Henri Michaux Narration (excerpt) 1927

It looks like writing, but we can't quite read it.

I call works like this "asemic writing".

Asemic writing seems to be a gigantic, unexplored territory.

Asemic writing has been made by poets, writers, painters, calligraphers, children, and scribblers, all around the world. Most people make asemic writing at some time, possibly when testing a new pen.

Educators talk about children going through distinct stages of "mock letters", "pseudowriting" and so on, when they're learning to write. Many of us made asemic writing before we were able to write words.

Looking at asemic writing does something to us. Some examples have pictograms or ideograms, which suggest a meaning through their shape. Others take us for a ride along their curves. We like some, we dislike others.

They tend to have no fixed meaning. Their meaning is open. Every viewer can arrive at a personal, absolutely correct interpretation.

Asemic writing has been presented by means of books, paintings, scrolls, single pages, mailed envelopes, walls, cinema, television and computers, particularly via the internet.

Henri Michaux, who wrote the piece up above, was a poet and a writer and a painter.

If you’re curious to discover more works in this tradition of illegible writing or wordless writing, please try any of the following in your favourite search engine:

abstract calligraphy



Guy de Cointet

Concrete Poetry

controlled scribble

Jean Degottex

Mirtha Dermisache


Christian Dotremont

Jean Dubuffet dessins

earliest writing

Max Ernst Maximiliana

escrita assêmica

experimental calligraphy


Brion Gysin


illegible writing



Marvin Jordana

Kandinsky shamanism

Tom Kemp

Paul Klee

Rashid Koraichi

Kruchenykh Kruchonykh zaum

Ungno Lee letter abstracts


Mail Art

André Masson automatic drawings

Georges Mathieu

Henri Michaux alphabets narrations

Joan Miró

mock letters

Morita Shiryu

J B Murray J B Murry


scrittura asemantica

Hélène Smith Martian

Austin Osman Spare sigils

Taoist magic diagrams

Antoni TÃ pies

Mark Tobey

Cy Twombly

Vinča script

Visual Poetry

Made Wianta calligraphy period

Ulfert Wilke

Wosene Kosrof

Zhang Xu Crazy Zhang wild cursive


Written by Tim Gaze
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This is a slight edit of the previous version of, separating out Asemic magazine. For information about the magazine, please see