Friday, June 4, 2021

Experimental Asemics: Two Pieces by Jeannette Geissler (Munich, Bavaria, Germany)

"Asemic Experiment # 1" by Jeanette Geissler Munich, Bavaria, Germany)

I am thrilled to welcome Jeanette Geissler to Asemic Front 2. She titled these two pieces experiments (& it might seem that way to her). To me, they are excellent & interesting examples of asemic vispo. 

However, her titles were de-materialized & re-configured in a nano-second in my mind as "Experimental Asemics." I thus throw yet another shard of jargon into the porridge: Experimental Asemics. 

Jeanette Geissler is a relatively new member of the ever-fertile Asemic Writing for Mail Artists group at IUOMA-Ning. Deepest thanks to Jeanette for these contributions & I look forward to sharing more at Asemic Front 2.

- De Villo Sloan

"Asemic Experiment # 2" by Jeanette Geissler Munich, Bavaria, Germany)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Knot Fade Away: An Asemic Front 2 Review of "Is Knot" by John M. Bennett

Is Knot by John M. Bennett (Luna Bisonte Prods 2021)

Is Knot by John M. Bennett, Luna Bisonte Prods. Columbus, Ohio, USA. 2021. 177 pages

Review by De Villo Sloan

Generalizations in vispo reviews can be misleading & manipulative. Sometimes they can be dangerous.

So I will begin with a generalization rooted in my subjectivity: During the previous plague year (2020) visual poets seemed compelled to present a position - even if subtle or cryptic - on asemic writing, which they wove into their books, which were released at a relatively frantic pace. Thus 2020 might have been the year of an asemic-vispo nascence: The year vispo appropriated asemic writing. Possibly.

John M. Bennett has little if nothing at all to do with current asemic vispo debates, even if he is the populist "Godfather of [Global] Vispo" & has been reigning for not years but decades.  Bennett's newest book, Is Knot,  is a collection of what I will call due to a need for mutual understanding "traditional [text-centered] lyric poetry." Is Knot is beautifully produced with book design by C Mehrl Bennett.

While newer & more general audiences will not quench their thirst for vispo novelty nor asemic authenticity in the pages of Is Knot, they will discover - & Bennett's longtime readers will again be affirmed - that he is a lyric poet fully equal in accomplishment to his most lauded contemporaries. Is Knot is a collection revealing John M. Bennett at his poetic best. The book includes writing in English, Spanish & vispo combinations thereof. 

This is not (no pun intended) to suggest Is Knot is a book of only traditional lyric poetry. The collection contains a healthy representation of the image-text discourse ("visual writing" as critic Tom Hibbard calls it) Bennett has helped define & is known for, including his calligraphy (which others have classified as asemic) & composition with found material. 

From Is Knot by John M. Bennett (Luna Bisonte Prods 2021)

Is Knot showcases Bennett's hard-earned mastery & synthesis of Modernist poetics, especially Louis Zukofsky. (You also have triadic forms developed by William Carlos Williams.) Bennett is more often associated with DaDa & (of course) concrete poetry. His language-centered poems tend (again generalities are dangerous) toward the extreme precincts of non-linearity, disruption, wordplay & classic Brechtian alienation effects, among other tropes.

Is Knot offers new possibilities for the postavant pomo lyric, similar to Rae Armantrout's achievement in re-forging the meta-language chains of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E into highly individualized poems of great beauty & expression (another problematic idea in terms of the postavant).  Poetically, I believe the most important contribution of Is Knot is within its lyric structures. 

Pieces using a three-line stanza, sometimes in patterns of three, work very well in Is Knot & are similar to numerical & word-count forms Zukofsky invents in the later books of A. Using a relatively traditional form, even if it is of his own invention, serves Bennett well & he rises to the occasion. Here is a transcription of "bird" (167) by John M. Bennett from Is Knot:                                                


                                                    cheep leg or leap
                                                    be hhind thought
                                                    negck yr chow

                                                    der's soaked rope
                                                    walk on talk on
                                                    sees the clay yr

                                                    deep swallow
                                                    stays   ,its foggy
                                                    thhroat stun fllaps

From Is Knot by John M. Bennett (Luna Bisonte Prods 2021)

                                                    bird     (some notes)                                

                                                    cheep leg or leap   (wordplay: chirp, cheap; rhyme)
                                                    be hhind thought
                                                    negck yr chow        (chow/der = hinge line break)

                                                    der's soaked rope  (rope = knot) 
                                                    walk on talk on
                                                    sees the clay yr

                                                    deep swallow     (deep = rhyme)  (wordplay: bird swallow)
                                                    stays   ,its foggy
                                                    thhroat stun fllaps

"bird" presents a high-degree of indeterminacy - no surprise in this mode of discourse. The Jim Leftwich term "pansemic" is, in fact, a useful descriptor when approaching Bennett's work. "bird" can be read as a classic lyric scenario of "the Poet" contemplating a bird in a foggy, lakeside or seaside location. 

The classic Western subjective/object binary pattern emerges & receives serious contemplation & perceptual processing. Is Knot adds a new step in the evolution of the avant garde & post avant. The wordplay & image juxtapositions provide a depth of complexity.

In addition, to the tercets, Bennett includes a number of pieces using anaphora (repetition) & shows himself a master of the great Bardic poetics of Blake, Whitman & Ginsberg; in reality, this should come as no surprise). These poems, in terms of tone & imagery, are similar in achievement to work by Phillip Lamantia. Here is an excerpt from "headless form" (159) by John M. Bennett in Is Knot:

                                                    in the owl of the form a breast returns
                                                    in the heart of the form an eye returns
                                                    in the ash of the form a lung returns
                                                    in the ink of the form a rain returns
                                                    in the beast of the form a shoe returns
                                                    in the skin of the form a cave returns
                                                    in the face of the form a son returns....

In terms of disclosures, I have been reviewing John M. Bennett books for over a decade & I have been following his work since the 1980s. Also I am very familiar with the later works of
Robert Creeley where the poet begins working in form, many of theme similar or derived
from Zukofsky & related others.

So Bennett's similar uses in form are of interest to me & should be to others interested in these poetries. "Otherstream" lit has produced writing & art we are now only beginning to appreciate. Is Knot is an important contribution to this library.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

"desemantized scribbles" : Image-Text Vispo Collabs for "asemous font too" by Jim Leftwich & John M. Bennett


Mail art collabs by Jim Leftwich & John M. Bennett

I am very pleased that Asemic Front 2 is able to share new collabs by Jim Leftwich (Roanoke, Virginia, USA) & John M. Bennett (Columbus, Ohio, USA). 

This material, as you can see from the written comments on the card below, was routed via snail between Leftwich & Bennett circa April 5 - 30, 2021, packaged in an envelope nearly as interesting on the outside as its contents. 

A tremendous amount of visual poetry & asemic writing/art is currently circulating in the Eternal Network, not unexpected since public interest in asemics only seems to be growing. Documenting this material can help the effort to trace a history of marginalized poetries. 

The Jim Leftwich holdings in the M-L Archives are becoming a collection of significance. I've stated a commitment to sharing relevant material with the AF2 audience since work by Leftwich & Bennett is intrinsically tied to the project. 

Deepest thanks for this new mail art!

= De Villo Sloan

Mail art collabs by Jim Leftwich & John M. Bennett

Collab by Jim Leftwich & John M. Bennett

Asemic envelope by Jim Leftwich

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Three New Pieces of Asemic Art Visual Poetry by Nancy Bell Scott (May 2021)


"Marathon" by Nancy Bell Scott (Maine, USA) (May 2021)

"Mid-Spring" by Nancy Bell Scott (Maine, USA) (May 2021)

"Unidentified Desert Fauna" by Nancy Bell Scott (Maine, USA)

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Asemic Front 2 Review: Attic Magazine (#15 April 2021) (Nicola Winborn, Editor) (UK)


Attic Magazine (#15 April 2021) (edited by Nicola Winborn) (Yorkshire, UK)

In terms of transparency, I am thrilled to be included in this issue (April 2021) of Attic Magazine. 

Nicola Winborn's zine - in addition to being a notable presence in the current re-surgence of mail art - welcomes asemic writing & vispo as well as other tropes of the postavant. Attic Magazine & Asemic Front 2 have shared interests & intersections for some time. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to recognize Attic Magazine with some particulars.

First, Attic is an assembling zine. Contributors create their own pages & - ideally - no two pages in any issue are the same. Thus, assembling zines require more work for the artist; but I have always found my own involvement in assembling zines deeply rewarding. I find my favorite archival pieces are often assembling zines from other eras. Nicola Winborn provides a wonderful resource for the current visual poetry community.

Nicole Winborn is a talented artist. She also displays considerable skill as an editor: Managing the glitches & inevitable bumps inherent in assembling a global publication still relying mainly on the postal system. 

Reading Attic Magazine is a smooth & harmonious experience. Contributors' pieces seem to complement each other, build upon each other, even though I know most assembling zines are primarily at the mercy of randomness. 

Winborn uses a quiet, steady editorial hand to weave an aesthetic that synthesizes avant disruption with folk art & populist trends emerging in mail art. (The selection of the orange color theme creates a remarkable coherence, for instance.) 

Attic Magazine gives its audience a focused view of interesting current image-text work. Participation as a contributor is illuminating as well because one sees new relationships with one's contemporaries, thanks to Winborn's perceptive editing. 

The international mail art community has long been a supportive conduit for visual poetry, including asemic writing. Attic Magazine shows the vital synergy that emerges when these two groups connect.

Contributors to Attic #15 are Nancy Katzman (USA); Devin Cohen (Mexico); Lina Stern (Ukraine); Racovita Carmen (Romania); Laurence Gillot Artpostaliste (France); Nicola Winborn (UK); Kristen Szumyn (Australia); Michael Leigh (UK); Annapatrizia Settembre (Italy); Attilia Garlaschi (Italy); The Book of Blat (UK) (& me). 

The issue is dedicated to Picasso Gaglione. His presence might explain why Attic is also a venue for innovative stamp art. This could possibly earn the zine an "eccentric" designation in some circles, but my point throughout has been that Attic succeeds and, indeed, is a creative voice in these most puzzling times.

Deepest thanks to Nicola Winborn. See below for more information on Attic Magazine.

- De Villo Sloan

Attic Magazine (#15 April 2021). Page by Lina Stern (Ukraine)

Attic Magazine
 (#15 April 2021). Page by Kristen Szumyn (Australia)

Attic Magazine (#15 April 2021). 

Attic Magazine
 (#15). Page by Laurence Gillot-Artpostaliste (France)

Attic Magazine (#15)

Attic Magazine

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Asemic mail art by Francis Lamme (Amersfoort, Netherlands)

Asemic mail art by Francis Lamme (Amersfoort, Netherlands)

Francis Lamme of Amersfoort, Netherlands, recently became a member of the asemic writing group at the International Union of Mail Artists (IUOMA). Her first contribution to Asemic Front 2 is this extraordinarily beautiful piece of asemic calligraphy. 

In addition to her approach to asemic signs, the larger structure she creates should be of great interest to AF2 visitors; we see some interest in asemic structures & asemic syntax. I look forward to the continued participation of Francis Lamme in the days ahead.

- De Villo Sloan

By Francis Lamme (Amersfoort, Netherlands) (detail study)