The materiality of words – an un-manifesto

Words come easily. Flow. Words flow and dip and swim and swing. Words dance in the air cold air air currents on wings they fly out like a swallow in a Russian proverb. Words disguise words hide in the currents, words hide in language. Words and language become conflated; are not the same.

What happens to words when we share them? We mark the words to our steps to our breath to our heartbeats; our breath and our bodies take on the words, are the shape of the words. We speak in shared footsteps, we speak and we do not understand what we are saying even when we have met the words before. We take the words that once belonged to other mouths. We take them and we let them inhabit our mouths, travel down and settle in guts. We spit them, sing them, whisper.

Use these words to tell, to teach, to bind. Use them anyway we want, they still hold their own meaning and keep it hidden. Take a word, take a phrase, hear it said, repeat it, roll each sound around your teeth and across your tongue. Take the words and try them out like a three year old building a first vocabulary. Listen as they change and take on new meanings.

But these are the words that are spoken, read out loud, sung. And these, these are the words that are written once as they flow from my unedited thoughts to my hand to the pen to the page. And which stage of this process is the writing, the act of writing or is it all a moment a section of thought an unexpurgated free fall that has no context other than to land in symbols on a white page and become a system – part of a system – that is learned, given and received. What if a character enters this set of symbols – a protagonist or antagonist, an actor in the pattern of the signs and sines and symbols – are they absent receiver, the present do-er, distant. Are they the flow or in the flow? What if the actor is Austin, telling me to read it again, telling me not How To Do Things With Words but How Words Do Things To Me?

What if it is Acker telling me I read her wrong, placed too much imagined meaning on what were only other people’s words, repurposed. What if there is no materiality other than this borrowed pen and the blank page. And the coffee cup drained of coffee and my notes of all the words we’ve read and talked about so far. And what if I am the character and this isn’t a story and my character is struggling to understand because this language only looks like their own language and it becomes increasingly opaque as it is written (and typed up and rewritten*) and sometimes the only reason for the action of writing the words is to fill the blank page  [end of handwritten page 4]

[coda] and when it is written and if it is typed then it is no longer about the blank page and the actuality of it, the material ink on the page becomes the original act, (the art?) and the transcription, the rewritten, this is the re-action, the next action, the changing meaning, the version, the punctuation, the reading back for sense and spelling, the edit (but not the final edit) **

* the words in parentheses do not exist in the original, are inserted only in the online version
** this final paragraph first materialised in the revised version in Page