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....]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Ecstatic Museum Sings the Scaffold Blues

Yesterday I participated in a chance poetry workshop at the Kemper Art Museum at Washington University. This workshop, held in conjunction with the exhibition "Chance Aesthetics," explored some of the ways in which poets have integrated chance into their artistic practice. Participants were divided into groups that collaborated on writing poems utilizing variations on chance systems such as Exquisite Corpse, Checkerboard Chance, and Ouvrior de Litterature Potentille (OULIOP).

The Kemper will host a chance poetry reading on Friday, December 4, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend and read their own works or their own favorite Surrealist poem, or simply come to listen and enjoy.

Here are the poems that the participants created:

Checkerboard Chance #1:

He wandered in to the noisy bar
Crawling, screaming, itching
Dressed for the presidential inauguration
He needed a screaming leader
Slowly pulling himself up off the ground
Rolling, raunchy, robot-like

Checkerboard Chance #2:

And so the game begins...
Tire-swings make summer fun
Eliot knew to roll his trousers
Rolling through ales at the Royale
-- Remember, we say to each other,
The Alamo.

Wherefore art thou?
In the cave? In your aerie?
Hanging on the limb of a
Weeping willow
Clinging desperately to the chance
Gripping with knuckles and
Nails clenched together
I am Napoleon.

Exquisite Corpse:

If the tall policeman burns the wooden angel
And skipping adolescents grow pricey cauliflowers,
Will the inflamed stool arrive like a flea-bitten robot?

The ecstatic museum sings the scaffold blues.


Using your eyesore, change the World Wide Web
Flutter the itch. I've seen green eyelets
Sink beneath their napalm Atlantic
Waxes kneading skirts like a dove.
Slant a glare at what
You shouldn't look at, silver supreme
Broiled by a chandelier.


Escape doesn't cross your mine-field
Until you want to get out
Of a lousy skeleton.
Escape from the working class,
A scary plague,
From being trapped,
From an unpleasant release



Ibex dances but does Icarus move?
Musk-plant -- nothing -- a heller of a
Notochord it can be --
A nougat to set dane-gold --
Daphne to debridement --

But mustache
Can be a meltwater

Wafting, lifting --
A curry-comb to peacock.


The gyroscope navigated Bobbies together
To make boyscouts they rode
Out of tracers
Dapple was a printing.
He had dresses that he would be
Nailed to a croupier.