ISBN 978-0-9931955-6-3. 1st edition. Paperback. 168pp. Publication date: November 2017. Equus Press: London. Price: € 12.00 (not including postage).
“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, can here only be 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 carries further what Cascella began in her previous two books, En Abîme: Listening, Reading, Writing (Zero, 2012) and F.M.R.L.: Footnotes, Mirages, Refrains and Leftovers of Writing Sound (Zero, 2015). In the former, she explored listening and reading as memory-based activities both creative and critical; the latter’s “deranged essays” operated across sonic patterns, assonance, repetitions, and complemented reading with voicing.
A synthesis of the two projects, Singed performs a transmission of knowledge in a condition of instability across languages, media and cultures. 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 poiesis conceives of text as a space of doing but also stillness, of transmission but also interference. 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?”
“Singed is a concentrated and committed effort to surrender writing to sound as well as to find her own voice once again. In short, this section embodies all that is unique about Cascella’s writing. If Singed is fragmentary, it is also dub. […] in Singed that central question at the heart of Cascella’s writing is repeated, again, but with much greater volume: how is one meant to write and speak in the wake of experiences, confrontations and events that expose us to and remind us of the abyssal root of language?”––Adam Potts, Journal of Sonic Studies
“An incredibly moving book that is more than a book; it’s song and fire, of course, but also incantation, whisper, silence, and all the echoes that amplify in silent spaces. My head is still full of its voices.” ––Rachael de Moravia
“A mesmerising soundscape in which loss & recovery make concrete incursions into the writing process. The song of fire & the burning of books is a timely evocative metaphor of the importance of dissident writing like Cascella’s in a time of populist extremism. It brought to mind Canetti’s Auto da Fé in a lyrically compressed form.” ––Louis Armand
“I read Singed in a few days […] marvelling at its precision, its extraordinary rhythm. It will add richly to my library, physical and internal, of discourses of muteness.” Time’s Flow Stemmed
“Cascella’s conjectures—what might be recovered from a site of destruction—her assemblage of a poetics from the ashes, a piecing together of fragments, stutterings, utterings, and silences feels like essential preparation for the work we might be tasked with in 2018 and beyond.” ––”Looking Back on 2017: Literature” BOMB Magazine
“The book rose out of uncertainty—including the question of if a publisher would be interested in such a text. Questions of readerships and market forces are very nearly unavoidable in this climate, which is maybe related to my desire ‘to read forever’. […This is] a book that challenges.” ––Tristan Foster, 3AM Magazine
By means of improvisatory techniques spinning outward from the eye rhyme, in which similarities in spelling promise a rhyme that is not heard as such, Cascella’s rendering plastic of words time and again compels the reader to imagine and experience her writing’s multiple potential soundings. Singed is a powerful effort to compose from the memory of a writer without a library, a writer with a library destroyed. ––David Grubbs
Polymorphous and polyphonic, Cascella takes us on a quiet, highly personal walk through an eclectic range of texts and recordings, exploring their resonances with grace, dignity and humour. ––Juliet Jacques
This is a book about lost books, lost voices, learning to speak, no, to sing; to sing again, to read and write again after fire––it begins with what is lost. Yet, there is memory, recollection, impression; there is song that precedes speech––it might be called la lalangue. Encounters––literary, artistic, religious–resonate. Cascella’s writing is precise and ardent, leading the reader through a sophisticated, moving, intricate archive. It is a book to which I listen as I read it. I hear it now. ––Sharon Kivland
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. She draws on a variety of traditions, whether Leiris, Michaux or Lispector, to make something uniquely her own, a way of writing that shimmers between narrative, memoir, criticism and sound made print. ––C.D. Rose
This is a text that could only emerge out of 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, sliding to the centre of the spell, now preoccupied not so much with the sound world but a greater domain of the unheard, unintelligible, unspeakable, always moving voice. ––From the Afterword by David Toop