Monday, November 12, 2012

Poetry Monday: Uncreative writing

So we're now in the final week of ModPo and I have to say that I feel like every pore of my skin has been opened through these 10 weeks. Something inside me has indeed shifted and I'm looking at poetry in ways I couldn't when I began this course. Before I say something about chapter 9.3, which is focused on the most challenging topic for me of all - unoriginality, I promised that I would put up my Mesostic - the one I created for the final assignment. Here it is:


    plaY, there

As you can see, it's a very small tribute to WB Yeats, written through "Lapis Lazuli".  Though creating it was easy, I spent a long time finding something that would work. I was (perhaps wrongly) conscious of using something so modern that the original author might object to me using their words (yes, I know that copyright is part of the challenge of the chance and conceptualist poets, but it's a challenge I'm not ready to take on). I really wanted to chose an Australian poet, but the software was buggy and Yeats was the only one who worked, so there it is.  I think it's actually quite evocative.

Moving right along though, this week we're leaving the Aleatoric poets and moving into the Conceptualists.  Conceptual poetry has its heart in the notion of unoriginality. The concept (hence the label) takes priority over the execution.  The first poet we're studying is Kenneth Goldsmith.  In the following little clip, taken at The White House (with Michele Obama as the listener), Goldsmith describes himself as "the most boring writer who has ever lived...", and perhaps proves it with his 900 page book Day, created from rewriting the NY Times. And yet, as Kenny G says in the clip below, there is a kind of freeing quality to this process: "The whole world is yours to write."  The burden of originality has been lifted.


  1. I've come to appreciate what these writers are up to this week, but I do wonder, in the end, if originality is a burden that needs lifting. What say you?

    1. Ah, good question. I'm not sure it's as easy as being "unoriginal" either. It would be tempting to try some of this, but I think it requires all sorts of talents (not to mention Chutzpah) rooted in creativity to pull it off. It's not only in coming up with and creating the concept and the constraints (for example, Christian Bök's list of rules for Eunoia) - all kind of a poetry in itself, but also in the delivery. I'm thinking for example of Caroline Bergvall's "VIA", which would hardly work the same way without her wonderful reading.