Process Writing

I was thinking about diaries as a lesson for my creative writing class and remembered Bernadette Mayer’s list of journal ideas, as well as the journal task by the Goat Island performance group.

Made me think of conceptual/performance art works that emphasise duration and process: e.g. Tehching Hsieh’s ‘One Year Performance (Time Clock Piece)’ where for a whole year he punched a time clock every hour on the hour and each time he punched the clock he took a picture of himself.

Also the work of On Kawara – particularly the postcard pieces ‘I Went and I Met’ and ‘I Got Up At’.
on kawara

So I was reading about processual writing/poetry and came across Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris where he sits in a café in Saint-Sulpice square for a weekend noting down everything that he sees. He said, ‘My goal has been to describe what others have missed. What is not generally noted, what is not noticed , what is not important; what happens when nothing happens, but time, people, cars and clouds.’

There’s an extract here.

I’ve been getting quite into Perec – just read his Species of Spaces which was really exciting – the sections on The Apartment and The Street especially – the way he thinks about and uses spaces appeals to me – there’s a PDF here.

Then I came across Francis Ponge who I remember reading about a while back. He wrote these object poems, like paying really close attention to an object, an everyday object and trying to describe it. Click to look inside and read the introduction.

Then he wrote a book called Soap where he just focused on one object, soap, taking up the same object again and again over a period of twenty years.

The book blurb says, ‘With this work, he began to turn away from the small, perfect poem toward a much more open form, a kind of prose poem which incorporates a laboratory or workshop, recounting its own process of coming into being along with the final result. The outcome is a new form of writing, which one could call “processual poetry.”‘

There’s a bio on the Poetry Foundation and a link at the bottom to one of his poems.


“During the summer of 2001, William Basinski set about transferring a series of 20-year-old tape loops he’d had in storage to a digital file format, and was startled when this act of preservation began to devour the tapes he was saving. As they played, flakes of magnetic material were scraped away by the reader head, wiping out portions of the music and changing the character and sound of the loops as they progressed… In essence, Basinski is improvising using nothing so much as the passage of time as his instrument”

– Joe Tangari, quoted in the wiki article on Process Art

Watch Basinski’s Disintegration Loops on YouTube.


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