Reading Together



The process of reading is linked to a deeply ingrained system that one is conditioned to perform nearly from infancy. A linear sequence of sentences, left to right, top to bottom, individually, and as a mostly passive system of intake: this is the western mode of reading. One expects to be an individual, passive receptacle for the message expressed. The reorganization of traditional systems of form, image and grammar are often what signals the difference between prose and poetry. Yet reading poetry is still often a solitary experience, or a passive output/intake from a single reader to one or many listeners. How can the recombination and re-imagination of the expected system of reading create an active relationship between reader and text? How can reading a text be an actively participatory experience? This initial experience serves to explore a possible direction, bringing to light the many difficulties and poetic possibilities of simultaneous reading.


An initial passage was broken into constituent parts (individual words paired with surrounding punctuation) and alphabetized in columns and printed on a long strip. Two readers begin at each end of the strip, reading each iteration of each word simultaneously until they meet. This process focuses on the relationship between two readers and the auditory experience of words, individually and relationally, rather than comprehension of a distinct narrative.

Original Passage

When you give a child who has been chattering, naughty, playing around, shouting, a complicated toy he becomes totally absorbed in it, he becomes very quiet, enjoying the mechanics of it. The child becomes completely concentrated, completely involved with that toy; all the mischief has been absorbed. And we have toys, toys of ideals, toys of belief, which absorb us. If you worship an image - of all the images on earth none is sacred, they are all made by man’s mind, by their thought - then we are absorbed, just as the child is absorbed in a toy, and we become extraordinarily quiet and gentle. When we see a marvelous mountain, snow capped against the blue sky and the deep shadowed valleys, that great grandeur and majesty absorb us completely; for a moment we are completely silent because its majesty takes us over, we forget ourselves. Beauty is where “you” are not. The essence of beauty is the absence of the self. (To know this) we should understand the qualitative difference between concentration and attention. Most of us know concentration. We learn at school, in college, to concentrate. The boy looks out of the window and the teacher says, “Concentrate on your book.” So we learn what it means. To concentrate implies bringing all your energy to focus on a certain point; but thought wanders away and so you have a perpetual battle between the desire to concentrate, to give all your energy to look at a page, and the mind which is wandering, and which you try to control. Whereas attention has no control, no concentration. It is complete attention, which means giving all your energy, your nerves, the capacity, the energy of the brain, your heart, everything, to attending. Probably you have never so completely attended. When you do attend so completely there is no recording and no action from memory. When you are attending the brain does not record. Whereas when you are concentrating, making an effort, you are always acting from memory like a looped recording. Understand the nature of a brain that has no need of recording except that which is necessary. It is necessary to record where you live, and the practical activities of life. But it is not necessary to record psychologically, inwardly, either the insult, or the flattery and so on. Have you ever tried it? It is probably all so new to you. When you do, the brain, the mind, is entirely free from all conditioning. We are all slaves to tradition and we think we are also totally different from each other. We are not. We all go through the same great miseries, unhappiness, shed tears, we are all human beings, not Asians, Muslims, or Russians - those are all labels without meaning. The mind must be totally free; which means that one has to stand completely alone; and we are so frightened to stand alone. It is only the silent mind, the mind that is free, that can come upon that which is beyond time. Where there is silence there is space - not from one point to another point as we usually think of it. Where there is silence there is no point but only silence. And that silence has that extraordinary energy of the universe.

Initial Recording

Alphabetized Strip