Wednesday, July 5, 2017



ALPHABET NOIR by Nico Vassilakis
(c_L Books, Portland, OR, 2016)


Alphabet Noir 1

i like the size of Alphabet Noir. if i place my wrist on the lower left corner and spread my fingers my hand is almost exactly the size of your book. i know some of what i will find inside this book, so i begin by looking and touching and measuring. soon i'll start reading. first i read the blurbs. Blonk is on it: writing in general leads to more writing; poems in particular lead to more poems. having finished with the back cover i begin reading by flipping through from back to front, pausing a few times when something -- page layout and design, typographical contrasts -- catches my eye. I notice on page 59 your reference to Solt's new poet-reader. 50 years later we still feel the need.

A New Poet-Reader
jim leftwich

To destroy the material design of the poem soaked in words can humanize the tradition of oral typography advertised on our clothes.

Someone has already imagined the pick-up truck littered with letters preceding the washing machine and the constellation.

The worlds of contours floundering in coincidence are flooded with visual poems.

The world as a visual poem is the cosmic material itself.

Spirituality wishes to form in writing the peculiar contemporary fish suddenly historical.

Facts are lost in the silent environment.

Poets are fragments of an impossible poem.

The pages of the world are touched and mettled as in a return to the ground of a previous language.

Neither goat nor peyote, the perception of an exploration lies in the design of its making.

The present is not the only hymn of the real.

Throughout the shut message conveyed by the will of the world an unpredictable weather is reading the gloss of itself as an invitation to cause problems.

Semantic freedom tarnished by a penetrating framework.

Letters occupy the common carom of an arrow in style.

Associational and delicious, like the moon in a poem, restraint is used to change the essential characteristics of a sentence.

Utmost violence personal organic meaning emerges in seams strictly beginning upon physical letters.

Organic tooth-magic arrangement also paragraphs and parentheses, tracking its own golden elephant through the sparkle of an ageless crystal, words staring intently into their econometric hourglass, perfect balloons neutral shining warnings, simple decorative meanings hiding in the trash adapt to expensive garbage, so yields the turtle, do not hesitate before these beautiful spells, horizontal and ultimate in your semantic space.

Imagine the poems as a playhouse created by reversals in silence.

Tempted by the sun, the sounds of emphatic clarity are unnecessary.

Ideology is born in the nascent morals of method and structure.

Form foams; firm fires; farms famish; ferns feet; fur furls.

Their identity is wide and bold, like the flexible velocity of the poem.

"Curse yet goat" becomes in practice the ghost of a hybrid given.

The soul of the word in the street is the light of the word on the feet.

Remove the sun: more words!

Managed aesthetic patterns are poetry.

Paper is a visual poem about linguistic content.














Alphabet Noir 2

page 49
"Maurice Lemaitre says, for the first time with poetic Lettrism and hypergraphic Lettrism, PAINTER and POET are one and the same (because the genre has become the same).

The question is really how far one can go in reducing and limiting the elements of a genre and still be considered part of that genre." (Vassilakis)

hypergraphy = post-writing = textimagepoems (when the person approaching the coniunctionis of text and image is moving from text, as a writer, toward image -- to join the writing, which they have already been making, with the image, in order to expand and/or enhance the writing)

the situation is somewhat different when the person approaching the mysterium of textimage work is moving from image, as a visual artist, toward the text -- to join their visual art, which they have already been making, with text, in order to expound and/or enchant the image

"The important thing Lemaitre points out is the vulnerability of syntax, more than semantics, to such manipulation." --Johanna Drucker, Hypergraphy: A Note on Maurice Lemaitre's 'Roman hypergraphique'

Ed Corbett: "I intend my work as poetry." (1952)
Black Mountain Review #7, front cover by Ed Corbett (1957)

In recent years some folks working under the rubric of "asemic writing" seem to have reversed Ed Corbett's intention, by asserting in varying degrees of explicitness that they intend their writing as visual art.

Alphabet Noir 3


That's how the letters begin to plan their escape from the word. Once the long A's have escaped -- a word is a submarine, rhyme opens the hatch, the long 'A's pop out onto the deck (it's a movie about World War II), link hands and dance in circles under the midday sun (they look like yellow m & m's, in contrast to the infinitely deep blue sea) (our cartoons are designed to make us feel better about our wars) -- the words are no longer intact.

The syllogism in air.

A word is a balloon. 
These balloons are losing air.
Vowels are air.

Reading a poem is like swimming or dancing, said Robert Creeley. Writing a poem, too, is like swimming or dancing.

A poem exists so we can be with it. So I can be with it. So you can be with it.

"Vassilakis," writes Crag Hill in his introduction to Alphabet Noir, "wants the notion/s of letters living life outside the constraint of a word scrum to be available to all."
There is a video of Creeley talking. He says a poem isn't there to take you to its meaning any more than swimming is there to take you to the other side of the lake, any more than dancing is there to take you to the other side of the room.
The first line of Creeley's book Pieces is: "as real as thinking."
Vassilakis: "I think vispo is a kinetic mirror."
Creeley: "no thing less than one thing"
Vassilakis: "I am very interested in drawn letters. I am not though so interested in written letters."
"There is no trick to reality--
      a mind
makes it, any
Vassilakis: "Visual language is dependent on the virus that infects it. The constant task of the field is to suppress and acquire information in order to assure its lock on power."

If the rhymed vowels can escape, then other related letters also can escape. The two T's can go, leaving us with
The two B's can follow:
Then the two E's (assuming there are two E's):
The two L's:

On the table behind the book or beneath the screen we find the liberated letters dancing to a poem by Robert Creeley, or swimming in Lake Eden at Black Mountain College:


More disheveled than the previous one, say is more plagiarism than asemic to hair everywhere.

"That distance or measurement where content is vulnerable to corruption." --Nico Vassilakis
Yvonne Rainer: "I’m interested in how things don’t work, putting things together that don’t fit." (2012)

"To confound the dictionary by eroding cohesion between the letters that form words." --Nico Vassilakis
Kitasono Katue: "I always felt a distance from ideology. Ideology is a blank sheet of paper. What is important is method." (1975)

"Then there are aspects of an erupted B dangling off a row of commas." --Nico Vassilakis
John Clarke: "The subjective as objective requires correct processing." (1965)

"The parts of letters you regard as useless are busy, very busy." --Nico Vassilakis
Toni Morrison: "Definitions belong to the definers—not the defined." (1987)

"When no one's looking letters quietly arrange themselves." --Nico Vassilakis
Kitasono Katue: "What I have been thinking about most is that within words there are many words and in each country they are different. What a bother it all is. My meaning is: 'Let's stop using words!'" (1975)

"Letters give way to other letters, to inner letters, tangential letters, ones that wait in the back. You can try to animate these misfits in your mouth. Bring them to life. But here, a letter is eager to be nothing but free of word and able to explore its visual substance." --Nico Vassilakis

The baseball season finished.
Shit/Enters into it only as an image
It is not for the ears. (p.42)


Jim Leftwich is a poet and networker  who  has been involved in organizing and/or documenting mail art, fluxus, sound poetry, visual poetry and noise events. His most recent books are Rascible & Kempt: Meditations And Explorations In And Around The Poem, Volumes 1, 2  &  3 (Luna Bisonte 2016, 2017).  His papers are archived in the rare books and manuscripts collection of the Ohio State University. He’s the editor and publisher of the micropress, TLPress, specializing in tacky little pamphlets, broadsides, and pdf ebooks.

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