Uut Poetry

Uut Poetry

Uut (n.): an infectious strain of contemporary American surrealism; a practitioner of Uut poetics; a cloven-hoofed quadruped with nautical antlers.

More about Uut.

Posts tagged projects

53 posts tagged projects

Love Poem Project

Over the past few years I’ve gotten quite a few folks asking me to look at their poems and give some advise. And while I have hidden behind the excuse of my dissertation, the truth is that I couldn’t see a way “in” to these requests—partly my proclivities are so different from the poetic mainstream that I just want to see most amateur poets throw everything away and start from scratch. But then I feel like I’m ruining their love for poetry writing.

So here’s an idea. Instead of mentoring tumblr poets individually, I’d like to take a crack at giving you the tools to do some self-directed training. These will mostly be in the form of poetry projects, which have worked well for the Tumblr environment.

So here’s your first challenge, in honor of Valentines Day: transform a cliched love poem into a surreal love poem.

Uut poetry is the antithesis of sentimental love poetry and individualistic angst. I still get a lot of these kinds of poems in my inbox, and my guess is that these submissions are coming from new poets who think they are really stretching themselves to be “wierd.” But it’s not weird enough—it’s not charged by contradictory images and startling incongruity. It’s still centered on a persona whose emotions are the point of the poem.

Let’s try an experimental project that arbitrarily and artificially wrenches you out of this dependence on expression.

  1. Find a poem you’ve written recently about love, sex, friendship, your anxiety about x, your pain. If you don’t write poems like that (go you!) find a love poem on the Tumblr hashtag.
  2. Underline all of the nouns and verbs with the following exceptions: Pronouns (I, you, my, your, me)
    - Any to be verbs (are, is, were, was, to be, being)
    - Any really unusual or interesting verbs
  3. Underline any adjectives that sound especially cliche: “pathetic, whiny, sad, painful, etc”
  4. Chuck sentences that have too few replaceable words, such as “I don’t want any of it, / and I sure as hell / don’t want to write about it.”
  5. Use a seed text or one of these random word generators to replace to underlined words with words of the same part of speech.
For example, take the following heartfelt but boring poem by @vucked:

Now, here is my rewrite:

There’s an apartment in my giblet
that has been enlarged
by you.
and a splinter in my skull
that intertwines our gunk.
Please motorize
because you are my jumpiness
and I am exonerated.
Better. But it still needs something. So here are some additives to play with if desired:
  • insert a simile (“like” and “as” phrases) at the end of a sentence
  • insert a “jump cut” sentence that describes something that’s happening at the same time but in a different place, a totally disconnected event
  • insert an extra adjective before one of the nouns you have replaced
For example, to add a little flavor to the poem above, I generated at random a simile, “like a defrauded flea / conversing with firebombs” and added it to the end of the poem. Let’s take another example. Here’s a poem (actually just the first few stanzas) posted on @drunkology:
“If I write about my heart one more time,
I swear I’m peeling off my skin, breaking open my rib cage
and using my bones as a baseball bat to hit
my rusted heart across the universe.
I don’t want it anymore
whatever it is.

This heart. These words. This world.
How pathetic and whiny my voice sounds
even to me. I don’t want it.
I don’t want any of it,

and I sure as hell
don’t want to write about it.”

My rewrite includes an extra adjective, excision of lines 5-6 and the final stanza entirely, and ends with a new jump cut sentence:
If I gather my pirouettes one more time,
I swear I’m peeling off my white zither, breaking open my datum
and using my thread as a narcosis to blast
my rusted email across the universe.

This dibble. These granddaughters. This lettuce.
How cuddly and hallucinatory my mouthpiece sounds
even to me.
In Parisian louvres, mice are listening to bugles approvingly.

This example doesn’t have any second person pronouns (you, your), but my theory is that poems rewritten along these lines that contain a higher degree of first and second person pronouns will sound just as erotic and romantic as the cliche expressive version. Help me test this hypothesis out—and start your journey into non-expressive, chance-based writing, by trying this project and submitting the results. When you submit, please include a link to the original poem or paste it below your new version.

what3words Project

In projects like “Metaphor-a-minute” and “half and half,” language is the trigger for irrational thought. It is also the entire trick of microdreams. In a similar vein, this automatic writing exercise comes courtesy of a brilliant web/iOs location app called what3words. Go to the app and you’ll see instantaneously what the point is—and its great potential for generating word phrases that can be exploited heuristically.

Instructions:

  1. Go to the app and drop the pin wherever your heart pleases. If on your iPhone, you could use your current location for kicks. The corresponding three-word phrase is your poem’s title and seed text.
  2. Write automatically for a few minutes without interruption. The form should be either a short prose poem or a poem of about 10-25 lines.

Aspects of the phrase to consider before and during writing—

  • the context in which the three terms could be found—i.e., the context or situation the three words implies or suggests
  • the larger associational evocations of the phrase: “navy nasal” to me sounds like British imperialism, and thus I subconsciously began my poem with “mammal tusks,” because of something vagely postcolonian, Marlowian and jungle-ish. This “chronotope” or narrative context carried the poem’s first several lines, in fact.
  • the phrase as a syntactic unit with its distributive properties—i.e., what does the phrase say or imagine as as a phrase? This takes the arrangement of the words into consideration. Usually the terms will unfold sequentially in a relation of modification, such that the first term modifies or is predicated on the second, and the first and second words as a sub-unit together modify the third. So “lobby navy nasal” is a phrase describing a “nasal” that belongs to a “lobby navy.”
  • after you hit a lag, push through by thinking associationally about each term independently. Somehow I got “eagle’s perfume” by thinking about “nasal,” and I got “sawdust” when I thought about “navy,” thus my final sentence: “The eagle’s perfume is / a whisper of sawdust.”

Additionally, one could incorporate unique geolocational dimension of what3words by including the location associated with the three words. For instance, “lobby navy nasal" is a on a residential block near St. Alban’s Community Living Center on the outskirts of Queens, New York. I did not do anything with that in my poem, but I could have introduced old people/Queens associations as further fodder for my writing.

As always, submissions welcome. No image required for this one.

What3words poems here.

Instaroulette Project

Today we begin a series of projects focused on automatic writing.

The first project is called Instaroulette. Go to instaroulette.net and write a short prose poem based on the instagram photo that appears. Gaze at the photo for several seconds or a full minute before beginning to write. Write automatically, whatever comes to your mind. You may describe the photo in visual terms, but do not describe literally or proceed with a systematic description. Aim rather a discursive journey of abstractions and impressions rendered with the photo as a starting point. Other tips:

  • What happens immediately before or immediately after this photo was taken?
  • What is happening in the next room or beyond the frame of the photo?
  • Do not continue to look at the photo after you’ve begun writing. Set it aside or hide the tab.
  • Follow the basic rules and intuitions of automatic writing: Do not revise. Keep writing (free write). Allow the mind to generate irrational images.
  • If at some point a narrative takes over, let it, but do not be controlled by it.
  • Light revisions allowed.
  • After writing, look at the image once again and quickly write a longish title. Alternatively, save the instagram’s url for later and refresh the page, then write a longish title based on the next image you get.

Examples.

Submit your prose poems along with the instagram photo it is based on.

Someone with antiquated evangelism methods left this tract in my mailbox the other day. It’s actually a horribly written, predictably naive, 380 page account of church history and speculations about the apocalypse. 

I’m doing the only thing one can do with such drivel—turn it into poetry. Today’s poems feature this “book” as the source text.

Someone with antiquated evangelism methods left this tract in my mailbox the other day. It’s actually a horribly written, predictably naive, 380 page account of church history and speculations about the apocalypse.

I’m doing the only thing one can do with such drivel—turn it into poetry. Today’s poems feature this “book” as the source text.

Surreal Image Contest

What is the craziest, most twisted, multi-layered monstrosity of a surreal image you can (im)possibly imagine or have ever read?

Find it, or write it, and submit. Winner gets a prize to be named later. :-p

Guidelines:

  • One sentence or phrase, grammatically correct.
  • Preferably a simple or complex sentence structure, not compound (one main clause, with subordinate clauses, not multiple main clauses).
  • Adjectives and adverbs and obscure words are your friends.
  • Paraphoric structures, where one context is framed inside another context, which is framed inside another context, is usually a good way to get insanely surreal effects going. (E.g. “The dog that lives inside the left lung of my pet parrot, which was born from the harmonics of the soundtrack to the third level of Super Mario Brothers…)

Examples:

  • "I take a benjamin and give it to a pair of sickly gloves, / whose mewling palms are the ‘you are here’ / treasure maps of the universe." -Deadpan Poetry
  • "an infinitely small, opulent swan, / ornamented with perforations / glides through the zeroth dimension / exhibiting no width, height, or length" -Chromeopoetry
  • "Fake grand masters / are building empty cathedrals / for the the death dances of gaping rose windows." -Bernard Bador
  • "Blue negroes on the verge of a true foreignness / escape nevertheless the chromaticism of occidental death / by traffic" -Frank O’Hara

Martian Poetry Project

a collaboration with Zjoot

Martian Poetry or Martianism is a minor British poetry movement from the 70s developed by Craig Raine, with ties to surrealism and experimental poetry. According to Dr. Wiki, “Through the heavy use of curious, exotic and humorous visual metaphors, Martian Poetry aimed to break the grip of ‘the familiar’, by describing ordinary things in unfamiliar ways, as though, for example, through the eyes of a Martian.” The most common example of Martian poetry is Raine’s "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home."

Here’s how to write your own Martian poem.

Start by picking an object. It will be the subject of your poem. Do not refer to the object by its actual name but by a figural abstraction, nickname, or the name of a specific subtype or species of the object. In Raine’s poem, he calls books “Caxtons.” Similarly, you could refer to hats as “Stetsons,” coffee as “Sumatra” and so on. Your description should deliberately avoid common identifying qualities of the object. Defamiliarized it. Vascilate between phemenological and figurative language. As in the opening lines from Raine’s poem:

mechanical birds with many wings
perch on the hand
cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain

With all this in mind, draft a poem along the following lines.

Stanza 1. Description

  1. Define the object. The definition should be abstract, obscure, figural.
  2. Describe what happens to that object when it interacts with your hands.
  3. Describe its mechanical motion.
  4. Describe its purpose. “A [object] is something used to/for __________.”

Stanza 2. Now you are going to do things with this object.

  1. I take the [object] and give it to [person/animal/etc…], [relative clause describing, in a surreal image, the person/animal etc.]. “I take the corkscrew and give it to the ape, whose arm becomes two-hundred emeralds.” “I take the nine-iron and give it to my elbow, where grows a garden of mistiest zen.”

  2. The object is different in different places. Write something along the lines of the following: “Where I’m from, [the object] __________. Where you’re from, [the object] _________________.” The images are related topically. One is surreal and one is mundane/normal. “Where I’m from, only trees experience love and the rain ties them in knots. Where you’re from, trees do not even talk.”

  3. Insert a transitional phrase followed by a description of a profound interaction between you (the speaker) and/or “you” (the reader) and the object. “After all this, I go cliff diving with the horseshoe into the bluest water I have ever seen and neither of us ever emerge.”

  4. Describe your surroundings/a person/etc when you interacted with the object two steps earlier.

Stanza 3. Other/obsolete uses.

  1. Begin “The [object’s] other purpose is….” and continue with a quote from a seed text of your choice. “The soup of the day is first paint a cage with an open door." Alternatives: "The [object’s] brother is…" "The [object’s] worse best/worst quality is…" "The [object] is…"

  2. Punch the previous line into Google and find a line from the list of results.

  3. "When [the object] encounters [or "is mixed with" or "is combined with"] a [randomly generated concrete noun or noun phrase], it [surreal image]."

  4. Finish by describing the “secret life” or the “true nature” of the object. For example, Raine finishes his description of the book,

At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves —
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

As always, post and/or submit your results here. Eat Mars bars.

Uut’s Martian poems
Zjoot’s Martian poems

Automatic Listening project

Automatism + receptive writing = cross the wires of Surrealism and Language poetry. The phrase comes from Bob Perelman:

One of us would read from whatever books were handy and two of us would type. These roles would rotate; occasionally, there would be two readers reading simultaneously to one typist. The reader would switch books whenever he felt like it, and jump around within whatever book was open at the time….This was not automatic writing; automatic listening would be more like it. There was no question of keeping up with the stream of spoken words; one could attempt to attend to them or not.

But the technique has been perfected independently by Clark Coolidge. From one of his works using this technique:

You reach the neck, then the sand house, then high waves occulting. The last land, a mile Atlantic, the pick sound. Totals a name list long’s the Mississippi. A light, then Tennessee. Pumpkins in collapse. And what, the name of those stone fir downtowns. Cross X by a drug stop, a fencer stalling, a crypt by the sound. A laze in pecking opens. Fields, the label on a can itself.

Guidelines:

  • Play a talk source or two: the radio, a podcast, an audiobook, movie, TV or other media with constant talking or reading. Coolidge does one, Perelman and co. did two.
  • Type out words and phrases as you hear them, but let the stream of words slide by and bring you other words/phrases to finish the phrases/sentences you are typing. Freely change syntax or introduce your own words in order to form grammatical or semi-grammatical phrases. For example, in my first session doing this, I heard this:

Boston pitching is seeing cracks. The Red Sox have absorbed so much damage to their pitching staff this year… I think the Orioles are getting him and getting some protection… Over on the other side, the Brewers are only done if they can’t find someone else to make a deal with, right? I think that they’re going to work it, because there is such a weak relief market and there’s so few options…

and I wrote this:

The fact that they are Boston cracks,
absorbing a staff of pens. At some point the orioles
are getting protection to change a part of guy.
We think brewers are a market of weak relief.

  • As you write, lightly filter the stream so that Pronouns are distributed lightly and minimally in your writing. A good trick is “mishear” a Pronoun. E.g., in my poem, a sentence about baseball containing terms like “the AL” and “Trout” become “The AOL version of a trout.”

Bonus points: I like what Coolidge has done by using antimeria—the substitution of one part of speech for another. He makes nouns into the place of verbs and adjectives: “He that had bearded the lynx in the eye,” “I snack my head back down by the / crane lake,” “an intrusion sky.”

  • Do this for 5-10 minutes. The first time through, you’ll probably throw away the first few sentences you write, as I found it take a few second to get in the flow.
  • Don’t stop or pause the talk sources.
  • When you’ve had enough, turn off the talk sources and do one light pass through for revisions/typos. Lineate if desired.

Example 1
Example 2

Of course, please submit your poems!

That’s a Good Question

An experiment in automatic listening.

"One of us would read from whatever books were handy and two of us would type. These roles would rotate; occasionally, there would be two readers reading simultaneously to one typist. The reader would switch books whenever he felt like it, and jump around within whatever 
book was open at the time….This was not automatic writing; automatic listening would be more like it. There was no question of keeping up with the stream of spoken words; one could attempt to attend to them or not."

—Bob Perelman, The Marginalization of Poetry

The lesser lats exactly a mound
even when you know what is better.
Exactly what might be seen
at the start of the shoulder’s question
that we have no answers for.
That’s how I feel: 3 weeks closer than
a coin I do not have. This is how the arbitrary
is saved from the ridiculous.
The most places that’s ever been two pens.
Subconsciously you prefer
a lucky side. Deep psychology cry.
All that sets up a trick of opinion.

Back from the hand, I would say.
We point somebody wavering a willing chance.
Tomorrow a hill with knees and currents.
Radial nerves are trapped in the not likely worked through
shutting. I’m taking off the never struggle shoulders.
A straw boy combination we talk many times about.
It seems like these guys deal combos with backs
and changes of mind. The heck with a brick.
We might even have a bunch of Byron.
The fan of multiples lost a Hudson bay.
Not bull for very long especially if you think
the wire of lacking is placing the wow of out there.
Further and further behind we settle down on
your endorsement of kryptonite offerings.
Maybe a fake weasel curse.

seed text: Fantasy Focus podast, July 25, by ESPN
art by —||—

That’s a Good Question


An experiment in automatic listening.

"One of us would read from whatever books were handy and two of us would type. These roles would rotate; occasionally, there would be two readers reading simultaneously to one typist. The reader would switch books whenever he felt like it, and jump around within whatever book was open at the time….This was not automatic writing; automatic listening would be more like it. There was no question of keeping up with the stream of spoken words; one could attempt to attend to them or not."

—Bob Perelman, The Marginalization of Poetry

The lesser lats exactly a mound
even when you know what is better.
Exactly what might be seen
at the start of the shoulder’s question
that we have no answers for.
That’s how I feel: 3 weeks closer than
a coin I do not have. This is how the arbitrary
is saved from the ridiculous.
The most places that’s ever been two pens.
Subconsciously you prefer
a lucky side. Deep psychology cry.
All that sets up a trick of opinion.

Back from the hand, I would say.
We point somebody wavering a willing chance.
Tomorrow a hill with knees and currents.
Radial nerves are trapped in the not likely worked through
shutting. I’m taking off the never struggle shoulders.
A straw boy combination we talk many times about.
It seems like these guys deal combos with backs
and changes of mind. The heck with a brick.
We might even have a bunch of Byron.
The fan of multiples lost a Hudson bay.
Not bull for very long especially if you think
the wire of lacking is placing the wow of out there.
Further and further behind we settle down on
your endorsement of kryptonite offerings.
Maybe a fake weasel curse.


seed text: Fantasy Focus podast, July 25, by ESPN
art by —||—

Instructions for the Zapruder, Mirov & Schomburg Project

Given how many different things are going on with these three writers, I wanted to generate something more open and flexible, so I’ve broken up these steps into sections, with the middle section having a looser structure and more options. Reminder/caveat: the value of these projects is purely hueristic; if you are a beginning writer or if this type of style of writing is unfamiliar, surrender yourself to the instructions and see what happens, be a machine. But if you are confident, go with your intuition, strike out into your territory. Also, do your prep work by reading this, this and this.

Opening Section (~3 sentences):

Start with a Mirov opener. “I ____________.” The blank is a something you did (or do) or thought (or think). You can think about something strange you did or thought recently or you could write “(I) imagine(d) I/you am/are a _______,” filling in the blank with either a random noun or something that you really did/said/saw today.
Write a “tunnel” or “ladder” sentence that wanders from something real/concrete to something abstract/unreal: “A real rabbit made from paper made from imaginary snow.” Connect to the previous sentence through a pronoun or by repeating one of the nouns. If you need help, grab another random noun and think about what it would be like if that noun were an omnipotent Platonic Form. Example, random word: pastry. Thought process: pastryness sounds like a giant sugary pinkness, cotton-like but also migraine-inducing (that’s where my mind goes). Result: I connect whatever I was talking about in my first sentence to a vague description of this “Pastry-ness.”  
Zapruder sinewy syntax: Now write a sentence that begins with a qualifying or subjectivizing phrase like

"I sometimes think that…"
"There is/are _______ that…"
"It seems like…"
"I feel like…"
"I thought that…"
"How is it that…"
"Between you and me…"
"I would like you to know that.."
"Do you remember how…?"

then moves into a perpection-filtering or qualifying expression:

"I have never truly seen…"
"what appears to be…"
”___ might try to…”
"if _____ wasn’t so…"
"I admire when…"
"if it should so happen that…"
then continue with a somewhat fantastical idea/statement/phrase, and then…
Add a subordinating conjunction and a phrase that includes a reference to a random place (use the city/town generator, feel free to toggle the country and other place settings).

-

Middle section (2-3 sentences):

Pick two or more of the following.

Zapruder shift: summarize something you saw, watched or read and switch from past to present tense, so it sounds like you/I are suddenly “in” the story
Zapruder juxtaposition: a longish, complex sentence that starts with one thing and ends with a wildly different thing, written in an explanatory tone
Schomburgian phenomenology: describe something completely fantastical as if you saw it or experienced it plain as day—give a couple details and simple explanations by employing simple present of past tense
Mirov name-dropping: give something or someone you just refered to an arbitrary (real or fantastical) name, like Robert Frost.
Mirov self-reference: refer to yourself by name, in the third-person
Schomburgian contradiction: make a statement, then write another sentence that flatly contradicts it or makes it absurd/impossible. “I stood on the table. The table was not there.”.
This middle section should make at least one reference to a plant or animal. Use these animal and plant name generators:

-

End section:

Write a few simple sentences in the simple present tense: “I pet a moth as big as a baby.” “I remove the duct tape from my naked body.” Interlock these sentences by using the same noun/pronoun in each. Use the random adj-noun generator for inspiration. At this point you should be developing idea totally different from the one you started with. 
Write a sentence modeled after this one: “A kind of peacefulness into me carefully moves, like a…,” replacing each content word (noun, verb, adj.) using improvisation and/or chance methods.
End with one of the following:

another “tunnel” sentence, moving from concrete to abstract or abstract to concrete
write a self-aware, emo sentence using the first and/or second person, and a grand statement-metaphor about the universe: “You were born to feel a way you don’t have a word for.” “The world is black, and you are in its mouth.”
partially contradict or qualify what you said in the previous sentence with a phrase-sentence, “Or…” “Actually…” “But…” 

Wrap up:

Give it a long, awesome title by quoting a pithy, odd phrase from a poem you love. (Recently I’ve just been using phrases from Frank O’Hara and/or Kierkegaard.)
Lineate and revise as desired.
Submit your poem(s) to me, and I’ll post the good ones. 
Example poem.

Instructions for the Zapruder, Mirov & Schomburg Project

Given how many different things are going on with these three writers, I wanted to generate something more open and flexible, so I’ve broken up these steps into sections, with the middle section having a looser structure and more options. Reminder/caveat: the value of these projects is purely hueristic; if you are a beginning writer or if this type of style of writing is unfamiliar, surrender yourself to the instructions and see what happens, be a machine. But if you are confident, go with your intuition, strike out into your territory. Also, do your prep work by reading this, this and this.

Opening Section (~3 sentences):

  1. Start with a Mirov opener. “I ____________.” The blank is a something you did (or do) or thought (or think). You can think about something strange you did or thought recently or you could write “(I) imagine(d) I/you am/are a _______,” filling in the blank with either a random noun or something that you really did/said/saw today.
  2. Write a “tunnel” or “ladder” sentence that wanders from something real/concrete to something abstract/unreal: “A real rabbit made from paper made from imaginary snow.” Connect to the previous sentence through a pronoun or by repeating one of the nouns. If you need help, grab another random noun and think about what it would be like if that noun were an omnipotent Platonic Form. Example, random word: pastry. Thought process: pastryness sounds like a giant sugary pinkness, cotton-like but also migraine-inducing (that’s where my mind goes). Result: I connect whatever I was talking about in my first sentence to a vague description of this “Pastry-ness.”
  3. Zapruder sinewy syntax: Now write a sentence that begins with a qualifying or subjectivizing phrase like
    • "I sometimes think that…"
    • "There is/are _______ that…"
    • "It seems like…"
    • "I feel like…"
    • "I thought that…"
    • "How is it that…"
    • "Between you and me…"
    • "I would like you to know that.."
    • "Do you remember how…?"

then moves into a perpection-filtering or qualifying expression:

  • "I have never truly seen…"
  • "what appears to be…"
  • ”___ might try to…”
  • "if _____ wasn’t so…"
  • "I admire when…"
  • "if it should so happen that…" then continue with a somewhat fantastical idea/statement/phrase, and then…

Add a subordinating conjunction and a phrase that includes a reference to a random place (use the city/town generator, feel free to toggle the country and other place settings).

-

Middle section (2-3 sentences):

Pick two or more of the following.

  1. Zapruder shift: summarize something you saw, watched or read and switch from past to present tense, so it sounds like you/I are suddenly “in” the story
  2. Zapruder juxtaposition: a longish, complex sentence that starts with one thing and ends with a wildly different thing, written in an explanatory tone
  3. Schomburgian phenomenology: describe something completely fantastical as if you saw it or experienced it plain as day—give a couple details and simple explanations by employing simple present of past tense
  4. Mirov name-dropping: give something or someone you just refered to an arbitrary (real or fantastical) name, like Robert Frost.
  5. Mirov self-reference: refer to yourself by name, in the third-person
  6. Schomburgian contradiction: make a statement, then write another sentence that flatly contradicts it or makes it absurd/impossible. “I stood on the table. The table was not there.”.

This middle section should make at least one reference to a plant or animal. Use these animal and plant name generators:

-

End section:

  1. Write a few simple sentences in the simple present tense: “I pet a moth as big as a baby.” “I remove the duct tape from my naked body.” Interlock these sentences by using the same noun/pronoun in each. Use the random adj-noun generator for inspiration. At this point you should be developing idea totally different from the one you started with.
  2. Write a sentence modeled after this one: “A kind of peacefulness into me carefully moves, like a…,” replacing each content word (noun, verb, adj.) using improvisation and/or chance methods.
  3. End with one of the following:
    • another “tunnel” sentence, moving from concrete to abstract or abstract to concrete
    • write a self-aware, emo sentence using the first and/or second person, and a grand statement-metaphor about the universe: “You were born to feel a way you don’t have a word for.” “The world is black, and you are in its mouth.”
    • partially contradict or qualify what you said in the previous sentence with a phrase-sentence, “Or…” “Actually…” “But…”

Wrap up:

  • Give it a long, awesome title by quoting a pithy, odd phrase from a poem you love. (Recently I’ve just been using phrases from Frank O’Hara and/or Kierkegaard.)
  • Lineate and revise as desired.
  • Submit your poem(s) to me, and I’ll post the good ones.

Example poem.

Zapruder, Mirov, Schomburg project (part 3)

Mirov’s most unique quality: he talks about himself in the third person: “My Ben Mirov looks ok. I feed him tasteless whole-grains and leafy greens like the manual tells me. He types two hours a day. He looks pretty good.” Lots of odd characters and proper nouns get dropped in arbitrarily: “Your wolf will die amongst / the cedars behind your face. / Let’s name him Robert Frost.” The contexts shift rapidly, but he maintains cohesion through a consistent pronoun thread: 

the Spirit is weak. It tries
to paint lemons. Like an idiot
it tries to paint something real.

It carries the body the door
into the black rectangular 
clockwork snowdrift light. 

It leads a vertiginous life. 
Staring at the moon for hours, 
finding a seat at the opera, 

whirlpool into the camera, 
thinking of Proust, then laying down 
greenish gray. Thank you, Spirit
 
for all your hard work 
shoveling ashes in the dark. 
Thank you for guiding me

Like Schomburg and Zapruder, Mirov recounts strange ideas in direct, phenomenological language: 

The poems are dressed in nothing 
like diamonds and ther are only 

a handful. They stand in some kind
of formation I don’t understand.

I command the poems to act right.

Mirov almost always begin with himself and an immediate, mundane statement: “I wish I had ideas.” “I am thinking of him and her having sex.” “I can see your wolf / in the bathroom mirror.” But quickly he moves into Mobius strip impossible statements or statements that start imagistic/concrete and recede (through a “ladder” technique) into abstraction or meta-layers:

This is how
I would like to be remembered

pulling a rabbit out of the air.
A real rabbit made from paper made
from imaginary snow.

Together, these mundane openers followed by “receding” sentences work pretty well, as in this opening few lines from “Light from Dead Stars Doesn’t Lie”:

There is nothing to be done about my friends.
They are moving like a caravan 
of beasts pulling a tribe of humans across
a flat gray land. I dream all my friends at once
are Amy.

All of this while he maintains a flat, matter-of-fact tone, like the other two. Finally, Mirov has great poem titles: “In the Orchard with a Wrench,” “The Poem Addresses Ben Mirov in a State of Inconsolable Grief,” and “You May Not Know This but in his Youth James Tate was Some Sort of Champion Swimmer!”

For Mirov, the instructions are going to have some direct self-references (yes, you’ll need to use your real name!), some “Mobius strip” statements, flat-then-abstract openers, and awesome titles.

______

What all three do extremely well: images that “mis-see” the world deliberately and beautifully. Zapruder: “The entire / movie took place in a storm / of totally synthesized feelings.” Mirov: “Many people have been killed // by pistols as they held quivers / which said nothing.” Schomburg: “You will get married / to a hummingbird // and raise beautiful part- / hummingbirds. // You will die of cancer / in mid-air.” 

And all three write poems that slide down the page with beautiful images and rhetoric but stay light on their feet in terms of weight of topic/philosophy, drawing attention more to the mind as a delusional tool that filters the world. The kaleidoscopic filter we call the human brain. 

If I get chance I’ll post the instructions later tonight.

Zapruder, Mirov, Schomburg project (part 2)

Zapruder is urban and metaphysical; he makes hypothetical statements or generalizations that take fragments of city life and make them grand propositions (but of course gaping with obvious illogic, and thus self-aware and ironic). His poems are disjointed syllogisms—convoluted hypotactic language. Ashbery and O’hara are models. Complex syntax connects wildly dissimilar thoughts/things: 

In Witchita Kansas my friends ordered square burgers
with mysterious holes leaking a delicoius substance
that would fuel us in all sorts of necessary beautiful ways
for our long journey eastward vesus the night.

The thing at the beginning and the thing at the end of the sentence are not directly related, but the sentence forces them together in a way that tickles the brain: “…you can move // down the long boring beige literal corridor / and replace the batteries in the thermostat, // fingering a diamond hair clip.”

A Zapruder trick: summarize a narrative form (movie, book, experience) but switch from past to present tense half way through the summary to make the status of the statement unclear: 

I think there was a movie once
where Frankenstein fell in love with a vampire.
A small mummy at first interfered 
but later provided the requisite necessary
clarificatons. He can only
meet you at night. Her face
is scarred in a permanent expression
of doom, but her bolt glows whenever
she sees you.

Also, the second person helps confuse things interestingly. All manner of pronoun switches that take us by surprise: “Have I mentioned lately / I have been reading a book about a steam powered / carriage we are actually in moving slowly / through the countryside toward the kingdom / and its ruined citizens?” See how this image is a sort of philosophical metaphor—a grand conceit that unveils a (ridiculous) possible vision of how everything works, summed up as a slow carriage ride? 

This is ridiculous fun-house realism where a simple movie summary suddenly shifts into an impossible, completely fantastical action: “One particular mild Shaolin monk leaned / against a wall and his shoulder fell off / and his hair attacked his face.” Anyone can write ludicrous images that are dripping with humorous imaginativeness, but where Zapruder (and all three) make it work is developing these images into something lyrical and sublime, by following the logic a step further than a surrealist normally would: 

Inside me for a while
a tribe had theorized purely and wrongly
its location merely on the basis of tides. I was
feeling extinct, and wishing for a sudden
totally silent sliding out from the wall of twenty
or so very excellent beds so we the audience
could together engage in further collective
dreaming. I would describe that lecturer’s voice
as twilight shadow smeared origami cloudlet…

And so the thought/scene continues, swerving off and away in a hypofigural manner.

The instructions will reflect Zapruder by including some Zapruder verb tense shifts and some Zapruder juxtaposition sentences. Definitely some more syntactically complex, obscure images. Also, you’ll notice, like Schomburg, we’re going to see a lot of projecting subjectivity—writing from what you’re seeing/experiencing, as if a simple-minded reporter of the fantastical. And we’ll need to include some grandiose, totalizing gestures about the (urban-centric) universe.

Last but not least, Mirov…

Zapruder, Mirov, Schomburg project (part 1)

Trying to make a form(ula) for writing like three different poets at the same time turns out to be impossible, but it is even more impossible if you don’t have some sense of what each poet is like. So here’s your warm up or prep work for the project instructions I’m about to put up in a bit.

First up, Schomburg.

Schomburg might be described as a nightmare phenomenologist. He is always out in the forest or in strange houses. Prose-like sentences are written as descriptive, empirical explanation that describe processes and observation. He draws freely on archetypal weight of words to build this into emotional vision. Take for example More and More Jaguar or this one, The Black Hole:

When I show someone the black hole it is difficult for me not to push that person into it. I’m not sure what that means but it frightens me. Sometimes when I go to the black hole by myself, I’m afraid I might jump into it despite my own resistance. I’m afraid of myself. It’s as if I’ve been given someone else’s heart and someone else has mine, as if our hearts had been switched while we slept. One day, when all the continents have been buried in ocean, we’ll slowly float past each other in our little boats, hearing our own hearts in each other s chests, and watch each other like stars we don’t know are dead.

“Not sure what that means but,” is a good example of Schomburg’s frame of references -he’s just reporting his observations and feelings, no pretense or irony about the irreality of what he’s saying. There’s also a spareness to his style. Phrases are simple and interlock, like this Creeley-esque little poem—

I am a boy who lives in the woods.
I fall in love with trees, mostly,
When I touch them
they turn to wood.
When I touch you
you turn into a pond.
I walk into a pond
like I love it.

Notice the balance and interlocking repetition—“wood,” “touch,” “love,” “pond,” “turn.” Repetition, the principle of textual cohesion, and the principle of empirical research.

Perhaps most noticeable is this eerie foggy-mindedness that he creates in his tone. There’s a lot of “I” and “you,” and a lot of direct contradiction: “The table moves like / it is moving / but it is not moving,” and impossibilities,

The dishes crash to the floor
at my feet.
There is no floor.

To sound like Schomburg, you have to talk little bit like a male version of a manic pixie dream girl and address your statements as if to an emo lover:

I know a dead wolf
we can climb inside
and beat

like little hearts.
It would maybe
come back

to life,
the wolf.

Dark fairy-tale time for late adolescence. To represent Schomburg, my instructions are going to include some “phenomenological reporting” in this eerie style, and some contradiction/impossible statements executed with tonal flatness.

Next is Zapruder.

The Blackbird: A Diptych

An experimental collaboration with Wordlings, using the Half and Half method with the same seed text.

-

you proud men of mercury

Wordlings

idyllic filled the long window
and glosses loaded
on long mercury walks
inflections of innuendos
shadow of the umbrage
the rage of the blackbird
the painted pantomime
of whirled mercy, and god,
a flow of gold, and good
and lucid, inseparable rhythms
oh you proud men of Mercury
and the thin men of Haddam
I know the blackbird is involved
glosses loaded
with thin inseparable sheets
long rod of barbaric glass
one of seven circles 
crowded with loaded glass
seasons of engines change
blackbirds of euphony must be flying

-

Three Minds

Uut

Jesuits are part of three minds
wearing evening all afternoon
not tampons. But I know too
a fear sleek as a kite
whirled in the restaurant—
the one that orphic pull-ups
dutifully drowned
by the eye
increasing on its own weight
among twenty snowy mountains.
All of us are catalysts
traced in the shadow,
a satin couch
amazed by barbaric glass.

Sing freely with tortoise breath,
oh bawds of euphony,
snag your goads
on the little rhythms
you do not see.

seed text: “Thirteen Ways of a Looking at a Blackbird,” by Wallace Stevensart by Eugenia Loli

The Blackbird: A Diptych

An experimental collaboration with Wordlings, using the Half and Half method with the same seed text.

-

you proud men of mercury

Wordlings

idyllic filled the long window
and glosses loaded
on long mercury walks
inflections of innuendos
shadow of the umbrage
the rage of the blackbird
the painted pantomime
of whirled mercy, and god,
a flow of gold, and good
and lucid, inseparable rhythms
oh you proud men of Mercury
and the thin men of Haddam
I know the blackbird is involved
glosses loaded
with thin inseparable sheets
long rod of barbaric glass
one of seven circles crowded with loaded glass
seasons of engines change
blackbirds of euphony must be flying

-

Three Minds

Uut

Jesuits are part of three minds
wearing evening all afternoon
not tampons. But I know too
a fear sleek as a kite
whirled in the restaurant—
the one that orphic pull-ups
dutifully drowned
by the eye
increasing on its own weight
among twenty snowy mountains.
All of us are catalysts
traced in the shadow,
a satin couch
amazed by barbaric glass.

Sing freely with tortoise breath,
oh bawds of euphony,
snag your goads
on the little rhythms
you do not see.


seed text: “Thirteen Ways of a Looking at a Blackbird,” by Wallace Stevens
art by Eugenia Loli

Half and Half Project

I’ve been writing poems lately that put a new twist on a pair of (for me) old and reliable forms, namely, the Minimalist Instagram project and good-ol’ automatic writing. It’s a simple concept: write a line or half a line using a seed text (in the style of the Instagram and Bibliomancy project), then write a line or half a line in an automatic, semi-automatic or improvisational mode. These two processes occur alternately, but in general, the automatist strands should not be conceived in the “context” of the poem’s evolving shape. The automatic language may, however, deliberately continue and finish phrases syntactically (and vice versa). For example, in this poem I wrote “He engineered a strange,” then flipped to a random phrase in my source text, The Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke and got “loneliness.” Then I continued, “from the waist up, / part of the order…” then to the book for _”a pure sound.” Etc, generating the next several lines (italics are Rilke):

that should plunge into temptation
but tenses the bourgeoisie and
holds up the huge doors.

Instantly the paintings all around you
knock my sad theme
in several ways…

Proceed accordingly until you feel satisfied. Revise lightly, mostly punctuation. Embrace dissonance.

A word about the automatic writing. I’ve been thinking lately about the poets (Spicer, Mac Low, Coolidge, Perelman) who turn their mind into metaphorical radio tuners that listen to a “voice” in their head that is really the clamor of modern experience. Often this entails an artificial form of stimulation, like the Grand Piano project or other forms of “automatic listening.” The source is not conscious but neither is it subjective or expressive, in the sense of issuing from the writer’s ego. A fragmented, incoherent conversation is going on in the background noise of all our lives, and these poets attempt to record it. Something like this is what’s going on my microdreams. After a while, the “flow” of this voice gets easier to channel and becomes the touch-point for automatic writing. I’m sure some writers will know what I’m talking about. Anyone who is improvisational in any way also has a point of contact. Use this sense of “automatic” writing when writing for this project.

That’s it. Submit the results. Have fun.

All the half and half poems.

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