Tag Archives: poetry

‘Best leave it to the pros and cons’: Exquisite Corpse poems, Fall 2017

Here are this fall’s Creative Writing classes’ poems written in the Exquisite Corpse method.  What I love about these lines is how they were created almost randomly but seem to have a kinda of weird logic. I like how some of these seem almost brilliant, in an obtuse way. See here for previous semesters’ poems.

Americans are impatient with my whole life.

A big storm came to my house, for I am a gentleman.

A strange door is where I be the person you admire.

I go to party like an animal goes to get some gas.

Gross-looking fish often smell what the man cooks.

I literally can’t stand people that like me or unlike my milkshake.

When he woke up, he was not in poverty.

Since 2000, I was born in the hospital.

Beautiful panda breaks the Internet to order some parts of the world.

She has an ugly smile like you’re eating lemons to make lemonade.

Boy, you have betrayed me, and you are great.

Miles we have come to the gorilla festival.

Penguins that live in the patience I held.

Thing One and Thing Two plus two equals to all human rights and lefts.

I really cannot control her nuclear proliferation.

Everyone and everything is not what you are.

I’m swimming in a sea of something funny that happened.

The school sounds fun like tying a fish to crash into a car.

Best leave it to the pros and cons.

My own sorrow cannot hold onto my hand.

Me is something that was already said.

You are my sun shine is like the sun shine.

I lost my pencil in your name.

Place the gun on the only husband.

Those who appreciate you look very hot today.

Fender on a car breaks so simple like ice is cold.

The Wright brothers are like sisters but boys.

The zookeeper ran to keep the penguins inside the body.

Dude, I want to hang out with me, said no one ever.

Here I once was a way you smile.

Be smart if you want to survive — it’s not that hard.

The bird flew far, far away where the movie was very boring.

That gray cat leaps off the sofa, but will the world end?

Behind the wall exists God or aliens.

“Duh” is what I exclaimed to your mama’s grave digger.

Dispute this because I think about it, and you are so nice.

First I went bald yesterday.

I slipped and fell down the stairs at room temperature during winter.

Sad like a broken plate with soul food delicious.

I’m trying so hard for somebody to notice the fire alarm.

Types of Poetry collage

I got a pamphlet in the mail about something called the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. An idea came to mind: Cut out one of the “Poetry” words and paste it into the middle of the paper, and then cut out other nouns and think of these as different types of poetry: sand poetry, Tim poetry, guest poetry, Q & A poetry, glance poetry. I don’t know what these types of poetry would be — whether written for an occasion (November 10, 2017 poetry) or for a situation (one-on-one poetry) or written at a place (lake poetry) or written about a place (road poetry) or written about a topic (nut poetry) or to be recited while using the thing (Amex poetry) — but I loved thinking of these things for the first time today.

Full page.

Top half.

Bottom half.

A close-up.

Another close-up.

Links: Gaps between words, etc.

1. From a discussion at The New Yorker about the poetry of Rosmarie Waldrop:

The phrase [book title “Gap Gardening”] makes us think hard about the way language works, and about how words catalyze reality, rather than transcribe it. In nature, nothing can come from nothing, but in language it happens all the time.

and

What I love about Waldrop are the enigmas and paradoxes on every page, the belief that language is most beautiful when it slips or falters, and the sense that these linguistic short circuits most often happen in urgent verbal exchange.

2. Some context to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

3. NY Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s final blog post: “Five Things I Won’t Miss at The Times — and Seven I Will”

4. An article about a weird mid-20th Century cultural phenomenon: spanking.

5. NY Times article about how messages written on vase shards inform Bible scholarship.

6. Plato’s Academy versus Diogenes the Cynic: 2 ways of doing philosophy.

7. Brains aren’t computers because brains are analog: How brain capacity isn’t understood yet.

8. The Tree of Life is still being remodeled.

9. Some subjects “underrepresented in contemporary fiction” include joy —

“In our insistence on despair as the most authentic iteration of experience, we risk writing fiction that is hamstrung in its ability to represent our humanity with the necessary breadth and nuance. The despairing self, characterized by alienation and misery, is limited and incomplete, and not a particularly accurate representation of the lushness of life as it is lived, mingled thing that it is”

— and characters beyond the “bourgeois” —

“a writer might free herself from the tired pursuit of fiction as a matter of professional advancement and set out in quest of the stories that don’t get told”

10. A review of “At the Existentialist Cafe” points out that the author, Sarah Bakewell, “shapes her answers in the form of biographical narratives, because her central theme is that the large impersonal ideas pursued by much modern philosophy are less profound and illuminating than the varied and conflicting truths found in stories of individual lives.”

‘T’was the night before the end of time’: Exquisite Corpse poems, January 2016

Here are my current semester’s students’ Exquisite Corpse poems. See the explanation for how we created these here. See earlier samples here, here, and here.

Snow tracks.

Snow tracks.

 

I am in love with only one friend: you.

Small towns are full of pumpkins all in the front yard of the house.

Love the way you lie like the wind.

Have you ever felt like I have never felt, like a lion?

Cold air hurts my face-to-face conversations.

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha want whatcha really really diamonds.

Women are men except when Tyler Perry get(s) annoying.

The girl loves to be or not to be the change I need to get home by bus.

The fat whale with a chimney blowhole is what you are.

Illinois is a joke like the kid next to buy many drugs for my baby brother.

Shame on you for thinking of my mom and dad, so I car-crashed into the side of an apple pie.

All the plants were stinky like father, like son.

Who are you talking to, the girl next to fish in the ocean of dead whales?

With respect, he shot her and him.

To the bank we went, to rob it.

What did you do to the mall with my little pony farts?

Yes, she said, for a date at the bakery in town.

Anytime he sang, he broke the mirror because she is wrong for you.

Daddy never came home, for I tell you nothing was the same, but I shot him.

He was a dark man who killed civil society under the sea, under the spider.

The spider crawled down slowly, took a breath[e], and the boy ran home.

Go tell it on the end to that story.

Bad times for saddle-makers since I was sleeping with liberty and justice for the old lady’s dog.

Hobby Lobby is a rockin’ place to go when it’s lit up nightly.

During the night, we stared at people.

Scared little children yelling at the trees softly.

Softly and quietly, he walked the dog sideways.

Angelina said mean stuff to her stepmother because I’m so fancy.

I’m so fancy; you are the kindest person.

The rain cries to the moon tonight.

Shouting at the sky rudely interrupted the class.

They duel with mice that have no sense of direction.

Hell is where they go, saying he will change, wrong or right, it doesn’t matter.

Matter doesn’t affect the brain that searches for answers.

My pet cactus Tim has a big forehead.

You never know when I’ll eat bananas.

People like to do bad things in rentals.

Miley Cyrus, she makes me feel like I’m a baby, it’s very cold outside.

T’was the night before the end of time.

Time heals all, and snow flakes fall freely.

Can’t go to work, so I opened that poem, but I don’t know who likes you.

Why would you say whatever you want to this day? You’re weird.

Strange children live under my leg.

My grandma makes cookies with or without you.

I’m so afraid that bird just landed on the top of her mom.

You can’t believe the dinosaurs like to eat people.

Friends don’t murder each other.

Are you a laughable kitten in my hand?

Rhyme time for the apples of your eyes.

Stupid homework-giving teachers wrote your legacy on paper.

You can shut up to the top of the small birds.

I can’t wait to go to the bathroom spiders on my face.

Can you please rush into the great beyond?

Humans are the bane of my inner self-image.

He told me he brings joy to the weird kid.

Scary like the girls from that one IHOP down the road he drove through.

Now (or how) you decide what you can’t always say.

No two things are the moose.

The same type of songs describe the meaning of life.

But today, I will not today, not tomorrow, never fathom the bottom depths of the fiery Hell.

Small dogs are bait, for only two can tango.

With him I felt good, so that he became the love of my shoes and my dress.

Little moose in my pizza.

The man stood. Still, he fell off. The dog ran after him.

Dessert pizza is kinda disgusting between the good.

It was black shoes, white hat, with my favorite person in time.

“Luke Skywalker is my son” is my cat’s name.

So colorful and funny at the bus stop, and she wanted more than God said.

A feline tree-topper

A feline tree-topper

The block-quoted section below is the entirety of one paper passed around the class. A few lines were skipped, but the remainder felt like it shared a mood.

In the light,

she never wanted to keep going fast.

In the night, he (thought), why are you a weirdo?

A weirdo was singing loud.

Today is quite dark,

and he wasn’t home today.

Today is really boring,

so freaking bright and cold.

Cold makes me chilly- hot.  … [1 line skipped]

I don’t know what teen drinking is.

Very hairy Mary said snow is super freakin’ cold.

Cold heart sucks, but whatever you want, I don’t.

Play with a dog. … [skipped 8 lines]

Without her, I’m falling.  [skipped 2 lines]

All about my mother told me to hurt your bestie.

You look like grass.

Weird children should go to make a cake with time.

Everything will fall from the top stair. [skipped 3 lines]

When you see me — and my friends are a cute couple — so we took a trip in our favorite rocket ship in space.

Yeah. 

 

Literary links: ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’ and a definition of postmodern novel

1. William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” —

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

— may be a scene the poet witnessed, as described in this Times article:

On July 18, in a moment of belated poetic justice, a stone will be laid on the otherwise unmarked grave of Thaddeus Marshall, an African-American street vendor from Rutherford, N.J., noting his unsung contribution to American literature.

“When we read this poem in an anthology, we tend not to think of the chickens as real chickens, but as platonic chickens, some ideal thing,” William Logan, the scholar who recently discovered Mr. Marshall’s identity, said in an interview.

The discovery doesn’t change the meaning, he said, but “knowing there was a man with a particular wheelbarrow and some chickens does help us understand the world the poem was embedded in.”

Williams’s 16-word poem, first published in 1923, was hailed as a manifesto of plain-spoken American modernism. Williams himself declared it “quite perfect.” A staple of classrooms and anthologies, it has inspired endless debates about its deeper meaning — how much of what, exactly, depends on the red wheelbarrow? — not to mention provided the name of an English-language bookstore in Paris, a craft beer from Maine and an episode of “Homeland.”

But Mr. Logan, a professor at the University of Florida who has contributed to The New York Times Book Review, may have taken the poem’s fullest measure yet. His roughly 10,000-word essay on the poem, published in the most recent issue of the literary journal Parnassus and titled simply “The Red Wheelbarrow,” considers the poem from seemingly every conceivable angle.

There are discussions of Williams’s aesthetic influences and composition habits. (Williams, a medical doctor by profession, sometimes wrote poems on prescription forms.) Mr. Logan also considers the history of hyphenation in the word “rainwater,” previous literary references to painted wheelbarrows, New Jersey ordinances concerning handcarts, and early-20th-century poultry trends.

“Who knew there was a fad for white chickens?” he said.

2. In a New Yorker article discussing “Fran Ross’s hilarious, badass novel, ‘Oreo,'” Danzy Senna writes this definition of the postmodern novel:

Aesthetically, “Oreo” has all the hallmarks of a postmodern novel in its avoidance of profundity and its utterly playful spirit. It draws no conclusions, and the quest leads to no giant, revelatory payoffs. [my emphasis] The father and his secret about her birth constitute, in the end—and without giving anything away—as absurdist a feminist send-up of the patriarchal myth as one could hope to find. At every turn, the novel embraces ambiguity. Its quest-driven plot is diverted by wordplay and meta-references to itself. In many ways, it feels more in line stylistically and aesthetically with Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut than with Sonia Sanchez and Ntozake Shange, to name two other black female writers of Ross’s time.

Oreo never becomes a fully believable character, and this feels appropriate to the work’s spirit. The novel does not strive for realism; Ross is not trying to construct a seamless, plot-driven narrative or a sympathetic, three-dimensional main character. We are always aware of Oreo as a construct, and of her story as a construct. Puns, wordplay, standup-comedy riffs, menus, charts, tangents: the journey to find the father is just a chance for Ross to meander through her wicked and free imagination, and to push us toward a hyper-awareness of language itself. “Christine,” Ross writes, and she could be writing of herself, “was no ordinary child … she had her mother’s love of words, their nuance and cadence, their juice and pith, their variety and precision, their rock and wry.”

3. A definition of literary interpretation, and a warning about finding patterns, from a New Yorker piece about love-song lyrics by Adam Gopnik:

One should always be wary of a book by a scholar insisting that there is a pattern where before none has been seen, since scholars have an overwhelmingly strong confirmation bias in favor of patterns—finding patterns is what scholars do. The great art historian Leo Steinberg found the “line of fate” in the Sistine Chapel, which skewered figures from separate scenes into occult sentences, with the same excitement with which Percival Lowell had once found canals on the surface of Mars. These were illusory—but, more important, irrelevant. Interpretation is the teasing out into articulate words of a complicated sensation or experience. It’s not often the discovery of some other, completely different experience that the surface of the work was hiding. [my emphasis]

‘Time Closes One I’: Erasures and rewrites of Rod McKuen’s ‘Lonesome Cities’

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So, last January, about the time Rod McKuen passed away, I picked up his poetry book Lonesome Cities, which I’d obtained long after its publication in the 1960s but which I’d never read. I didn’t really like the poems: their language felt too chatty and their subjects too familiar and too precious.

But alongside each poem was plenty of blank space in which I could rewrite the poems to my own taste, to make the poems sharper and stranger, more surprising. Some of the poems are simple erasures (see also resources here), while others have some words replaced by sound-alike words, and all poems have certain amounts of re-arrangement, editing, and rewriting (however those definitions may overlap).

I debated whether to put my new poems alongside McKuen’s originals. I have chosen not to, partly out of concern not to step on his copyrights (and this writing process felt like authentic creation, but it also prompted questions of what, exactly, copying means). But I also don’t think comparing the new to the old is necessary, as the poems below range far beyond the topics of McKuen’s poems to represent their own questions of consciousness and philosophical inquiry.

Here are my poems, with reference to the titles of the originals the new poems came from:

“An Out,” an erasure of McKuen’s poem “An Outstretched Hand”

Each of us was God.

Some of us grew.

The wind bent.

Darkness-up life.

Love is, is.

Each eye turned sound,

shoulders their feet.

It takes a hand.

Ω

“Sting,” an erasure of “Rusting in the Rain”

The old world coming stops as it goes.

Did anybody ever grow older?

Come see where we have been.

Ω

“I’ve,” a rewrite of “I’ve Saved the Summer”

I’ve.

I give you to winter when new.

I’ve need. Darkness can feed. I’ve kept your smile.

You were 19. You’re older, you’ll know.

I know no answers. Your way lies somewhere.

But I’ll give you the road.

Ω

“Like the Window,” a rewrite of the last 2 stanzas of “It’s Raining”

It’s like the window if we wait.

There’s here now. Don’t be anymore.

It’s the crickets.

Do you think? You love.

Raining.

Ω

“Summer’s It,” an erasure/rewrite of the last 2 stanzas of “Sommerset”

wind

the memories–

times: summer’s set?

Life,

day: Sunday

month May,

years–

summer’s it,

Time?

Ω

“To Glean Sin from the Crows,” a rewrite of the first two stanzas of “Sommerset” made by replacing each word in poem with a sound-alike word:

Several ways were sunny.

Canned eels’ mouths were made.

Sand heavy birds down a long cane;

that seems to compensate

for muddy ears. Comb fuzzy bats.

Tin filters amore.

Hens heal ivy. Where summer went,

him no team ignores.

Cats rhyme some more. They gored some pigs.

Endure, he knew, but how?

Repair in size our wooden trunks.

Two seen beneath a stall.

Cows mainly hear enough of static

to glean sin from the crows.

Whine was learned, yet summer kept

land-cropping all sender’s snows.

Ω

“I Live That, Always,” an erasure of “The Single Man”

I live that, always.

For just a night,

the talk wasn’t a better day.

At home, or in his private cloud, I am

a time I can’t remember.

The house might have been help.

Ω

“Cans,” an erasure/creative edit of “Cannes”

Cans waking in the morning

sweep down the street.

The empty bottles go back.

As crossword puzzles on the sidewalk,

a new foundation crawls

back under buildings

to avoid the Jets.

Still adjusting our heads,

we shoe up in the hallway

and lose bed.

Thank God for the coasts.

Ω

“Form,” an erasure of “For Bimby”

Some things you can put down.

Sheep grazing on the airport stale February days.

Smile balloons look to me.

Surprises held in the day.

A blaze with tourists and cats ruins time.

Her smile is elaboration lost

Ω

“The cross Atlantic,” erasure/edit of “Atlantic Crossing”

I gave up a while.

I had written songs to my family’s safe for years.

Had some women liked my animals in luxury?

I’d miss me, but they’d be it.

The way did much paint.

I’ll admit there were eyes I’d keep.

All in all, I was ready, so I pray more.

God had frightened years.

He first did run down.

We’d play together if we weren’t one another.

Ω

“Beaching Manhattan,” an edit-rewrite of “Manhattan Beach” as a prose poem

I’m working in a house at Manhattan Beach. Eddie came by last weekend with two women and some books. The books and the women were stacked. (Ha!)

I sleep and breathe the waves. I think of my breathing. I mist my attention on the traffic. Familiar rooms sink past my songs. A half-packed suitcase buys me oughts.

My dog does stuff up on the beach–she doesn’t seem to care that this is the very end of the land. My friends may as well be weathered sticks or bottles sans notes. My dog smells of the smells she smells; they settle on her fur.

Boats fill harbors in a dance stretching back 10 years in a morning. I live mostly in afternoons.

I nearly died. Fever made doubt or walks along. I stayed alive. Letters came, and “I” was the island I would go for. The asshole rides me to see the dog embark a seal.

Ω

“Four for Hands,” an erasure-rewrite of “Concerto for four hands”

Shadows time me.

Mischief

winter

empties forms.

A mattress

grows tired

of some

backs.

Ω

“Now You’re Even,” an erasure-edit of “New Year’s Eve”

The snow

branches

like cherries.

Wind falls

like windows

dying.

The old die.

A hundred

time-products

choose me.

I am the green ground.

I have faces.

I need,–I know.

The town slopes

the curtains.

The next room waits.

Villages rain like celebrations.

Ω

“Urban Herb,” an erasure-edit of “Suburb”

The mountain winds around petals. A desert country like smoke. Those electric-nows pine for perfume towns. The smile is smiles. Centurions anticipate chopping. Down the trees and down the hills, ants make flat.

Ω

“Bag Age,” an erasure-edit of “Baggage”

Only one day shoulders disappearing.

Room crowds your face.

Help me suppose it gone.

Leave me so I stand.

Ω

“Boa Rid,” erasure-rewrite of “Boat Ride”

You yawn.

The boredom drove.

God was full.

You were Texas.

Your tongue, again, knows.

Your arms water time, privately.

Ω

“In Dian’s Summer,” an erasure-rewrite of “Indians”

In Dian’s summer,

riot-bank frogs

empty man.

Every thicket beds flowers.

Sunshine does the painting.

The hills buy the buffalo tower

and fence. Off the factories,

we’ll build shadows.

Men die but gray.

Ω

“Engineer of Pallidity,” an erasure and inversion of “Venice” (pages 34 through 31)

a whole long moment meets time.

I am handsome; a mirror could have a hope.

Find a way to own my reflection.

I excite you with motor cuisine. You, I’ll never smile.

The glance—once—keeps you. I buy. You coin the world, and back a secret.

The sun targets me. The sun beaches you.

My hair lies. I’m your engineer of pallidity.

Tomorrow, sun ends home, shade.

Waiting, the birds.

Feeding. Ignoring me, you, chattering, the pigeons.

Coming. Moving. Eating. Chewing.

Ω

“These,” a selection-rewrite of “Three”

I face country tablecloths.

I index fingers.

I till now.

I paint 20 minutes.

Your eyes say grapefruit.

I ruin mornings.

I draw evenings.

I even drawings.

Ω

“Tuesday,” an erasure/sound-replacing rewrite of “Two”

Back to look—I, you. No!

Understand: I speak same as I bathe,

with a winnowing and a leafing through.

The heat throws. Off, we wormed each other

into tarps in different booths.

Turning me, months mediate a simile.

In the laboratory at the lakefront,

there were some seaweeds in a hair curler—

my mind looked at them—

I had drained my face from the stairs.

Ω

“When,” an erasure/rewrite of “One”

When you corner change

and wrinkle it into day,

you and lovers lose

water to leaded crystal.

Ω

“Disbelief,” a re-make of “Morning, Three”

At any “and,”

disbelief smiles “yet, “or.”

Ω

‘Amazing like a minotaur’s mancave’: Exquisite Corpse poems (3 of 3)

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See previous recent Exquisite Corpse poems by my current students here and here. These lines are from my 9th hour class.

“Like I really care” is how war starts.

People love when this class ends and then starts again.

Beauty in a girl that we are not terrified of.

Food can taste good with you and me.

Fun-loving father, won’t you sing and dance to the thing?

Peter is a name that is a rib sandwich with turkey and bacon.

You have no food at the front of the panda.

Blue trident of the Poseidon has something like Trident gum.

Teachers are the coolest people that have big feet.

Reindeer cannot really fly, like you won’t again.

Weekend nights are crazy like a turkey sandwich on T.V.

Doing this is so funny that I can’t write anything good at all.

Home is where you don’t slip on the banana shoved in my mouth.

Meth lab coats are so pretty.

Silly rabbit, tricks are for everyone to eat pizza.

Ugly is the new pretty.

Singing Michael Jackson while cooking makes me have to poop.

Number the stairs to remind me to do chores like smoking the salmon.

Medicine cabinets show criminals in a comfy place with friends.

Rosy lips and cheeks bending like I’m the bender.

The ocean said that I’m ugly. Jerk.

Zoos remind me of memories, like the time I liked smelling myself.

The worst feeling in the entire day has gone well for the first time.

In the right mind, your own business people pledge to help but can a wood chuck Norris?

Tomorrow I get to see the dawn’s early light pigs jumping on top.

Real friends are better than a hot dog with barbeque sauce and chicken tenders.

Children are the most adorable cucumbers in their minivan.

Kitten is to cats as basketball games are amazing like a minotaur’s mancave.

Stuck between a rock and roll is lightning!

No question is a horrible thing on a stick.

Bad things can always happen when I decide to go out of house.

I live like you are dying.

Weak boys are for babies, and men are for the first time in the catacombs.

Hard classes make me mad at the cashier’s mood.

Spell sombrero upside down.

We are young so let’s jump off a bridge somewhere over the rainbow.

Skittles are in the toilet like the pink one your grandma had.

New exciting things always happen at the end of life.

My day is going swell, up like a balloon.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed cold on Thanksgiving dinner.

Mean old man chases down a newly dug grave.

But who even knows the truth to the world?

Very interesting people are in the big giant fluffy bunny.

Bad friends have better things to do.

Lame people are very exciting places to see.

Mayonnaise is like her legs.

Old shoes taste like old men.

A taco is what my mom is who gave birth.

Some flowers smell like red roses are red.

Violet is blue. I prefer it green.

Would you like to kiss me later tonight? I am going to eat a green pickle.

The whole pack of cigarettes is very gross too unless they are in the boogey move dance.

She always forgets herself in the nasty store.

Boy, do I love when school is over the river and through the woods.

Poems rhyme but only sometimes.

Is this a joke or is this a joke?

You are very cute in hot salsa.

Food cramps I get when my father dropped the new Sponge Bob rocks.