Trance Poetics Introduction

Kristin Prevallet

Hypnopoeia (Trance Poetics and Other Emergent Presents)

- introduction by Kristin Prevallet

“We don’t just do and say the same things every day, otherwise we would get bored. Some days you play a song by The Offspring on your computer. Other days you apply some blusher. And other days you pound brews. And other days you watch Blazing Saddles. And other days you watch Groundhog Day.

And after all, this really is, this really is my twenty-fifth season.”

                                                               - from “Busted” in Amazing Weapons by Marie Buck


“Trance” is one of those slippery words.

Is it a mental event poised between nebulous states of consciousness and hallucination?

Is it the opposite of rational intelligence?

Is it akin to dreams, drugs, and out of body experiences that provoke the "systematic derangement of the senses" prized by Rimbaud?

It can be, certainly.

As revolt, it evokes the unconscious upheaval of the senses and a retreat from “normal” states of consciousness into some nebulous and uncertain terrain where “the unknown” dictates forces unleashed as powers beyond nominal awareness.

But it’s so much more than this.

The trance-experiments of the Surrealists found a wide variety of altered waking and near-somnambulistic states of mind in order to generate the artwork or poem. And of course that's very interesting.

But I'd like to expand these ideas into a wider terrain. A trance-state doesn’t need to be understood as“altered.” Rather, it's a state of absorption that most of us experience in a variety of ways throughout the day as thoughts, and the emotional effects of thinking, create vibrations in our bodies causing physical reactions: see something terrifying and panic; think about what is depressing and feel your throat tighten; see someone you love and feel your heart beat a little faster.

So, the trances we fall into through our thoughts can trigger powerful emotional reactions in our bodies (and visa versa). When you think about the effects of stress on your immune system and the effects of relaxation on your heart rate, it’s clear that different states of mind effect our bodies at the cellular level, causing biochemical changes.

Milton Erikson, who introduced hypnosis as a process central to therapeutic analysis, defines trance as a “break in conscious and habitual associations so that creative learning can take place. It’s a gap in one’s habitual pattern of awareness – a critical change in the molecular structure of proteins in the brain associated with learning.”

This “gap in one’s habitual pattern of awareness” is not separate from all that movement of bodily fluids and plasma, neurotransmitters and hormones, peptides and amino acids. Not to mention the bombardment of waves and particles, neutrinos and atoms, maneuvering as they do into and around information to create the physical world.

What an interesting bundle of contradictions we humans are, spending so much of our time trying to still what is inevitably flowing, trying to fix in space and time what is inexorably in a constant state of change. As if our bodies and minds obey a different set of rules from the particles colliding, ever-moving, within it.

Emergent selves are based on process so shiftly, so ungrounded, that we have an apparent paradox between the solidity of what appears to show up and its groundlessness.

                                                                         - Francisco Varela, The Emergent Self


I’d like to say that the visual artists, writers, graphic artists, sound-artists, architects, and artists in-between genre categories who have gathered together for this folio bring together a network of intersecting forms and an attention to their individual creative process that maintains an awareness of that larger field – the one that is shifting, groundless, impermanent, and in flux. This is an awareness into which the individual body of the artist opens larger worlds in the creative moment of his/her trance.

Or, to put it another way, these artists and writers are not trying to represent the world “out there”but rather are bringing-forth a form/idea/image/world through the very process of living itself.

I met a guy at a party who said, “I’m not interested in talking about connections between art and trance. I prefer to live in the real world.”

And which world is that?

When thought of in the context of the bricolage of various worlds (cellular, immune, cognitive, social, political, emotional) any body is experiencing (enduring) at any given moment, it’s hard to imagine any world as “not” real, as not creating and recreating into and around a vast field of possible forms.

Creativity being an ongoing praxis, is a continuous trance, in which one deals with the unification of worlds, rather than fostering inclement fragments. Insights, worlds within worlds, which include not only scintillations of the conscious mind, but more importantly, its ability to both elevate and descend, thereby traversing the triple levels of the mind, the conscious, the supra-conscious, and the sub-conscious minds, creating in the process a concert of worlds.

                                                                         - From My Interior Vitae by Will Alexander


And that’s a good way to introduce this folio: A concert of worlds, emerging through individual bodies, into forms that traverse visual art, poetry, sound, and architecture.

Elaboration on an invented term: Hypnopoeia

Ezra Pound famously described poetry as the play of phanopoeia, melopoeia, and logopoeia (image, music, and meaning); but there is another “poeia,” the one more difficult to analyze because it’s simply and so obviously present.

It’s the consciousness of the observer (reader) that brings the observed form (poem) into being.

Or, it’s the body of the reader and of the writer either absorbing or repelling, understanding or rejecting, the forms created by other living bodies in a work of art.

Simultaneously, it’s what happens when a body experiences the play of image, music, and meaning as these things are present in the forms of the world, and in the forms of art. In other words, the inner process of re-associating and reorganizing, learning or unlearning, based on the information that a body is taking into its molecular design at that particular moment.

It’s the movement of the thing. Charles Olson called his process “Composition by field” and energetically described it as “get on with it, keep moving, keep in, speed, the nerves, their speed, the perceptions, theirs, the acts, the split second acts, the whole business, keep it moving as fast as you can, citizen.”

This folio isn’t a “how to” presentation that posits a dogma, or some kind of movement (aside from the movement within the work that’s already happening). It’s really more like the presenting of a common space, appearing as a nodule called “Drunken Boat” on the network of the web, in the effort to acknowledge hypnopoeia and the psychosomatic information network that connects the bodies of writers and artists to the observing bodies of readers and viewers. All that, brought together, into form (in this case folio).


Well, if only to acknowledge the movable consciousness of bodies and the forms that bodies create. Because the catastrophic future – the one we seem to be headed towards - hasn't happened yet and simultaneously, is happening all the time. And so we keep creating and imagining, not stopping moving, learning, becoming aware of ourselves as alive and therefore participants in the emerging of possible futures.

This folio is an ongoing presentation of emergences of possible forms in personal AND emotional flux, in art, consciousness, war, and the resistance to it. What Brenda Hillman calls the “ tripartite practice” of creation, observation, and activism. In life, politics, love, survival, and change (inside and out).

The vast field of possible forms as designed by Math Artist John Sims (“Cellular Forest” and “Square Root of Tree”)
Kristin Prevallet
Kristin Prevallet

Kristin Prevallet is the author of I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time, an experimental elegy designed by poet Jeff Clarke and published by Essay Press in 2007; Shadow Evidence Intelligence, a book of conceptual confrontations with the form/content rift that occurred during the Bush II years, published by Factory School in 2008; Scratch Sides: Poetry, Documentation and Image-Text Projects, a book of form/content experiments written and designed in Quark and published by Skanky Possum in 1998. She is the editor of A Helen Adam Reader (National Poetry Foundation).

Most recently her re-vision of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, called “Everywhere Here and in Brooklyn,” was published by the Belladonna Collaborative and set to music by composer Colette Alexander. Recent poetic documents that blend conceptual and collaborative forms have appeared in VLAK: Poetics and the Arts, VIZ Inter-Arts, Rhythm of Structure: Mathematics, Art, and Poetics Reflection and the anthology I'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women. A member of the Belladonna Collaborative, she works as a hypnotherapist in Manhattan.