“It starts with no story but a circular / It starts with no story but a spinning / It starts with no story but a spinning into before that is to come…” Daniela Cascella’s Singed: Muted voice-transmissions, after the fire starts not with creation, but destruction – a library ravaged by fire. What of the singed debris can be salvaged? Which of the disfigured inkblots deciphered? How much will be remembered? Re-written, re-invented, re-imagined? Singed, only to sing again?
The condition of instability permeating Cascella’s project is already conveyed by the book’s title, Singed, at once a reference to burning/singeing and a mistaken past form of “to sing.” The title thus posits writing as located at the interference of a burning and a singing, unmaking and making meaning. Writing, not foreknown or guaranteed, is here enchanted through rhythmic events: “Of hearing a rhythm in reading, a song sometime, voices sound words, wh-h mh-m maybe that is why.”
Singed performs a transmission of knowledge in a condition of instability across languages, media and cultures. As C.D. Rose has commented, “Cascella finds the grain of the voice in writing, drawing attention to words as both blunt signifiers and aetherial presences, teasing the distance between the two.” The text attempts a multilingual type of writing, not “in translation,” but in “trance-lation”: between languages, ceaselessly trancelating words, rhythms and silences in a state of otherness in motion. In Singed, Cascella presents memory as sonically associative (“Will the song’s murmur muster a mourning?”), meditating on how to undertake writing vis-à-vis silence.
“The smell of singed paper haunts me. Is this a burning, is it a song? Sing, singed.” Cascella’s radically experimental poetics conceives of text as a space of doing but also stillness, of transmission but also interference – what David Toop’s Afterword refers to as “an intensive dwelling on listening to sound, music and those inner and internalised voices that speak silently of our listening, the incantation that remains private until written or voiced.”
In Singed she writes criticism that includes silence, repetitions and dead ends; that retains mystery and the unspoken, in a language out of synch; that interrogates the very the necessity of using language: “Where does the necessity to speak and write arise from, and what are the hooks I can hold on to in the absence of records?”