Friday, December 4, 2009

Denial: An Automatic Writing Exercise with Explanation

The gypsies nailed boards together to make the boxcars they rode out of town. They rode together towards the Nile river in sunny Egypt. Daniel was the oldest or the youngest of the gypsies. Daniel was a prince. Daniel had dreams at night -- and sometimes waking-fever dreams during the day. Dreams that he was being nailed to a cross.

[Note: The above is based on an automatic writing exercise I did at the Kemper Art Museum's "Chance Poetry" workshop, led by Eileen G'Sell, on Thursday, December 2.

Participants viewed the "Chance Aesthetics" exhibition and wrote two words on separate slips of paper; on returning to the class room, each person drew one slip of paper from a hat. This word was the starting point for the automatic writing exercise.

My word was "denial."

I first thought of the joke, "denial isn't just a river in Egypt," and then "the nail". Then, I looked for an anagram and found "Daniel." Lately, I've been listening to the new R.E.M. live album and have been thinking of the song "Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars Out of Town"). "Egypt" led to "gypsies". In the explanation of the exercise, Eileen G'Sell mentioned Gertrude Stein, and I thought "Daniel was the oldest or the youngest" seemed Steinian. In one line I make Daniel a prince and in the next give him waking-fever dreams of being nailed to a cross....]

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