I feel a return of the hypofigure poem coming on.
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.
Yesterday I quoted Altieri on Ashbery:
“There is no aesthetic pursuit of form or transcendence in early Ashbery; rather, his is the ontology of aesthetic seeking to reverse the Romantic dream of erasing art so nature will stand clear. His goal is a life of process not of forms, but process is most freely and complexly experienced within the self-referring, though not necessarily self-enclosed, book.”
So I realized when I read this that I used to think of poetry in terms of form, but now I think about it, thoroughly, in terms of process. Surrealism is process; language poetry is process; most postmodern styles are process. This is the overarching logic (that I wasn’t aware of) behind my “projects,” which are not forms, but processes, of writing.
Then graffitiesprit comments:
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the accessibility of this process by readers. Is this ultimately irrelevant to an exclusively private process undergone by the artist or writer or is the position of the consumer ultimately outside of that process?
My thoughts: No, the reader/consumer is not outside the process. The process is not private, but transparent—it is the form, replaces the form, such that it carries the weight and tension that drives the poem forward for the reader. Take blank verse or free verse—Frost or Browning or Whitman—they go until they are done. They are using something more than form (in addition to form) to shape the poem. For Browning and Frost it’s narrative. “My Last Duchess” is done when the dramatic moment has ripened. For Whitman, it’s something else. The point is that these are processes that are open and available to the reader…and it in fact is imperative that the reader detects the process in order to enjoy the poem.
Now, when talking about artificial hueristics and chance operations and the like, what I use a lot of here, the process is less organic, but no less present. And, as with any artificial set of rules (or traditional forms), it is best (as the reader) to know or recognize the rules. We all know that we can enjoy a sonnet more if we know what a sonnet is. In the same way, Jackson Mac Low puts his operation/method/process front and center (as do I) before presenting his text. This is because the tensions that emerge must be appreciated as emerging from the dynamics of the process. For instance, in my logopoetics projects, there are often deceptive moments of cohesion, as if the poem is constructing a coherent dramatic thought. This is not just a parlor trick or gimmick—the value is in apprehending those moments as uncanny intersections of chance and intention, organic and inorganic, conscious and subconscious. It is a poetry that unveils the dualisms of consciousness and problematizes them. So even though the important poets “of process” make it sound like the process happens in a private way, the assumption, it seems to me, is that the text is charged with the traces of that process and is (mostly) the attraction of the text.
This isn’t the promised Zapruder-Mirov-Schomburg project but it’s headed in that direction. The instructions:
As always, submit it, denoting which project you used and perhaps including an image to post it with.
I found this wonderful acronym generator this morning that is just too rich. Project:
After spending years perusing the bookshelves and occasionally buying and reading a book of contemporary poetry, I keep wanting to go back to a few of these young poets. That’s a sign that they are on to something. They are: Zapruder, Shomburg, Mirov. There may be others, but these three stand out in my mind as doing something along the same lines. Something wonderful that expands on the rhetorical surrealism of the New York School poets. The hypofigural elegance that is successful because it is surprising and incongruous. In an interview a few years ago, Zapruder and Schomburg called themselves the New Surrealists. I’d call them Hipster Surrealism, and that’s meant in a good way.
Over the next few weeks, I want to analyze these poets more closely and try to come up with a “formula” or “form” of the prototypical “Hipster surrealist” poem. And then I’ll make that a project and write poems with it.
Is it trite and shallow to take the art you love and turn it into a formula? That’s what I asked myself immediately after I had the idea of doing this project. A lot of the poets I studied in college would say “yes, formulaic writing is death—death to the poetry being imitated as well as the poetry being created.” But over the past few months, I’ve come to realize that this notion is not only wrong and self-deceiving—it’s also tragically debilitating. I call it the “cult of sincerity” and others call in the “cult of genius.” Poetry is a craft. Artifice. Teche. You can learn it and get good in the same way that you can learn painting or carving or knitting. It’s about technique. The key is whether the technique we use and how execute it produces something pleasing or boring. These poets have found a technique that produces amazing poem after amazing poem. I want to learn that technique for myself and make my own poems, and for others to do the same, like each knitter makes his own variagated sweater from a common pattern. That’s not cheapening the art, that’s demystifying it and returning it to its former glory. The joy of making with words and forms.
Got the itch for another go round of this project. For this version, you will need these Source Texts:
You may combine any sentences or phrases into larger sentences or syntactic units, as you see fit.
Logopoetics (III) poems here.
Send me your Logopoetics poem!
On January 1, 2008, I began a free-writing exercise that lasted almost two years and produced over 400 drafts of poems. At the time I had no blog or audience. I was taking graduate classes and teaching Comp. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I just wanted to start writing again. I knew going in, it was going to be rough and that I would sound like a slavish imitator of my favorite poets: Bly, O’Hara, Breton, Ashbery, Whitman.
The rule was to fill up one page a day: these Moleskin planner journals have 29 ruled lines. I would stay up a few minutes later every night, trying to force something to come out to fill up those last few lines… The journal traveled with me wherever I went and lived by my bedside. I wrote in pencil and scratched and erased and smudged. For the first six months, I was disciplined and only occasionally missed a day. When I did, I’d make myself make up for the lost day, writing two, sometimes three pages. Eventually, I got too far behind to catch up. These two journals (2008 and 2009) have just been sitting on my shelf for over three years now, waiting for me to do something.
Gradually, I want to “restore” these poems. What I mean is that I want to type them up (to “finish” them, really) and post them. A few are horrible, and almost all of them have some horrible parts that will get cut.
Read Moleskin Projects poems here.
Following up on the “Uut Magazine” idea, most of you said reblogging is the preferred solution, and I think you’ve convinced me, so I’m trying it.
But I need to say that a week of perusing my dashboard (which I actually don’t read faithfully), the “poetry” tag and generally sniffing around, has left a lot a to be desired. I’m picky when it comes to poetry, and I don’t think I can stomach the superficial love, angst and eroticism that is out there. A handful of poets seem to get it: express emotions indirectly, through images, avoid confessionalism. But even fewer actually do what I really like: the obscure, surreal, pedantic, pained, fragmented, rhetorically-overblown, etc.
I want to support the Tumblr poetry community out there—many are doing okay work and deserve promotion—but I don’t enjoy sifting through the bad stuff, and I don’t want to shift my blog away from what it has going for it, which is a very niche kind of style.
Solutions and Directives:
Tumblr writers seem to occasionally reblog their older work. It makes sense: since a poem or post often doesn’t “play out” its potential in its few-hour lifespan on the event horizon of the Tumblr ecosystem, giving it the resurrection treatment is almost as good as creating new content. But overdone, it can seem pretentious or lazy.
So instead of reblogging, try remixing. Here’s a suggested formula:
Pick out one of your old poems. Start a new post; don’t click reblog on the old one. That way your new poem shows up as a post, not as a comment on the original.
Begin the new poem with one of the following: (a) the first image, line or sentence from the old poem, (b) the last image, line or sentence from the old poem, (c) some other, compelling image or sentence from the old poem.
Write a few new lines. Don’t look at the original for this.
At some point, integrate another image or sentence from the original poem, but reverse the statement or meaning: “The stones lie like chestnuts in a glass bowl” becomes “a glass bowl lies like a chestnut on the stones.”
(optional) Perform a few other permutations, such as (a) negating an image/sentence from old poem, “The stones do not lie like chestnuts…” (b) keeping the syntax structure from a sentence/phrase but changing the words, “The balloons sip like Chesterfield in a mango purse…” (c) translate the sentence into a foreign language, then back into English using Google translate: [e.g., into and out of Arabic, then Czech] “Rocks fall like chestnuts in a glass jar.”
Add as much new content as you wish. Rearrange and revise at your discretion.
Use the same poem title as the original, but stick “remix” after it in parentheses.
If you use artwork, recycle the same image or take a detail from that image. Optionally, filter the image, run it through a glitch filter or otherwise edit/distort it.
Stick a permalink to the original poem at the bottom of the post.
Tag it #remix.
(optional) Submit it.
Bibliomancy: divination through books. Specifically, through opening up a sacred text randomly and reading where your eyes/finger falls as the answer to your burning question.
I’ve been doing this for almost a year now with the instagram minimalist poems, so why not re-package it, call it prophecy? Why not.