Poet: Brion Gysin

“I am” machine-poem by Brion Gysin

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I couldn’t resist following Steven Nichol Smith’s “I Am” with this audio experiment from 1960 by Brion Gysin:

Permutation is a technique commonly used by avant-gardes and above all, and systematically, by the American writer Gertrude Stein. It is possible to permute sentences, words within a sentence, syllables and phonemes within a word. Permutation is a typically modern device and considerable use was made of it in the plastic arts by the constructivists. In fact it permits the complete exhaustion of all the possible combinations within a given choice of material, without limit of number. The Englishman Brion Gysin, one of the founders of the beatnik movement and inventor of such new formulas as the collage-novel, has composed his phonic texts on this principle. “I am” is a classic of the genre. Composed exclusively of permutations of the biblical words “I am that I am”, with ever more marked accelerations, he succeeds in rendering, from the initial nucleus, a crowd of “I am”s, the creation of the world in geometrical progression until it fades away in the sidereal silence.

The video by Alex Itin is titled “hotdog,” and is one of the very first videopoems posted to Vimeo four years ago. The god/dog pun is an old one, but the twitching of the animal in its sleep is a great way way to suggest dreaming and delusion while remaining entirely objective. And you certainly wouldn’t want anything less minimalist for a poem like this.