Excerpt: 'Pageviews/ Innervisions' by Jill Magi
From A Meditation on Handwriting:
Reading handwriting: allowing time for the development of the next sound-thought. A slowdown. Handwritten: evidence of the body making the poem, the text. Blood moving, skin touching paper, the hand is warm.
Dickinson: “I am alive—I guess—/The Branches on my Hand/Are full of Morning Glory—/And at my finger’s end—/The Carmine—tingles warm—”
Typeset. The belief in the permanence of The Book. Writer becomes author becomes authority. Idea that typeset words “speak for themselves.” A cultural weight made visible when a particular paper size and font, margins, cover art, and publishing house icon at the base of the spine are absent.
Dickinson: “Publication—is the Auction/Of the mind of Man—/Poverty—be justifying/For so foul a thing”
Privileging legibility (an argument for typesetting) equals trust in the decoding skills of the reader. Give them every chance possible to get it right; there is something to get right.
Handwritten page of my grandmother remains an untranslated page until after her death while my grandfather’s autobiography is typed up in the third person of his own translation.
Handwritten words and marks on the page resist scanning, searching, and consumption, though that technology is getting hungrier as our appetites for archives grow. At the American Library Association Conference, a robot turns the page of the fragile diary, snaps a picture and moves on to the next page, a performance.
Dickinson: “The opening and the Close/Of being, are alike/Or differ, if they do,/As bloom upon a Stalk.//That from an equal Seed/Unto an equal Bud/Go parallel, perfected/In that they have decayed.”
The pilgramage to the library reference section to see Emily Dickinson’s handwriting. Finding her marks. Plus signs between words, at the beginnings of lines, dots that are not periods, wide exaggerated looping motions forming some consonants, the down-turned crossings of the letter t, horizontal lines breaking up stanzas or at the close of the poem, dashes mid-line, short hyphens, colon as graphic element. Page, full.
Without a title, the poem is about (no direct object.) Deflecting the desire to index. One poem leads to the next. Turn the page. Silence or the sound without words of the paper moving against the other pages and within your fingers.
Dickinson: “Great Streets of silence led away/To Neighborhoods of Pause—”
Vicuña: “Silence/turns the page/the poem begins./Alba del habla, the dawn of speech.”
Dickinson’s own handmade books: external bindings of strings, their loose ends I imagine falling across the pages as the loops of her handwriting and the suspend of her dashes. We are falling also, reading.
Scalapino: photographs, not always perfect rectangles, on both sides of the page, sometimes laid out as portrait, sometimes landscape.
Dickinson: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—”
Handwritten text as caption, title, footnote, fieldnote, label. A poem as scrapbook. The immediacy of handwriting, having seen and then noted. Scalapino, saying, I suppose I am here/was there. Looking at them, as a crowd and individually.
Scalapino’s pen lines are thick and hurried. This may be on-the-spot writing, some strikethroughs, revise as you go. Do you dare?
Scalapino: “separate as people who’re/abandoning or have/each other not quite that/here”
Scalapino’s indecision/multiplicity/wide angle: “Crowd and not evening or light”
Choices. The page destabilized. Not employing Boolean operators, yet playing with the language of that logic, its 19th-century gaze.
An eye/I behind the lens as an I moves the pen and the I/The Other will read the report, its shifting horizons, back at the page/the eye. Letting in the crowd, enough light.
Vicuña: “the eye/is the I?”
Scalapino: “not quite that/not quite that/not quite that”
Reading Vicuña: my desire to take my fingertip and trace the poem-drawings. Stars, circles, the helix, spirals. The shape of everything. Her “Galaxies and blood/fingerprint whorls,/breath and sound.”
As children we were taught not to use our hands while reading or move our lips even or to count on our fingers. Legality of the typed letter with a raised seal. In this case touching is encouraged.
Vicuña’s drawing-poems are in pencil. A light touch. The reproductions are grey scale and they look erasable.
Vicuña: “Dis solve into union it says./You will always be longing”
Can a line—the foot of the last word, its last sound—be so long as to stretch across the left hand side of a full-page spread, go through to the gutter and come out on the other side? Poem as a full page spread. What would be found in the gutter? Vicuña’s lines trespass there.
If the book has gutter content, then you must crack it open and search the folds, risking the stability of the binding.
Dickinson: “Best Things dwell out of Sight/The Pearl—the Just—Our Thought.//Most shun the Public Air/Legitimate, and Rare—//The Capsule of the Wind/The Capsule of the Mind//Exhibit here, as doth a Burr—/Germ’s Germ be where?”
Who would hold a book upside down on the subway? It would have to be a non-book or a non-reader. A fake.
Image of a young boy reading the porn photograph open-mouthed. The page is shifted; he is allowed to swivel the page, but privately.
Newspaper columns as bulwark, short lines easy for the eye muscles, a many-posted fence marking the boundaries of authority and fact. The field is large enough to completely cover one’s face on the subway so there is no looking out while finding out.
One may shift the newspaper for reading the night sky.
Gutter of a book runs down toward the belly of the reader, a place of consumption/digestion/interpretation. Or the book held toward the heart, the book flaps open as two hands open, receiving. Two ways of reading.
Lips must move when reading the prayer book. Mouth moving from shape to shape, continuous.
Idea of each person, individually, with certain rights. A single book, in the hands of a single reader, pushing toward a certain conclusion.
Or Scalapino: “crowd and/not evening or light//not scratched/on it//not quite that//collaboration/only producing”
Or a 17th-century musical notation, various parts arranged in a square frame, facing different directions, so that singers around a table read the music from a single book.
Reading privileging the top and moving toward the right and down. English. Narrowing focus as one reaches the bottom. Distillation versus inclusion or opening.
Habits of looking. Scalapino: “this isn’t on/grass/that isn’t there/as the same”
Dominance of vision, certain eye movements, grouping images and words. Grouping people. The frame of the photograph. The frame of words. A photograph “floating on those who have – nothing”
An idea of the beach: glamour, leisure, solitude. Or, Scalapino’s photograph of a beach scene: groups of adults, men and women, holding children, baby strollers on the beach. Not everyone wears a swimsuit.
Scalapino: “have it be the same,/people who’re always wealthy/floating/and who don’t know others”
Be wary of what is easy for the eye/I to consume.
Scalapino: “the nudity of poverty/and calm/scratch on it”
It is necessary to turn the book around in order to read this poem. It is necessary to turn the world around in order to see. Page, field of vision, Go ahead, “scratch on it.”
Handwriting: ink more like thread, pulled out and across, continuing and therefore more as breath (sutra), than as block and stamp, lettering, discreet.
Dickinson: “I am alive—I guess—/The Branches on my Hand/Are full of Morning Glory—/And at my finger’s end—/The Carmine—tingles warm—/And if I hold a Glass/Across my Mouth—it blurs it—/Physician’s—proof of Breath—”
Vicuña’s seamless (seemless) switching between languages, the pencil need not be lifted. Poem-drawings subvert an alphabet that is mono-lingual and non-pictorial. Her letters floating atop curving lines, or the feet of her words continuing to the beginning of another. Her “Galaxies and blood/Fingerprint whorls,/breath and sound.”
One alphabet containing the other though neither is a mirror of the other as in the traditional layout of a bi-lingual book. Instead, a co-mingling.
Vicuña: “luz y del qué/the space/between words/imantando/el cruzar”
Early books, printed to look as if they had been handwritten. Architectural block lettering now done by a computer program but fashioned to look like hand lettering.
Will there be more handwritten books published in the future?
Vicuña: “changing/the heart/of the ear//th”
The history of writing and drawing, reading and weaving, linked. Vicuña: “word/loom/star”
A quilting circle would approach the word from all sides.
And if there is no left there is no right or it is a circle, the drawing-poem. Such is the world (whorled) in which reading and writing is not arriving. Is not alone.
Dickinson: “From Blank to Blank—/A Threadless Way/I pushed Mechanic feet—/To stop—or perish—or advance—/Alike indifferent—//If end I gained/It ends beyond /indefinite disclosed—/I shut my eyes—and groped as well/’Twas lighter—to be Blind—”
Vicuña: “the nuance/of words//the mist/to go through”
Dickinson’s vocabulary of marks.
Scalapino: “not quite that/not quite that/not quite that”