Sunday, December 10, 2006

Write Surprising Juxtapositions

Last Thursday, The Poetry Society of America hosted a reading for the 2006 National Chapbook Fellows and New York Chapbook Fellows.

Timothy Donnelly, an editor for the Boston Review, introduced Jessica Fjeld, author of On animate life: its profligacy, organ meats, etc. In his introduction, Donnelly mentioned a strategy Fjeld used in composing one of her poems. She chose random lines from the Patriot Act and from The Book of Mormon, played with the language there and voila!

In his introduction, Timothy Donnelly also read one of his own poems for which he used lines lifted from the 9/11 Comission Report.

When I first heard of this strategy for composing poems, I must admit my first thought was "What a cop out." Lifting lines from here and there is no way to compose, is no way to honor the mood swings of Our Lady of the Writing Craft. But then, I had a change of heart when I heard how queer and delightful their poems sounded when they read.

So, of course, being the easily engaged and inspired writer that I am, I had to try such a method for myself. Below you will find what came of that effort.


Reading The Analects of Confucius While Listening to 50 Cent

Boy my hoes are clean, just like my guns
And I keep them in three-year mourning, just like my funds
I keep all my big bills, give my Nine Thoughts the ones.

The Master schooled me: Gentlemen like virtue; little men like partiality.
Gentlemen like justice; little men likes mercy.
You got Pimp potential. Start selling leek in the yard.

They can snatch these braids out and put my hair in a sovereign state, word
Those who act with a view to their own personal advantage will bust
A u-turn going straight to the block.

In word, the gentleman thinks of being loyal leave with your blood
on my mink in the drop Six Guiliani and Pataki can’t stop
this since ’86 my whole clique withdrew and studied the rituals.

Confucius said, don’t burn bridges my friend
Imagine the G-Dub close and yo ass gotta swim
Phoenix does not come; River puts forth no sign of the new world order.

Gentlemen wait in line to hear the master spit
“If my virtue don’t sell, I’ma rob and steal.”
The Worthy are ‘bout to stick Slick Rick for all that old school shit.

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