by Corry Shores
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‘ “of between us : / it was good or leather’
O Mayeux is a poet and linguistics scholar at the University of Cambridge. He writes poems and processes them using a software program that rearranges the typology to produce new “asemic” poems. I found his ‘ “of between us : / it was good or leather’, featured at The New Post-literate: A Gallery Of Asemic Writing, to be especially powerful when I tried reading it.
I am interested in the phenomenology of the literary experience. There is an affective element to the literary or poetic experience that may be hard to analyze on account of the complexity of the mental states. Normally our acts of literary awareness involve the conceptual and imagistic components evoked by the texts. These components can distract us from the affective element.
There is a similar sort of idea in Gilles Deleuze’s treatment of Francis Bacon. Bacon writes that “the moment there are … several figures on the same canvas – the story begins to be elaborated. And the moment the story is elaborated, the boredom sets in; the story talks louder than the paint” (Bacon & Sylvester 1987: 22). When reading O Mayeux’s poem, I experienced strong affects without the distraction of other layers of my awareness. Just as the experience of Bacon’s paintings is like a phenomenological reduction to the raw experience of sensation, perhaps such asemic writing as O Mayeux’s can as well present a phenomenological reduction to the affective components of poetic experience.
I invite you to try to read the poem to see if you can feel certain intensities in the sounds. It is perhaps like Deleuze’s notion of stuttering. This work also brings out the intensities of punctuation. I find Clifford Duffy’s poems also very powerful in these ways, too. See for example his “war machine the ...” [my comments], his “remand” and “turf” [my comments], “fantasy 2010 labour work” [my comments] and “cărbune” [my comments].
O Mayeux. ‘ “of between us : / it was good or leather’. From Artefacts. Image taken from (and used with the author’s permission):
Bacon, Francis & David Sylvester. The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987.
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