Sounding signs

Donato Mancini folds musicality and time into his visual textual work, a work that is gestural, visually stimulating, performative, and participatory.

Mancini’s writing (and here I include his visual poetry which I insist is writing) aggregates, building out of recognizable typographical signs and symbols new structures on the page, structures which seem to move, which seem to speak. How am I asked to see? How am I asked to read? How am I asked to voice?

“The idea of notation implies, if not demands, performance. Virtually any form of writing is a kind of notation and any form of reading is a type of performance.” (Karl Young, "Notation and the Art of Reading") Mancini’s tending to notation, signage, a typography of meaning, alters the geography of the page into a gestural movement, tends to my throat. Reading his work, is not only visually demanding, but also orally, as my mouth is driven to sound out the work by the work’s very movement across a surface.

In one stroke of his multi-faceted project Ligature, the poem is a horizontal scroll rendering many possible readings by creating one long link of letters. In binding the letters, the poem looks linear, though has many folds. In looking at the beginning of the scroll for example, “adamenrapture…” I can read “adam enrapture” but also “ada men rapture” and also “ a dame enrapt” and so on. Our distortions wonder. We participate and perform in our reading.


In Buffet World, his most recent book, Mancini investigates relationships between industrial food production, eating, culture and the politics of language; the excess, grotesqueness and seduction of consumption through a juxtaposition of poetry and visual images.

Donato Mancini has an interdisciplinary practice involving poetry, bookworks, text-based visual art and cultural criticism. He has two books of procedural and visual writing, Ligatures (2005) and Æthel (2007), as well as a new book of visual and text works, Buffet World (2011) all from New Star Books. Mancini has exhibited collaborative visual works in Canada, the United States, Scandinavia and Cuba, and he co-directed the first in-world avatar documentary AVATARA (2003). A long time member of the Kootenay School of Writing, he lives in Vancouver.