perceives. I have seen the clear writing in a painting that a colleague of mine cannot even imagine. And I cannot see a hint of the textual in certain asemic works that other colleagues consider clear asemic gestures of the writerly hand.
There is something frightening to the concept of poetry in these gestures of ours, something eerie in our ability to see or create written messages that we cannot read. But that is as it should be. Asemic writing is the supreme writing of our age, a glossolalic age. After we have overused the word until it lies meaningless before us, after our process of speaking and writing has come to naught, all that is left for the poets is to pretend to write. These poets may speak or sing words that do not exist. They may write words that cannot be pronounced. And that makes them the most perfect poets of our world, which is merely a streaming sequence of fragmented images backed by a musical score changing with each blink.
26 September 2011, Lake Placid, New York
5 January 2012, Albany, New York