folding distance

James Lindsay: You have a distinctive abbreviation style when it comes you writing, i.e. yr instead of your, w/ instead of with, etc. What drew you to write like this? It reminds me of Charles Olson and the Black Mountain poets idea of Projective Verse.

Stevie Howell: Bless you for asking me about craft. For sure, one of the most important things is voice — voice as in breath. As Olson outlines. All instruments, our own vocal chords, are just us messing around w/airwaves. So, magic. It’s critical to me to write closer to how I sound IRL. In the neuropsych clinic, my natural voice would be described as “pressured, circumferential.” So, how do I get a line to rush out the way Iiii do? How do I get you to float on what I feel’s salient? Olson talks about language being kinetic—the transfer of energy between author & reader. Abbreviation is one way to speed up the transfer time, to fold distance.

In I left nothing inside on purpose, I collapsed “you/your/you’re” & “year” into an all-encompassing “yr,” b/c I’m writing about the absence of boundaries inside relationships, & the effect of that over time. The absence of those vowels, e.g., “o" & "u” (“owe” “you”) is an attempt for language to serve as embodiment, what Olson calls the desire “not to describe, but enact.”

My book engages w/a real person, Clive Wearing, who experienced a traumatic brain injury, & who has gaps & leaps in comprehension & expression. The synapse—a gap between two neurons—is the fundamental brain communicating mechanism, & I’m interested in how much of a gap in syntax can occur, w/o impairing shared meaning.

- Stevie Howell, in conversation with James Lindsay over at Open Book. You can read the whole thing here.

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