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Aleatory Writing: Making Works More Expressive Essay

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Updated: Nov 30th, 2021

Poetry is the result of inspiration which the writers receive from the events that take place in their life or from people who surround them, the inspiration which makes them express their thoughts and perpetuate their ideas in words. Some poets use different stylistic devices to make their works more expressive and keep to a definite type of writing to stand out, whereas the others neglect all the rules of writing verses and rely on chance, expressing those ideas which are on their minds in the moment of writing. This is often referred to as aleatory writing. The most distinctive feature of aleatory writing is randomness and certain mysteriousness which are absent from the poems of regular style. This type of writing has been often criticized and even rejected (especially by the French literature), though there still were poets who remained loyal to it. Aleatory writing was not equally beneficial for the poets; judging from the works of such poets as Erin Moure, M. Nourbese Philip, and Susan Holbrook, aleatory writing in the experimental Canadian women’s poetry was empowering to some poets and disabling for the other ones.

What should be mentioned above all is that for Erin Moure aleatory writing was without any doubts empowering. Moure saw the sense of this writing far behind the literary one. For instance, she states: “One of the things that is important to me always in poetry is just how beautiful the words are on the page. Even if someone doesn’t speak a language or understand the words, they can see how beautiful they are” (Moure 218). Moure has become interested in this type of writing when she worked as a translator and, together with a number of other factors being present in the translation process, had to deal with something aleatory in this process. Thus, though some may not find any sense in the line “The tremendum of thoracic light yellow a tree / Laughter” (Moure 226), they were valuable for the poetess for they reflected her emotional state at the moment of writing. Aleatory style of writing was empowering for Moure because she saw its value in the exposure of language which, though it had no semantic meaning, was still beautiful.

In addition, aleatory writing was no less empowering for Susan Holbrook for who the unexpectedness of aleatory poetry is the most valuable. Holbrook has chosen this type of writing due to its being different from all the others; she believes that aleatory writing adds uniqueness to her works, the uniqueness that cannot be achieved otherwise. Surprise is the most important when it comes to poems. There is no surprise in ordinary poems for everything can be predicted from their structure: “Surprise in poetic language is something else, something uncontainable, unpredictable, and the little laugh we might emit as readers is a laugh of relief … as we are released from the chug-chug of expectation” (Holbrook 45). This surprise and unexpectedness can be felt in Holbrook’s Insert which reminds of an instruction manual. Thus, by means of aleatory writing Holbrook aimed to reach the surprise in her poems which served as an expression of her most unexpected ideas.

However, this innovative type of writing seems to be disabling in case with M. Nourbese Philip, who could have attracted more attention to her works and their value if she used ordinary style of writing poems. Though Nourbese Philip emphasizes that in her works she is “breaking the language, rupturing the imperialist language, taming the language, redeploying the language” (Nourbese Philip 140), the sense of what she tried to express in her Zong! seems to get lost among the lines. In addition, such aleatory writing does not allow accessing the poem to those readers who prefer reading ordinary verses. The poem has a great historical value, the value which was lost due to the author’s idea that the story of Zong! cannot be told: “It can never be told. But by virtue of the fact that it can’t ever be told, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to tell it. We can never know it. We can never tell it. But we must” (Nourbese Phillip 138). Thus, Nourbese Phillip’s aleatory writing was disabling to her because, what she expressed in the poem with unusual organization, can be inaccessible for an average reader; the author’s talent lost in the lines of her creations.

Drawing a conclusion, it can be stated that aleatory writing, just like any other kind of writing, deserves certain attention for there are poets for who this type of writing was empowering. Aleatory writing has changed Canadian women’s poetry for it allowed female writers to express their thoughts independently and without being guided by commonly followed principles of writing poems. Erin Moure and Susan Holbrook were successful in implementing this style, while M. Nourbese Philip’s talent remained hidden between the lines because the topics which she chose to write on were too serious to be expressed in non-standard poetry.

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