I did an interesting little job on Wednesday evening, over at the Irwell writers' group in Bury. They are a lovely bunch of very down to earth people who have no real interest in the usual arguments and intelectual disputatiousness of the poetry world (much of which amounts to a bunch of theologians arguing over angels on pinheads.) They just write.
Beforehand, I asked them all to bring a pair of scissors (then promptly forgot mine...) because I wanted them to write something and then cut it up. I give them a line from a South African newspaper I just happened to have a copy of, then said they could also choose a line at random from the paper as well, but they had to write in verses.
After they'd cut up their verses, they had to rearrange them, preferably in as random a way as they could. I've used this technique for my own poems several times now, and I used it for a poem that I'd brought along with me. It worked really well; people who usually rhymed ended up with something stranger than they'd usually go for, and there were some wonderfully suggestive open-ended poems that came out of the exercise.
The other exercise was to take a poem entirely from the South African newspaper, taking lines out that seemed to fit into something poetic.
These techniques might sound terribly avant garde to some, but I think they can be great generators of the unexpected. I gave them my theory of why the arts in the 20th century changed quite as suddenly as they did. It's my "Boredom Theory": that Picasso thought up Cubism because he was bored of doing it the usual way. The same with TS Eliot, Ezra Pund and WS Williams. I think it's as good a reason as any.
Other news: I read a portion of Nancy Cunard's Paralax in the Oxford Anthology of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry the other day. I thought it was an interesting curio, and shows that modernism in England wasn't just TS Eliot; but I can't say I was impressed enough to look out the whole poem. But I'm glad I read it; it gives a fuller picture of modernism, and makes me aware that there is more interesting stuff out there in English poetry than simply Edward Thomas and Thomas Hardy.
THE MOTHER OF ALL WEEKS
4 days ago