Interlude 1: scripturacontinuaconvivavoce
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The development of literacy in the Western world is inherently bound up with the important role of orality (and aurality) in the reading of the written text. In Chapter 1, we have seen the poem as space to be a phenomenon that distances itself from the vocalic nature of the poem. Yet, the difficult forms of textual representation that we encounter in many avant-garde poetic works not only provoke a puzzle-solving visuocentric response, but also return us to the phonosynthetic beginnings of our reading lives, where the graphic ambiguity provided in learning polysyllabic words is resolved through a process of voicing a series of phonemes (“phonation”), and sorting them, through a process of oral manipulation, into word-sounds, and eliciting meaning from this vocalized ordering. Oral reading and ease of lexical access are inextricable from each other, and poetry highlights this. What Paul Saenger calls the “elaborate search patterns,” which come into play when an unseparated, ambiguous, or difficult script is encountered, are not only visual but also vocalic; our encounter with the script is measured by means of an “eye–voice span” through which the eyes are kept infinitesimally ahead of the voice1 as the vocalizing process seeks to make sense of the textual matter; a feedback loop.
KeywordsLexical Access Oral Reading Textual Representation Silent Reading Word Unit
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- 1.See Paul Saenger, Space between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997): 6–7.Google Scholar
- 3.Steve McCaffery, Prior to Meaning (New York: Roof Books, 1986): 110.Google Scholar
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- 12.Jen Hadfield, A Highland Romance (Manchester: Manchester Galleries, 2013): n.p. In this earlier version of Hadfield’s poem, presented recto with a photograph of Finlay’s sculpture verso, there are no interpuncts. However, in Byssus (London: Picador, 2014), the poem is presented with interpuncts marking phrasal units (after: sheriff, c/hins, dapples, and kelpbeds).Google Scholar
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