April is known as National Poetry Month so naturally I shall avoid discussion of poetry this month, because I am by nature a contrarian. Most of my poetry the past few years has been limited to drabble posing as tweets on Twitter and based on the daily prompt word. Some of these are clever (and get no likes) but most are drivel (which are well-subscribed), so there is no way to know if I am advancing in my career.
However, one such poetry-related topic about which I wish to wax poetic is the Art of ASMR, an acronym which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. What is that? Well, have you every heard certain sounds or felt certain textures, sniffed a certain smell, or you have a session of close attention with medical personnel or salon workers especially up close? In those situations you may feel a tingly sensation at the back of your head, or perhaps the back of your neck and down your spine. You might even flinch. ASMR is that sensation. It has become something to which some people have become addicted and a whole industry has risen to accommodate them. I confess I'm hooked on it, and indulging in the YouTube videos of several ASMRtists (=ASMR artist, get it?) has helped me get through the past year of pandemic anxiety.
So I was minding my own business one day - the usual way things begin for me - and I was searching for a video recitation of a famous poem for my Romantic Literature class. I thought a dramatic reading would pique my students' interest in John Keats' poem "La Belle Dame sans Mercy" (click title to see video). I found such a reading, but I wondered why the speaker's voice was so low. It was relaxing and I found myself about to nod off into nap land while listening to it. I did not feel any "tingles" as the ASMR aficionado likes to say. But I returned to that video several more times just to relax; indeed, the voice was so low that I had to focus to make out the words. I realized that I had already encountered ASMR-type sources, such as the soft voice of Bob Ross as he paints or the steady tintinnabulation of rain.
And as YouTube is wont to do, other videos were recommended to me: videos that were distinctly labeled as ASMR. Literally an endless supply! So I dove right in. I got the main idea quickly enough: to listen to or view activities which are designed to induce "tingles" - but I more often than not simply felt my body relax as I viewed slow movement from the artist's hands or various objects close to the camera and/or listened to the artist's soft voice or a plethora of sounds from everyday objects. Sometimes the artist would role play and I would feel less relaxed but just as entertained. It was as though individuals were creating short videos just for the entertainment or "therapeutic" use by anonymous strangers . . . for the artist's own enjoyment. (Note: I must put quotes around "therapeutic" because we and they are not doctors and cannot claim the video is any kind of treatment for any disorder; otherwise, YouTube takes the video down.)
So I have by now gone through the complete catalogue many times. I have not quite found exactly what produces "tingles" for me, but perhaps that is not the point. Relaxation is the point. However, some of the role play videos are stimulating rather than relaxing. They can be rather sensual. ASMR videos of odd sounds may be irritating to me rather than cause tingles. The most popular seem to be the "cranial nerve exam" in which a medical person examines the patient's five senses using various tests. Also popular are videos in a spa setting, which may include the hair salon or barbershop or they may be almost like a tutorial of hair care or make-up application. A lot of cosplay videos, too (=costume role playing, e.g., dressing up as an anime character). Sometimes massage videos cross over into ASMR. One soft voice artist I found a while ago has recently switched to doing close-up cooking/baking videos where the minute sounds of cracking eggs or crunching cookies is tingle-inducing (click to see video).
I have found that what comes closest to making me feel tingles are accents. The soft voice is good but if the artist speaks with an accent (real or in acting), I just might feel the tell-tale tingle traipsing down to my tailbone. Being an English teacher/professor/know-it-all and trained in linguistics, perhaps that is where my affectation by accented English originates. There are artists creating around the world so there is no shortage of accented soft voices - which may be used in role plays or other types of videos such as brushing hair or tapping on ceramics while speaking softly. I also studied music in college so having some gentle music in the background, like what you might hear during a massage or yoga/meditation/reiki video, is also good for my tingles. By the way, my Russian is improving.
Well, I suppose I touched on poetry in a tangential manner, after all. Like a lot of things, one tends to believe everyone knows about it already but in this case, I wanted to introduce this strange obsession many of us have to those who do not yet have this desire for tingles or to relax. I usually watch a video or two just before going to sleep, selecting it by the artist or the topic. I am constantly discovering new ASMRtists even as my interest in those who once were my favorites drifts away (although I occasionally return to them). Perhaps you could make use of this art form, too. Perhaps, like many artists have stated, you could move from being a fan of ASMR to being a creator of ASMR. Many artists have moved to pay sites and make it their main or sole source of income. Anything is possible in the amazing world of ASMR.
But I warn you: many, many hours could be lost in an ocean of tingles if you are not careful.
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