Omitted Prose

I've just finished a manuscript called Anti M in what I'm calling 'omitted prose'. Omitted prose is when you write an entire work in continuous prose sequences – filled-up pages with paragraphs, chapters, and the like – then go through it and selectively remove a large portion (in the case of Anti M, most) of the words according to selection principles such as sound and phrasal and lexical significance. The retained words are largely kept in the same location they occupied when the other words were all around them, thus page space is activated in new ways. The prose and/or narrative architecture remains quite strongly in place even after the occlusion of the majority of supporting representational structures.

One might of course take out letters and morphemes and words in more semantically destabilizing ways, so that narrative architecture is undone. Omitted prose operates on that kind of continuum.

At dinner the other night, Rosmarie & Keith Waldrop mentioned a French female writer, whose name unfortunately escaped my recall, who carries out a similar compositional directive, ie keeping words in the same location even as she removes words around them. I don't know if that writer begins omitting from a 'prose' frame or from some other writing approach.

I'm curious to hear of other examples of omitted prose and of other terms people might have used for this compositional approach. There are of course a number of works such as radi os, where the text of another writer is occupied by a new writer who removes letters and words and retains others so as to highlight a new text from the prior one. Such works, so far as I know of them, inhabit texts that are in the public domain. That is an interesting and related topic touching on intellectual property and on notions of originality and textual integrity. At the moment I am specifically interested in hearing about writers who use omitted prose in their 'own' works.

Lisa Samuels

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