31 January 2016

To be stranger in a language. ‘The Swan Whisperer’ by Marlene van Niekerk

This is a tale of transmission, disappearance, and utterance, of writing as it hovers at the edge of language, trafficking with the ephemeral and the unreliable; challenging the primacy of the written text through a compelling reflection on flow and interference, rhythms and non-origin. A tale of listening as the rebeginning of writing; of people missing but resounding through words whose meaning is lost (or maybe it was never there completely): it has to be made anew every time. A story of speech emerged from and given back to birds, wind and water, a story of speech into landscape. A tale of writing as divining and impure continuity.

My review of Marlene van Niekerk’s beguiling text The Swan Whisperer (The Cahiers Series, 2015) is now published on Music & Literature.

I have a lot more to think and write around / from / for van Niekerk’s text. Mostly about the density and pacing of the prose. This will happen in my next book.

23 January 2016


Here is where my next book is moving through:














26 November 2015

The Secret Euphoria of Reading

‘The blurbs state their presence as echo chambers in which the absent books resound with murmurs, with questions such as: what builds a library? What connects disparate works and words? What do books transmit onto our selves? And further on, detours into what is commonly deemed irrelevant, marginal, minor — until I’m no longer sure who generates what, what is written before and what after, what is read into writing and written out of reading, and notions of origin are buried beneath layers of rewritings.’

For a long time I’d thought of writing something around a book (in Italian, no English translation) that collects Roberto Calasso’s book blurbs for the legendary Italian publishing house Adelphi, echoing in turn what those blurbs and those books had meant to me years ago, before I even knew I’d be a writer.

‘Woven across the fabric of Calasso’s blurbs is a thread of marginal figures, writers in spite of themselves. These people wrote yet would not call themselves writers. They were recluse, enclosed, outsiders locked in, disrupting any notions of a unified and coherent writing subject.’

As part of my ongoing work on frames, margins, edges, The Secret Euphoria of Reading is now published on 3:AM Magazine, thanks to Tristan Foster’s support and accurate editorial input. You can read the piece here.

‘Adelphi’s main series ‘Biblioteca’ began with Alfred Kubin’s The Other Side. Calasso’s collection of blurbs begins with Samuel Butler’s Erewhon: a scrambled nowhere, a scrambled other side, a book first published anonymously, the perfect start for this collection of texts written around the eventful and sensuous nowhere of reading.’

The Secret Euphoria of Reading: on Roberto Calasso’s Cento lettere a uno sconosciuto

25 November 2015

Trapdoors: more than an interview

When I met Ian Maleney for an interview last summer, and mentioned how in writing En abime I ended up organising a system of trapdoors, I could not anticipate that the interview he’d have published could become a set of trapdoors in itself, opening into words, poetry, images and sounds.

Ian read through and listened to my two books, En abime and F.M.R.L., mixed in my voice and other voices, and arranged a non-linear structure that mirrors the rhapsodic way our conversation took shape in July as we discussed periphery, voice, dialect, writing sound, poetry and more. My fractured, at times unfinished sentences appear as they were during the interview: they were not polished or completed into anything else than the way they were uttered.

You can read and hear the interview on Fallow Media .

22 November 2015

Rhythms and Song / Reductive book launch at Hundred Years Gallery


Rhythms and Song is a new text published in the Reductive Four book . It’s in five parts: 1 and 5 are recordings of inner voices as well as prompts/scores for reading, 2, 3 and 4 were born out of very specific moments and materials: remembering a statue of Martyr Saint Vittoria in Rome during a gig (bones and wax), counting/listing some books of mine that got burned in a fire earlier this year (paper and fire), mixing the voices of Twin Peaks’ Nadine and Breton’s Nadja (silence and voice).

I will read from the texts during a performance in collaboration with Ryoko Akama on Friday 27th November at Hundred Years Gallery in London , as part of the Reductive Four book launch.

Rhythms and Song

1. That listening feeling.

2. The murmurs of Saint Vittoria, martyr.

3. The silences of Nadine and Nadja.

4. After the fire. A litany of ashes.

5. Lines, dots, blank. Recalling a visit to the Agnes Martin exhibition at Tate Modern, 30 June 2015.


15 November 2015

Inner Voices: Transmission, Translation, Interference

To hear, read, write, voice, perform inner voices as they’re transmitted, translated, interfered with.


To consider thinking as material, mind as receptacle and mediator of voices and sounds.


To merge ideas into identities, thinking-listening-into-writing, the tangles of intellect, body, intuition. Is writing only ever inscription, or is it not also refraction, reflection, erasure, echo, transmission, arrangement?


There’s writing in silence and writing in non-writing. The Italian essayist, journalist, novelist Pier Vittorio Tondelli wondered in 1987, in his series of Fragments of the Inactive Author about these gaps, about the moments of pause for a writer, those moments when he/she looks back at his/her words and asks: who wrote them? Who spoke to me, through me? What did I hear?


To think of writing as listening to a multiplicity of inner voices even during apparently inactive or silent times; of the circularity and short circuits of writing thinking translating listening reading. These circuits demand attention as much as abandon, activity as much as inactivity, undoing and obsession as much as doing and structure.


To listen to, play with, perform, structure or short-circuit the inner voices that speak or sound in the mind when reading and writing.


It is never only writing—it’s a transmission that channels and merges and is interfered with, and works through residues of before, and moves them, and moves.

I am prompted by Clarice Lispector who sought to write the invisible in the mud.

Curious about the intermissions of translation as listening.

Prompted by Henri Michaux as he wrote sparrow music, as he wrote silence stoned by thoughts, and longed to write music to question, auscultate, approach the problem of being.

Prompted by the early meaning of psyche—not only as interiority but as air, breath, an element connecting inner states with the sensuous world.

And because sometimes inner voices voice desire, I am prompted by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge who copies and rewrites books in the library then finds the sense of it all in the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, the sixth mysterious one in the series bearing the inscription ‘À mon seul désir’: ‘To my only desire’.



The American poet Jack Spicer said that no matter what message they receive, ultimately mediums speak in their own accent through their own individual bodies. There is an inextricable tie between body and inner voices and yet at the same time, a deep sense of beyond our selves channelled through them and through us in writing, listening, translating, transmitting. What rhythms, what arrangements move them and frame them? Listen to the whispers, speeches, cries of inner voices; to what is deemed ineffable or inaudible and yet is present when you listen, read, think, translate, perform, write; to what sounds and resounds when you appear to be silent.


To interfere with inner voices, translate them into words, complicate them into other sounds, empty them out.


To leave plots behind and present sounds and poetics of thoughts into words performed, messages distorted, whispers, murmurs, the ineffable, the unnameable, the inaudible, movable entities and ideas into presence: present.


Clarice Lispector, A Breath of Life: ‘I’m writing because I don’t know what to do with myself. I mean: I don’t know what to do with my spirit. The body tells a lot. But I don’t know the laws of the spirit: it wanders.’ … ‘Since I was a child I’ve been searching for the breath of the word that gives life to murmurings’. Between thought and words is ‘a tiny difference of less than a millimeter. Before thinking, then, I’ve already thought.’ … ‘I only use reason as an anesthetic… I therefore turn back to my rich interior nothing.’


Writing, vortex-transmission of inner voices never owned, but echoed and passed on through that ‘rich interior nothing’.


‘And now you give the impression of knowing absolutely nothing’, said one of the voices channelled through Elfriede Jelinek’s Her Not All Her.


Muted reiterations dwell on the changing textures of written unforms.

I cannot quite hear inner voices but in half-guessed disturbances.

Tempted by broken utterance, in spite of dissolution and rarefaction, a sonorous nothing, a stuttering reverb.

Transposed and rearranged, cut through by words and voices that won’t be explained, but transformed and shaped as they expire: in proximity rather than in understanding.

Inner voices outstretched beyond the borders of body to be cast over and over again, an echo of echoes, headed toward transformation and change rather than tracing origin and keeping permanence. And the question is not who I am, but whom a self and its words are cast onto, and how. 

Inner Voices: Kate Briggs, Patrick Farmer, Jennifer Hodgson, Dominique Hurth, Signe Lidén, Christian Patracchini, Steve Roden, David Toop, Valerio Tricoli, James Wilkes

Inner Voices will be presented in Aarhus, Denmark as part of WhereWereWe: on Writing, Intimacy, Body, a five-day festival curated by Rhea Dall, Martin Glaz Serup and myself, and produced by Project Art Writing and Litteraturcenter Aarhus.
Godsbanen, Aarhus, 2-6 December 2015

6 November 2015

Nemici, 7 November at Rich Mix

I’m reading a new piece tomorrow, in collaboration with James Wilkes, at Nemici / The Enemies Project curated by SJ Fowler.

London, Rich Mix, 8pm.


17 October 2015

Mediums and Poets, 3 November at Sound I’m Particular, Oxford

On Tuesday 3 November I will finally have the chance to do something that had been on my mind for over a year: to literally fill a suitcase with records, books, CDs, photocopies, notes, audio files, to arrange all of them on a table, and to read/speak/play/be quiet through them without much of a script, letting the rhythms of my listening and reading arrange them — in other words, to present my writing-working-thinking process in a live setting.

The idea behind this is to build a sense of time into the presentation, a time that exceeds the presentation: the time of my engagement with all the materials on the table, all of which I’ve spent hours and hours with, some of which have been with me for years.

Mediums and Poets is part of Sound I’m Particular, a series curated by Patrick Farmer at the Old Fire Station in Oxford.


Mediums and Poets: Imaginative and Sensory murmurs, after Breton, Leiris, Saint Vittoria, Lispector, Hillman, Nijinski and more less familiar voices, heard, misheard, transmitted.

Mediums and Poets is a temporary arrangement of words and sounds constructed by echoes, assonance, contrast, pun and rhyme, where listening becomes a way of framing and presenting words in the present, and of making them present.

‘I have always protested against the allegedly “visionary” power of poets … They were not describing, but were holed up in the gloomy darkness of the backstage of being, listening to the indistinct outline of accomplished, or accomplishable works, without understanding them any better as they wrote, than we do when we read them for the first time.’

‘For the simple fact of having seen her wooden cross change into a jewel-studded crucifix, and having held this vision to be at once imaginative and sensory, Theresa de Avila can be seen to command this line on which both mediums and poets sit. Unfortunately, for the time being, she is merely a saint’.

André Breton, The Automatic Message (1933)





17 October 2015

Frames, Mah, Slideshow, Song / Gorse #4

A new text entitled Frames is now published on Gorse #4

It was written, among many other reasons, out of the recurring question of how to work through Italian texts when I write in English, letting the hesitations in my translation process prompt more writing.

The texts in this case are a number of book reviews written by Pasolini, into and out of which I zoomed more writing, in relation to the only song he wrote called What Are the Clouds?, a marionette play of Othello that he staged in a film, and a slideshow.

The slideshow that appears at the end of the text is entitled Mah: 

Scan 2


The whole text is structured once again as a mise-en-abyme whose beginning and end are open, between sigh and song:


Scan 1


3 October 2015

breaking into frames

A few months ago I wrote a short text which keeps returning in my mind today as the initiator of a whole new strand in my writing, and which emerged out of an exhilarating frequentation of rhythms through listening rather than any rational outlines or plans. I’m not sure I can recall how it started other than the need to respond to the rhythms of a song while avoiding long-winded digressions on what that song was about.
The text embodies my recurring preoccupation with arrangements, frames and breaking into frames; it is part of my ongoing concern with ‘writing sound’ as presence instead of ‘writing about sound’ as reference — or I should say in this case: writing rhythm, writing breath. The more I return to it the more I feel it needs to be read aloud and in a way that would make the reader breathless.

It has generated a number of similar texts, all of them constructed by cross-fading two prompts: in the first of the series it was Loose Joints’ disjointed song Pop Your Funk and a specific sequence in John Carpenter’s film Assault on Precinct 13; in another, for the sake and for the fun of sheer assonance, Breton’s Nadja and Twin Peaks’ Nadine (the one obsessed with silent curtain runners). And more.

Last summer I resisted the temptation of collecting all these experiments with rhythm in a tidy book project, as I became more and more convinced of the need for blurred unclear boundaries in my writing sound knot-riddle-tangle — hence the decision to embed them in texts I wrote in other styles, as motors of more complex structures, and to have them appear in various art, sound, literary publications over the next few months — so that the muddiness, the text-ore, the tangled matter would become prominent, instead of any clear outlines. To echo something I read in that gem of a book, Other Traditions by John Ashbery as he wrote of Thomas Lovell Beddoes: ‘The fragments don’t separate easily from the matrix, and when they do, something is found wanting: they need their rough natural setting to register fully, even as it partially obscures them.’

Frames: Sketch for a Polyphony (After the Fire) is now published in Vanguard Editions’ #1ShortStoryAnthology edited by Richard Skinner.  Here is the Loose Joints/John Carpenter page:



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