Charles Bukowski called poetry ‘what happens when nothing else can’. But what happens when poetry can’t? Through autoethnography and poetic inquiry, this article considers visual writing and alogia, which in psychiatric discourses represents paucity of speech and language indicative of thought disorder. I write as a poet who experiences mild alogia during bipolar depressive phases. While generally manageable, depression for me often forecloses my usual word-based writing practices. Visual poetry, however, remains possible; it becomes the poetry that ‘nothing’ (depression’s void) makes happen. Connecting this phenomenon with research into writing-as-thinking, where poetry facilitates various specialist thought practices, alogia and related negative psychiatric symptoms feasibly reflect thought processes exceeding word-based communication. Such ‘disordered’ thinking may thus be recognised as activating what Keats termed negative capability: poetic reaching through uncertainty towards the un/thinkable (the not-yet-thought, but thinkable). My article supports this argument through analysis of my own and other writers’ visual poems.
Keywords: visual poetry; assemblage; agencement; negative capability; writing as thinking; the un/thinkable