*****DIsclaimer: My bibliography did not copy and paste. I will fix it soon, but note that I do have one on the printed form at the moment.


Cameron Ball


Confront the problems with language I have been having.

“Poetry enacts and tells the open secret”

“What is the answer?,” asked Gertrude Stein as she was being wheeled into a surgery room where she would later die. Upon getting no response, she responded: “in that case, what is the question?”

What is it that I have been trying to say?


How can the combination of two extremes of linguistic expression be put forth in a 3d format to make the creative process more intuitive?

What are the implications of making something that you do not know the meaning of into matter?

Zaum: “A language which does not have any definite meaning, a transrational language” that “allows for fuller expression.


Descriptive, rational language using the binds of language that Zaum is trying to disrupt


3 dimensional text


Bonus points:

  • “display and juxtapose elements at the same time”, like paintings
  • create a Tralfamadorian text
  • put this new mode of deliberative creative choices balanced with liberative practices “into conversation with an interrogative dynamic” in order to figure out what words to omit and which ones to keep

The terms on which I have been asked to justify my project are all oriented towards a utilitarian pragmatism. Is it worthy to print? Why is it meaningful to print? How does it help you progress from a to b? These questions are in direct opposition to the thesis of Zaum, which is itself an antithetic thesis. I can work with convoluted contradictions, but it is necessary to note that this will, in fact, “make nothing happen.”


Let’s call the part of the brain that produces meaning, or in this case, words, a word extruder. If my creative process was a Makerbot, the temperature of the extruder would constantly be off. The ideological filament that started out solid is either overheated into mush or undercooked so that it won’t stick to the previous layer. Also, my word extruder doesn’t know how to decide how much infill to put inside of the model. Whatever shell I create might be too dense, or too light and airy to support itself. My own mental makerbot doesn’t even extrude the sweet smell of expired pancake syrup when it creates things.(smell the makerbots while they print, trust me.) It isn’t my fault, just the fact that humans aren’t as precise as computers, and sometimes they have no idea what or how to extrude.

Maybe my word extruder isn’t an extruder per se, but the word “extruder’s” odd cousin, “nozzle.” It derives from the word nose, “small spout.” The muse hits my nozzle with sneezes of creativity, inspiring me with a breath big enough to blow mnemosyne’s boogers out into a transrational tissue. And I get embarrassed when I sneeze in public. When I don’t have any tissue to write on. This isn’t the extruder’s determined, straight-lined, and confident process. This is my personal language disorder.

I will be working with the Cubo-Futurism of the early 20th century Russian avant-garde. My main imports from this school of linguistic experimentation will be Roman Jakobson’s strict descriptions of language and its features, Krucenykh’s idea of Zaum, and Vasily Kamensky’s format, word, choice, and gut feeling of his ferro-concrete transrational poem “Tango with Cows,” while balancing it with a type of poetry oriented towards sense: confessional phrases not unlike Robert Lowell’s very quintessentially poem-ish poems. These confessional, rational, descriptive segments are important  because the contrast between liberated words and deliberated words will deal with the Barthesian notion of the death of the author. Barthesian duality, so to speak.

Kamensky’s ferroconcrete poetry was in reference to the reinforced concrete that had recently been introduced for the building of skyscrapers and other large and futuristic buildings. The specific example I will be using, “Tango with cows,” is called such to point out the clash between the new metropolitan lifestyle, constituents of which were learning the new dance craze called the Tango and living inside these ferroconcrete skyscrapers, and Russia’s vast history as a pastoral culture. Kamensky was one of the earlier Russian pilots until he had a near fatal crash, and returned to a literary career. Indeed, some of the poems in this book/zine/pamphlet resemble a map of land from the point of view of an aviator. The form also experiments with various fonts and typographic inconsistency, furthering the combinatorial play involved with this type of poetry. Also important to note is that it was published 100 years ago, and the first translation is underway, set to be due mid-2014. The half-truth that poetry is by definition untranslatable lets the reader of the english version see a different side of the poem than what Kamensky wrote a hundred years ago. In consequence, the interpretation is further complicated by the fact that Kamensky’s intent is clouded by the intent of the translators, and the fact that Kamensky’s original intent was that of no thetic intent.

Roman Jakobson was a French-Russian linguist who was one of the first to make counter arguments to Sausserean structural linguistics, and made significant achievements in the field of phonology, as well as semantics, poetics, and morphology. For his phonology, he drew primarily on the ideas of his sometimes interlocutor, Nikolai Trubetskoy,  who shared Jakobson’s passion for breaking down units of language to their atomic level. Later he came to America, working at Columbia, Harvard, and MIT, and advanced Charles Sanders Pierce’s semiotics and strongly influenced Claude Levi-Strauss and Barthes. It is important to note that if one spends enough time looking up Jakobsonian linguistics, one will discover that he got his start in his teens writing weird sound poetry under the name Aljagrov, experimenting with transrational language that was being studied by the poets surrounding his Literary Circle. He then went on to make a very descriptive analysis of the distinctive features of language, applying a set of binaries to each of the seven features, giving each a (+) or (-) value. This marriage of a disciplined and descriptive set of binaries to classify sounds and language contrasting with the system of free play at work in his sound poetry is the direction I hope to go with my project. I cannot read pages and pages of pure sound poetry, or pure semiotic freedom. Sound poetry can be put into conversation with confessional, descriptive, rational phrases to highlight the folly of our language and make it much more meaningful. The fact that the seemingly rational looks silly next to pure sounds, and vice versa creates the dissonance and delightful constellation of meaning that is left to be desired when I read something that is on the opposite side of the spectrum from rationality.

I will be weaving these threads from the back side of the tapestry, turning a disorganized mess of thread into an impossible to disentangle constellation of meaning, using sneezes from the muse as my source of inspiration. The typographic experimentation will come later, as will the thinking about the specific form this is going to take. What form is most advantageous to the concept I am trying to convey? How can I use the possibilities of the printing baseplate to make something happen by “making nothing happen?”