Brion Gysin’s permutation poem “I Am That I Am”

Beat Literature and the World

Similar to the cut-up videos and Dylan permutation-play recently posted, this video of schizophrenic existentialism pairs one of Brion Gysin’s permutation poems with a “videopoem” by Alex Itin.

“Closely related to the principle of the cut-up, where the intended coherence of a text is interrupted and rearranged, the permutation involves a more mathematical variation of the concept as exercised on a short phrase. Concurrent with his exploration of the cut-up, Gysin discovered the permutation upon seeing in print the Divine Tautology, “I am that I am,” while reading Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. In my 1980s interview, he elaborated: “I saw the phrase on paper and I though, ‘Ah, it looks a bit like the front of a Greek temple,’ only on the condition that I put the biggest word in the middle. So, I’ll just change those others around, ‘am I,’ in the corner of the architrave…

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