Introduction #2 Country Girl #3 Pictures and Early Words #4 Big Words 5

Avant-Garde Journalism: Hannah Weiner's Early and Clairvoyant Journals


Besides the crucial link to "the painter's gaze" in The Magritte Poems and "the so-called I myself spirit, a face smoking a pipe ... a drawing on the wall" she "kept asking" in The Fast, we have that curious statement, "there is, perhaps, no way out of the person, but not everyone is clairvoyant." What keeps Weiner's "visions" from reinscribing the occularcentrism Martin Jay suggests is at work in Merleau-Ponty's work is an analogous "map of the 'I can'" in Weiner's clairvoyant writings (Jay 300). By the time we reach the Clairvoyant Journal, Weiner will not be marking the pre-existing "map" of journalistic narrative, but constructing an extraordinary one characterized by simultaneity. A painterly listening takes place without, physically, becoming that place or places; as George Quasha explains of Mac Low's simultaneities, "the voice ... it's here and here and here, and none of these places" (58). One must seriously reconsider if, as Perrault has it, Weiner became a clairvoyant poet "instead" of achieving intermediality "off the page." After all, Weiner's clairvoyant writings, and certainly the Clairvoyant Journal, take the form of what she calls "large-sheet poetry ... this is mostly like why do you put painting over on the right hand side, because there isn't any more canvas" ("Excerpts from an Interview with Hannah Weiner" 187). "Pictures and Early Words" is a dramatic event for the reader as they register visual cues, the nascent score, abetting their own impersonation. One winds up listening in a painterly fashion. As the person thus emerges, the imposition of visual "information" abets the body's intention to render each cue an atelic, hence intentional, line of flight.

Like all the works in Weiner's journalism period, "Pictures and Early Words" was compiled and conceived from her many notebooks. It was then set in typescript by Weiner herself, but unlike the others the typesetting was undertaken with the use of a computer word-processor sometime in or after 1994.[4] "This book begins in September, 1972," says the introduction, which is signed by "Hannah Weiner / Silent Teacher" (unpaginated). "SILENT TEACHER" tells us "THE WORDS IN CAPITALS ARE SEEN" just following the title page (i.e., two pages following the introduction). Even more than two decades after the source material was composed in script, the typescript does not account for the third voice, the italics / underlines, which will first appear in "BIG WORDS." Weiner describes the textual conditions by which the third voice appeared in "Mostly about the Sentence";

I bought a new electric typewriter in January 74 and said quite clearly, perhaps aloud, to the words (I talked to them as if they were separate from me, as indeed the part of my mind they came from is not known to me) I have this new typewriter and can only type lower case, capitals or underlines (somehow I forgot, ignored or couldn't cope with in the speed I was seeing things, a fourth voice, underlined capitals) so you will have to settle yourself into three different prints. Thereafter I typed the large printed words I saw in CAPITALS, the words that appeared on the typewriter or the paper I was typing on in underlines (italics) and wrote the part of the journal that was unseen, my own words, in regular upper and lower case.

It turned out that the regular upper and lower case words described what I was doing, the CAPITALS gave me orders, and the underlines or italics made comments. This is not 100% true, but mostly so.

The description of the voices is an integral part of the sentence discussion, as with three or even 2 operating there was scarcely chance to complete the phrase or sentence.

The situation of the voices, and the interruption and overlay, is quite clear if you hear the tape ... What I think about sentences comes from my understanding through clairvoyance and telepathy ... (60-1)


[4] After correspondence with several of Weiner's friends and collaborators, the biographical details required for a sustained textual study remain scarce. Bernadette Mayer and Barbara Rosenthal concur that in keeping manuscript journals Weiner did not conceive of composing books, per se, but Rosenthal suggests that after the success of the Clairvoyant Journal Weiner may have gone back and conceived of the four prospective books / journals. Although mention of an extraneous "typist" occurs throughout "Pictures and Early Words," none is known to have worked on the typescripts from the notebooks / manuscript journals. The typescript is printed in dot-matrix and mention of various computer programs all suggest that Weiner typed and even composed it on a computer; and, the typescript's form is that of a "book" complete with a list of prior publications and requisite title pages (all that is missing is the colophon). Among the previous publications listed with the typescript is the compilation CD Live at the Ear, which was released in 1994, though Weiner's contribution (reading from 1984's Spoke) was recorded two years prior to the CD's release.


Previous | Next
Jump to: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | Note on Text | Works Cited |
PDF Version of Introduction (Adobe Acrobat required)