Asemic Writing and Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia

Those involved in asemic writing and especially asemic-visual poetry hybrids have likely noted the use of color associated with asemic symbols and constructs. The effect of “reading” one of these colorful asemic texts essentially creates a state of synaesthesia for the reader, the well-known mixing of perceptions. (For instance, being able to see music is a frequently reported synaesthetic phenomenon.)

Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia is a specific, documented condition where the reader sees individual words and numerals in different colors. The condition has been studied (see link) and specifics words are associated with specific colors and thus repeat in patterns.

These colors are possibly triggered by memories and emotional associations. Thus, both an individual experiencing Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia as well as an asemic text using color are essentially “reading” color constructs. The experience is deeply subjective and can also be deeply fulfilling and fascinating. On some level, the reader is also connected to the author of the asemic text.

This is not a process of ordinary “reading,” but it is an experience rooted in language and interaction with a text. The asemic text draws on the uniquely human capacity for language but it is also a new kind of “reading” that transcends the limitations of traditional signification and offers possibilities for new kinds of understanding, communication and experience.

References to Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia are frequently noted in the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. This fascination along with an emphasis on imagery among Rimbaud and the Symbolists had a powerful impact on Modernism and likely set the stage more than a century ago for the current asemic movement.


Click to access patsyncortex.pdf

( Link = Dixon, Mike J., et al. “The role of meaning in grapheme-colour synaesthesia.” Cortex 42.2 (2006): 243-252. )





Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O—vowels,
Some day I will open your silent pregnancies:
A, black belt, hairy with bursting flies,
Bumbling and buzzing over stinking cruelties.

Pits of night; E, candor of sand and pavilions,
High glacial spears, white kings, trembling Queen-Anne’s lace;
I, bloody spittle, laughter dribbling from a face
In wild denial or in anger, vermilions;

U,…divine movement of viridian seas,
Peace of pastures animal-strewn, peace of calm lines
Drawn on foreheads worn with heavy alchemies;

O, supreme Trumpet, harsh with strange stridencies,
Silences traced in angels and astral designs:
O…OMEGA…the violet light of His Eyes!

Arthur Rimbaud (1871) (Trans. Schmidt & Bauer)




One thought on “Asemic Writing and Grapheme Colour Synaesthesia”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s