The Secret of Good Posture comes in the form of two altered pamphlets depicting ‘the relationship between twenty first century freedom and personal postures.’ The pamphlets employ a variety of Oulipian constraints and textual processes in altering the found text to generate new possibilities for engaging with and understanding the text.
The two pamphlets speak not only to the original found-text pamphlet but, because they are an aesthetically matching pair, also operate in dialogue with one another. In what appears to be the most lightly altered iteration, the writers interpose ideas about freedom of information, freedom of speech and personal freedom with anatomical and postural freedom.
‘Freedom of information also contributes to good appearance: the person with good freedom of information projects poise, confidence, and dignity.’
Questioning the concept of what ‘freedom’ might mean in each context and creating dynamic semantic exchanges with statements such as ‘The secret is about freedom, which can be an important part of the quality of your life’ and ‘Freedom is important because it helps your body function at top speed’, the text asks questions about what we mean when we talk about freedom, what freedom means to us personally, and what it might mean in relation to us as physical, embodied beings. Engaging semantic multiplicities through contextual reframing of the word ‘freedom’, we are asked to consider the impact of our freedom, or lack thereof, on the bodies and lives we take for granted. This text challenges us to consider how our ‘freedoms’, or limits to our freedoms, directly intervene in our physical health and wellbeing. By considering freedom of information, freedom of speech and personal freedom in relation to physical posture and overall wellbeing, we are invited to start making connections between ourselves as individuals and the society within which we function, a society which may either grant or restrict our freedoms according to its edicts.
In conjunction, the pamphlet with the most radically altered text uses a range of constraints and processes to destabilise semantics beyond any meaningful significance – the effect of which, as well as being very funny in places, also calls into play various unexpected associations and semantic resonances between the two altered versions, the assumed intention of the original pamphlet, and our newly-broadened understanding of the meaning of freedom and the meaning of meaning, both in relation to our own bodies and in relation to the wider social context.
Beginning ‘Stand up straight! Don’t sluice!’ the text replaces various nouns with dictionary-based alternatives in what appears to be an n+7 constraint, enlightening us with the statement that ‘Good freedom is important because it helps your boiler fungicide at torch spender’. To check our freedom of ‘pothole’ we should ask, ‘Is your headlamp held straight? … Do your knobs faction straight ahead?’ Text with lengthy noun-strings moves further and further from fluid syntactic meaning, such as ‘Throughout each deadbeat, concertina on keeping your three natural backfire cutbacks in balanced alleyway’.
This text generates multiple semantic possibilities with the ways that it brings words into unexpected associations with one another and with the various other iterations of the pamphlet text. It questions the ways we use words, sentences and texts to construct supposedly transparent syntactic meaning, and provides us with alternatives that energise the resonant qualities of words in a variety of ways through new associations and dialogues. It also playfully undermines the notions of freedom constructed in its paired pamphlet by undermining and proliferating the capacity of words to mean.
Reproduced from what appears to be a found text original, including informational diagrams and slim pamphlet shape, these two texts in an open dialogue with their third – unseen – counterpart invite us to consider in both humorous and powerful ways the freedoms we take for granted and the many unconscious ways these may impact upon us all.
Paul Hawkins is a Bristol-based poet/word-processor. His most recently published work is in the experimental text/collage protest of Place Waste Dissent (Influx Press 2015). He collaborates with bruno neiva, and they co-authoured Servant Drone (KF&S Press 2015). www.hesterglock.net
Bruno Neiva is a Portuguese text artist and poet. His work is also featured on the PO.EX – Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Poetry and he co-runs the artist’s books and e-chapbooks faux publishing house umaestruturaassimsempudorreedições with graphic artist bárbara mesquita. www.brunoneiva.weebly.com
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Team Trident Press
is a not-for-profit publishing team that publishes and prints ‘meaningful words and images’ and is dedicated to eco-friendly printing. All publications are risosgraph, hand-made products, distributed online, locally and internationally.
Review by Sally-Shakti Willow
Sally-Shakti Willow is researching for a practice-based PhD in utopian poetics and experimental writing at the University of Westminster, where she also works as research assistant for the Contemporary Small Press. Sally’s poetry is included in the #NousSommesParis anthology from Eyewear Books; the experimental collection The Unfinished Dream by Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans was published by Sad Press in October 2016. @willowwriting