Posts Tagged ‘Corporeal Text’

Polyamorous Text

June 26, 2010

The following is my panel speech made at the SWP at Naropa University in Boulder, CO on June 23, 2010.  The Panel was named, Polyamory: The New Collaborative Writing.

A general definition for polyamory is, “participation in multiple and simultaneous loving or sexual relationships” (  If we consider polyamorous writing where there are multiple and simultaneous partners, what kind of texts are we talking about? What kinds of creative experimentation can we undertake if we want to create polyamorous content?  I’d like to briefly discuss three categories, sometimes overlapping, of such writing, namely, hybrid, polyvocal, and corporeal texts.

Playing with heterogeneous components that take part in a relationship is not something new.  We’ve already delved into written forms of polyamory via hybrid texts where the writer uses more than one mode of expression.  Fluxus artist Dick Higgins addressed such groupings when he coined the term “Intermedia” in 1966 to denote instances where artists combine incongruous elements into a single piece of art (citation).  A combination of prose, poetry, and visual art, for instance, involves three forms of text, or three collaborative partners.  So, polyamorous writing is ongoing.

The second category, polyvocal texts, also bears characteristics of multiple and simultaneous members, in this case, voices.  As an example, a friend of mine created an Exquisite Corpse-like activity in which a group of people write a sentence each, then pass the page to the right, read the previous person’s sentence and in response, draw a picture that illustrates that sentence.  They then fold the page over the original sentence, hiding the words, and leaving only the drawing exposed.  Passing the paper to the next person in the circle, each player composes a new sentence that describes the drawing above it—and so on, with sentences and drawings alternating.  This game comprises polyvocal writing where many different voices contribute to the production and performance of the piece.  More often than not, it eventually leads to drawings and sentences depicting comical and sexual acts.

Corporeal texts, the third category of polyamorous writing, involve the body and written text performing collaboratively.  I see this as a very playful and experimental category that includes any type of writing on the body and the transference of that text through a group.  To clarify, I played a game with Naropa students a few years ago where I wrote a word on a friend’s arm, a word of my own making but whose meaning had to be processed by the person on whom it was written.  This friend, after considering my word, then wrote another word on another friend’s body– this time, his abdomen.  The writing passed through several people, illustrating not only polyvocality but also collaborative corporeality.

Considering this and the previous two categories, my question for this community is how can you create more collegial written pieces that could be considered polyamorous?  I’d like to push the idea of corporeal text and the title of this panel to include not just bodies working with static texts, as in the game with my Naropa friends, but also malleable texts.  When I say malleable, in this case I mean body paint that can be rubbed off by another body.  What I’m proposing is the performance of concerted writing where members write prose or poetry on each other’s body and then transfer the text by way of physical, loving or sexual, acts; i.e. from partner to partner, where the text rubs off or smears from one person’s body to another.  What kind of text results? Are there any implications or meanings based on the interaction of the elements of such a performance?

Overall, I want to present these proposals, questions, and categories, so that we consider new forms of performing polyamorous text.

—Shiva Aliabadi