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The Library of Automatic Writing

Encyclopedia Project Vol III  L-Z,  p. 287


the table turns in my memory. using light, it aligns itself. smell of old books 

bird songs that weren’t there, the weight of my own head pressing on my shoulders 


slowly, I visualize the room around me. I open the book on automatic writing 

hold it now in the dark of the silences, closed eyes moist behind closed lids 

lungs having that pressed feeling, elbows propped on heavy dark table, heavy and floating 

the pages, most beautiful antique white, cannot be read this is the library of automatic writing 

the librarian, gone, has left three stacks of books for me at the end of the table 

the secretary who opens the door and leads me up the stairs is also missing 

what kind of spirit enters like this from her desk in Los Angeles, sitting? 

I open the novel I started last time, dark blue cover, Patience Worth* down the spine cool to the touch, I am allergic to dust, I am slipping through the hall, back down the stairs, then I am lifting myself back up to the table 

I am holding onto the table, letting it anchor my visualization, floating secretly light as a balloon. 

setting: the library of automatic writing. body heavy, mouth closed, speechless, lungs struggling. 

person 1: 

person 2: 

person 1: 

                          (he looks away)  

be invisible in the library of automatic writing, be without shoes, without clothes

be asleep in the library of automatic writing 

I love the unconscious as I love sleep, as my grandfather loved sleep, napping daily sometimes getting into bed by 8:00 p.m. for a long night of dreaming 

as my father loved sleep, writing in bed, napping daily, too, often awake to receive night or waking dreams 

the process of writing feels to me like that delicious moment before sleep 


often I let myself fall asleep while writing to consummate with my unconscious the true thinking that goes on during deep sleep, to loosen myself for the writing of the poem, to loosen my way into the library of automatic writing 

tighten myself to keep my place at the table, tighten my- self to read the page 

I can only see my own handwriting filling every book 

Gertrude Stein wrote in bed, like my father, like me. I suppose she, too, napped 

automatic writing is the superhighway to the unconscious, you have to drive fast 

sometimes my father wrote sitting in the car, waiting for my mother outside of various shops. once he was carjacked while writing in his car, at gunpoint he gathered up the pages, stepped out of the car, smiled at his assailants and said don’t worry about anything 

the library of automatic smiling where everyone is good and good to each other 

where the carjacker points the gun but doesn’t use it, waits for the author to gather up the pages of his manuscript before exiting and the insurance pays 

telos: end or purpose 

my Greek comes back to me in the library of automatic writing 

tele, from a distance, as in telepathy or television, there is one, on a stand next to the table, an anachronism in this room. they use it to show videos of remote viewing astral projections if you can believe them 

this room of 1885 filled with the books of William James, did you know he traveled the world to test the accuracy of psychic reports, and that the young Gertrude Stein was his student at Harvard Medical School, where she participated in his experiments involving automatic writing? did you know he kept in touch with her, visited her in Paris? 

to make my visualization better, I look at the room on- line, notice now the large mirror over the fireplace, notice how the wood molding has been painted white, notice the white gauze curtains covering the ceiling-to-floor windows, white to lighten, but it still feels heavy to me 

notice the heat, notice the rain, notice the weight of my body 

ring the bell, say hello, go in 

put my bag in the office, taking only pen and notebook as I must for the poem’s progress, walk upstairs 

I sit at the table as on those other days, Anita Muhl’s139 book in hand, the dark blue one published in Germany, 1930 

in California the book is canary yellow, all pages photo- copied and reprinted in America, 2010, purchased on- line from Kesinger Publishing’s Rare Mystical Reprints: thousands of scarce books on these and other subjects 

the practice of automatic writing is indeed scarce now, but there is nothing mystical about it. everything answers like clockwork to the unconscious 

answering to my clock before the alarm goes off, answer- ing to the poem, answering to the night, answering to my unconscious 

automatic writing shows loss of control of impulse and release of inhibition, messages from other parts of you, not other people 

writing nothing but peaks and valleys, writing all over writing, mirror writing quickly, writing one line forward, the next backward, whatever the unconscious wants in a way we can’t even do when conscious 

Hypnos, god of sleep, is the brother of Thanatos, god of death 

wasn’t there another brother?

William James called it the subliminal self 

I don’t think the Greeks had identified the unconscious. had the Hindus with their self and Self? 

eyes grow heavy, hypnogogic 

hypnogogic table and chairs, hypnogogic pen and paper, hypnogogic arms, hypnogogic legs, hypnogogic poems 

hypnogogic bed, hypnogogic pillow, hypnogogic blanket, hypnogogic dog, hypnogogic dream, now I’m imagining a hypnogogic backrub 

in the laboratory at the library of automatic writing they use hypnosis, biofeedback, sensory deprivation until separation occurs 

some like it completely conscious, sitting up and alert


some like it lying down, relaxed

some like it fully hypnotized

I like my separation at night 

but now I loosen my eyes on an image of the room, perceive a shift, tighten again 

loosen and it feels like my two pupils are dilating 

getting so big, too big, going away from each other


then the image splits in two 


just as my eyes reach a fully unfocused stare, my computer screen goes blank 


eyes tighten upon reflex 


I refresh the screen then close my eyes and visualize the room 


using left pinky finger to anchor my writing hand to the page, with eyes closed 


I begin to write 


the search for the unconscious is age old 


what have we found? 


messy that which is eliminated from the conscious 

unwieldy, beautiful, messy 


writing with eyes closed gives partial access 


do you organize or leave messy? 


large intervals of time envelop the page, black now in- stead of white, infinite 


Hinduism is messy, dreams are messy, this pen cutting across this paper makes letters that are messy 


leaning forward in my chair, listening, as if the unconscious can be heard 


ask it a question. okay. do you like to be under? let it answer. “no”


why would it?


why should I be over and it under? 


something is over, that is me


and then something is over that, the pathways I follow


over that, the darkness, it keeps going up 

                                                                behind me, 

a series of prepositions

pointing out subtle locations

without eyes

the body begins


arrive with umbrella, shake it off, disrobe


disembodied walk upstairs, enter the room 

The American Society for Psychical Research, 5 W. 73rd St., was established with the help of William James in 1885 when spiritualism was still strong in America. Its online site is As Pierre Janet said in the 1940’s, “Hypnosis is quite dead until the day of its resurrection.” Doors open to the researchers, we enter the time warp. I think the experimental poet trained in the use of the unconscious is the new spiritualist. 




* Anita Muhl: a psychiatrist living in San Diego at the end of an illustrious career on the East Coast who used automatic writing with her patients while they were awake in session with her and who became convinced that any kind of person, given enough tries (and never more than eleven, in her experience), can write automatically. 


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