Jim Leftwich

Shredded Text Scans

I insist.
They are poems. They are visual poems. They are textimagepoems.
They are dirty vispo. They are trashpo.
Read them.


How much was I involved in not writing them? Less than usual, to be sure, but not nearly less enough. I would be lying if I said I found them. I don’t think they have anything at all to do with Duchamp (I know I am wrong about that).


Katastrof gave me a garbage bag filled with shredded texts, probably four years ago. In the last year I scattered some on a scanner bed, moved them around a little, not too much, rotated some of the scans — and started reading them.


I am usually more interested in the writing process than I am in the reading process. Certain kinds of writing are intended primarily to get their readers to write. That is the purpose of certain kinds of writing. We might say that is the content, the meaning. What does it mean? It means you should do it. You should learn how it’s done, learn exactly what kinds of decisions are involved in bringing it into being, and then, by attempting to replicate those decisions, you will learn how to think like the writing thinks — which is not exactly the same as learning how to think like the writer thinks. You are probably not in the presence of the writer. You are in the presence of the writing. The writing will tell you how the writer thinks, or at least it will tell you its version of how the writer thinks. One decision at a time — this goes here, and this goes here — is how the writing is written. Some writing exists to reproduce, to replicate itself as specific patterns of decision-making in the minds of writers. It carries within it the DNA of a specific pattern of dendritic branching.




But the shredded text scans are not about writing. They are about reading. Like any other poem, they want to know if we can read them, but more importantly, they want to know if we will read them. Will we take them seriously and respect them as poems worthy of being read? Well, the world is harsh and universally unfair. Some of us will treat them as being worthy of a reading, and others of us will welcome them with cynicism and contempt, or on a good day in the best of all possible worlds, with indifference.

Everything in the world is always on the verge of telling us what it is. Everything in the world contains a music specific to itself, and if music, then speech. Everything in the world will talk to us, if we are willing to look and listen. I can look outside my workspace window to a very old rock wall on the other side of the alley. Our house was built in 1905. I think the rock wall was built not too long after that. I can see in the patterns of the rocks a clear latent telepathic interaction, waiting for someone willing to activate it.




The shredded text scan I am looking at at the moment contains fourteen strips. Six of them are on their sides. Two of them have no marks. One has only three faint zeros, which look like they were made by pencil. The top-center strip is leaning sharply towards the left. I read:

he (or che)
at (or ate)

Another strip partially overlaps the top-center strip, covering the first letter in its last line. The first line on the second strip reads “nu” — and requires that we at least consider reading the two strips together:


Following the first line I read:

, nas
Se u
ao m
a pad

To the far left is a strip with two areas near its top covered in patterned dots. The first looks like a capital ‘H’. The second seems to be a bar, or maybe a line beneath the ‘H’.

Next to it is an upside-down strip with a clear ‘7’ and what appears to be the upper edge of a ‘5’.

The center-bottom strip is the only strip in this shredded text scan poem that has color. It is a light yellow. I read:

. ro
y re

It is not telling me:

he cheese
next elixir
at ate
, nasty
new mistakes
Sea unless
aum om
a pad
H 75
. rose
you are

That’s what I am telling myself, because the poem is here to permit it.




Jim Leftwich is a poet who lives in Roanoke, Virginia. ​Recent publications include ​​Volumes 1​, 2​ & ​3​ of ​​Rascible & Kempt (Luna Bisonte 2016​, 2017​, edited by John M. and C. Mehrl Bennett).