Delusions of an erasure poet: the shadow text

There is — I’ve come to feel — a text within the text, made up of the words and phrases that lodge most firmly in our minds as we read and the hidden relationships we sense between them. Can it be brought into the light and given at least a minimal coherence? If so, what if anything might it tell us about the parent text?

I think this shadow text is based in part on semi-conscious, momentary misinterpretations which we are continually correcting automatically as we read. It’s of a piece with those false ideas and associations we all harbor based on misunderstandings that were subsequently corrected, sometimes very quickly, but still too late to prevent such shadow ideas from persisting, showing up in dreams and sometimes even influencing conscious thoughts. (This is, in part, how propaganda works.)

If I were able to read with perfect focus, perhaps a shadow text would not develop, but the imagination is an unruly beast, and fluent reading gives it latitude to stray to one side or another as I proceed, like a dog on a long leash inspecting things of interest while its owner plods straight ahead. It has, in other words, its own agenda. To recover the text within a text, do we not also need to be dog-like and follow our ears and noses more than our eyes? Certainly we need to be more active. Investigation may even require that we bark and listen for a response.

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4 Replies to “Delusions of an erasure poet: the shadow text”

  1. Very interesting. Particularly interesting, I think, to do this with such an old text which continues to be so much enjoyed. Loving the erasure poems.

    1. Thanks, Jean. As you might imagine, it was Rachel and her abiding enthusiasm for the Pepys Diary blog that led me to take a closer look at a text I’d always, wrongly assumed to be tedious. I’m enjoying the hell out of it so far.

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