Sunday, February 11, 2007

Absurdism and Aleatoric Methods

Oh what fun. Crazy playing with words. Lately I've been working on projects while using the mechanical methods of the OuLiPo group. The methods used aren't all that far different from that trope that Kristen suggested I and others use for our blogs not too long ago. I've run poems through shredders and woven them back together with another shredded poem, kindergarten-placemat style, and transcribed what words came out as another poem. much is rather nonsensical, but some actually can be disturbingly clear. One experiement I did was with two random stanzas from the rather stinky verse of Will Carleton (copyright 1884) and what came out was, instead of the verses' original subject (which was that of country bumpkins visiting a beach resort), was a rather creepy stanza that suggested a father sneaking into a nursery with intent to kill his infant child. I certainly didn't see that coming. As luck would have it, the latest issue of McSweeney's has a section devoted to OuLiPo writers and how certain texts come out of such methods. For example, "33 Variations on a Theme by Shakespeare" where the famous "To be or not to be, that is the question" line gets put through the wringer using various Oulipian strategies, such as removing a letter "To be or not to be, hat is the question" to removing two "To be or not to be at is the question" to adding a letter "To bed or not to be, that is the question." Other nifty things are antonymic translation, where you go word for word and replace the original with a word that could be considered its opposite.

I used a pair of scissors on one of my compadre's poems and then wove them together, superimposing them like photographic negatives and ended up with this:

It had heavy boots,
tore the tender floor.
We saw them kick over in search of firemen,
A home caught in bare lamps,
the ruins of a burnt down job,
the rubble of a life, papers,
a black cord in flame.

Ok, I'll stop typing now. Must get back to classwork. Hopefully the snow that is supposedly coming will be of short duration and little accumulation.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Hey, sounds like y'all is having fun in that there graduate school!