MISTRANSLATIONS: mini-interview with Stephen Nelson

Stephen Nelson has exhibited visual poetry and published prose and poetry internationally for a number of years. He lives by a burn in Central Scotland. His last book was a Xerolage of visual poetry called Arcturian Punctuation (Xexoxial Editions).

Stephen features in Sparkling Tongue Press’ inaugural issue, MISTRANSLATIONS. I wanted to get to know his work a little bit more, and his creative process for the MISTRANSLATIONS submission. I hope you enjoy!

Your work in this issue is produced digitally. Do you feel digital work adds to asemic writing?  

I think digital technologies have opened up new possibilities for visual poetry in general, but I actually prefer digital work that has a more organic feel. So, much of the asemic work I create digitally is simply a technically updated version of an ancient tool, like writing with a finger on a screen rather than writing with a finger in the sand or an ink brush on paper, or working with a textual app moving letters on a screen rather than using a typewriter to create concrete poems. I enjoy imitating classic tools with new technologies. There are tools which allow different, more digitally specific results, however, which are just as beautiful. 

Your work has some recognisable letters, such as a Greek ‘P’ (Π). Do you agree a work can be asemic to some and not to others?

My pieces in the magazine are probably more concrete than asemic. They are letter compositions using existing alphabets, where the shapes or relationships between the letters create meaning. There’s certainly an overlap with asemic writing, a blurred line, which I love, because my thoughts about what “asemic” might really mean, whether it’s actually possible for any writing to have no semantic content, are continually shifting. So, in that respect, I’m not sure if anything is truly asemic. What interests me, though, is the difference between known alphabets and unknown marks, and how to make subtle distinctions between the two. It certainly feels like there’s a different way of reading work based on known letters (concrete poetry) and unknown marks (asemic writing). Here, it’s the former, and meaning is perhaps more intellectual, though kinetic and playful, in contrast to forms of asemic writing where meaning is transmitted as a more subtle energy or feeling in the body, more sensual. It seems like there are so many different ways to create or discern meaning in the human energy system.

Discover more of Stephen’s work on Instagram @afterlights70.


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