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left: Snejanka Mihaylova, Acoustic Thought; right: Jen/Eleana Hofer, residues of Unremembering

At the limit of breath, at the limit of thought, limit of voice, limit of language. A writing tone (a voice speaking in the page) inaugurates a space, it could not be written otherwise otherwise it would not be heard, it moves, moves me. How to follow? Where to begin, where to lodge more writing? I hear a voice whose form holds the ultimate meaning that such form manifests. Manifests means that something else is not manifested, stays concealed: faint persistent undertones run through this voice and need different words, another tune, hearing-in-reading. In a similar manner, certain foundational texts never fully emerge in writing, but support invisibly its structure, with forces made of air, of breath, of mood.

Snejanka experienced eternity singing in the specific forms of a vocal liturgy. The answer to the question ‘where to begin?’ points inward, hearing in stillness, sympathy, attunement, where articulation is found and founded in correspondences with voices and beings who own the same ritual. It is not merely intellectual, it is heard, written, and sung in the movements of pages and pages of tenebrae so that light may be reached. There is no dogmatic prescription on how voice should be, but a finding and reinstating that each voice is: being and breathing, in presence and practice, in form and in excess of form.

The question that follows ‘where to begin?’ is not ‘what can I say?’ but ‘how can I arrange and transmit what I hear, in Snejanka’s words, as it appears to correspond with my hearing-in-reading?’. It might make me silent at times, yet more writing forms, holds what words do and don’t do, does not scream.

Mary Butts wrote of encountering sometimes ‘the presentiment of ourselves […]. Not a perception so much as a series of events noted, a hint of rules’. She continued: ‘The time comes – one speaks what is in one’s heart – formulates it – to the right mind […] there are other doors […]. Yet why am I convinced that I shall get this clear in the right time – words, a sudden shifting & clearing’. How to transfer these qualities – the quiet, the entangled, the radiant, the shifting, the clearing – into language? Sometimes texts sing.

Eternity is conveyed in song and so is presence. In the mystic rhetoric of inversion, I hear absence declared: proving being by naming and repeating all that being is not, overloading the page to the point when it empties. The apophatic nature of this form of writing exposes what cannot be said, and it says it; the via negativa invites to walk on the edges of a psychic-phonic material, to touch the inner lining which supports its not. To hold one note, so that it may resonate with its inner knot.

I think of hesychia—the ancient practice allowing to gain presence through coordinated repetitions of prayer and breathing, repeat, repeat, and repeat until it is no longer I who prays and breathes but heart, muscles, breath. Knowing is honed by staying exactly where one is, through a deepening. I have heard this before. I think of correspondence as congruence, mutual adaptation to varied rhythms, connection, letter-writing, keeping in touch with, receiving messages from, even from what was before, remote, or unremembered. Now I read my words haunted by another’s, which I am reluctant to evaluate but want to inhabit. I think of a writing which might sing with the other’s writing, not comment on it, not think, but sing, because something was written already, in the private site of correspondence, in a language that may be simple, simplistic, sentimental, and it is sensed, and sings, with a friend whom I encounter again in their prose, openly, or in a wink of the eye, and when they look at me I smile, and when they turn I darken, and when they write I am enchanted, and as they write I sing.

18 February 2022
Dear Jen,
I love your work. It’s deeply touching, and the way the refrain of time connects the amount of time held in each page is profound. The stitches and various formations, the way in which an imagined form of storytelling morphs into a rhythmic shape where rhythm does not imply being in sync all the time, but welcomes slight interference and metamorphosis—and then, what is record, what is return? Norma watches, from the bottom of the page… The cadence I perceive is one of cyclical density and dissolving, density and dissolving, which stays in the mind and body and reverberates after reading.
I could hear your voice reading through this, your delivery, maybe in a more hushed register.

28 March 2022
Dear Jen,
How do we know when a work is finished? The more I struggle with this question myself, the more I become reluctant to think of ‘finished’ as an entity that dictates how we are in the world, in this complex world in which to write is one, only one and an important one, of so many facets. In the flow of a form of writing which refuses to be held completely and in turn holds a body that longs to be held, how to even consider ‘finished’? Flourished perhaps might be an alternative term, then faded, only to flourish again. Flown? Flowed. ‘Has this text flowed, flourished?’ rather than ‘Is it finished?’. ‘How does it fade?’
As ever with your work you send shivers. … You say it is difficult to write. Yet you wrote. You make me shiver. And these fragile yet so strong words of yours, that flowed through your hands and into this email, are to me much, much more important than any claims of accomplishment. Because it is not never only words, it is how you see the world and are in the world, what you transmit, which in turn, because you are writing to me, is never ‘finished’.

3 June 2022
Dear Jen,
What is there to say? I’ve just finished reading your text, and I’m in tears—of empathy, of loss, of the strange fullness which poetry brings about in spite of all—mixed together and melting me down. Thank you so much for offering such profound work to my project. This is a milestone for me. To be able to publish your words.

It is not too long, it is what it needs to be.



To be able to publish their words.

We carry with us the wonders we seek without us.

(Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, heard in Dag Hammaskjöld’s Markings).


Daniela Cascella is the editor of A Year of Carte Blanche and Other Chimeras at MAP. Her books articulate tensions and points of contact between the literary and the sonic: Nothing As We Need It (Punctum Books / Risking Education, forthcoming 2022), Chimeras: A Deranged Essay, An Imaginary Conversation, A Transcelation (Sublunary Editions, forthcoming 2022), Singed. Muted Voice-Transmissions, After The Fire (Equus Press, 2017), F.M.R.L. Footnotes, Mirages, Refrains and Leftovers of Writing Sound (Zer0 Books, 2015), En Abîme: Listening, Reading, Writing. An Archival Fiction (Zer0 Books, 2012).


Voices Heard in Reading
Snejanka Mihaylova, ‘On Repentance’, MAP Magazine, 6 July 2022
Snejanka Mihaylova, ‘Acoustic Thought’, Amsterdam: If I Can’t Dance…. and The Last Books, 2015
Cristina Campo, Gli imperdonabili, Milano: Adelphi, 1987
The Journals of Mary Butts, ed. by Nathalie Blondel, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, Kindle edition, 2002
I mistici, ed. by Elémire Zolla, ed., I mistici dell’Occidente, new revised edition, 2 vols, Milano: Adelphi, 2010 (1963)
Jen/Eleana Hofer, ‘Unremembering’, ‘Unremembering’, ‘Unremembering’, MAP Magazine, 24 February, 31 March, 7 July 2022
Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, trans. by W.H. Auden and Leif Sjöberg, London: Faber & Faber, 1964 (1963)