Saturday, 4 April 2009

Two poems.

A few posts ago Poet-on-Residence (see my blog list) talked about using material already written to write poetry. He suggested picking words and phrases from publications and putting them together into a poem of your own. So for the past two or three weeks I have been collecting words and phrases from things I have been reading - mainly The Times or The Guardian, or occasionally magazines. My one criterion has been that the writing was good writing.

Now I have a list several hundred lines long and I have written a couple of poems using lines and/or words picked out to fit the bill. Here they are - see what you think of them? And do you think this is a legitimate way to write "poetry"? My feeling is that playing with good words and phrases all helps to build up the experience needed to write well oneself. What do you think?


The continual search for Utopia
on the mean streets
brings out predator and prey;
vast herds and solitary wanderers;
you may have an A to Z
but would you really want to go there?

The Affair.

The affair rumbled on,
a strange, modern form of intimacy -
being kept at arm's length
with a significance that is never made clear,
'til one day they do not mention
meeting again.


Cathy said...

I love both of them!

Hildred and Charles said...

Very interesting way of writing poetry. I think you have accomplished two relevant poems, and if the words came from elsewhere it is you who put them together into such a terse commentary on modern life, - or maybe just life! Nicely done Weaver

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I like them too and think it is just as much a challenge to produce a poem in this way as to compose one from scratch.

An artist who I have come across who alters books also uses this idea in some of them; creating a poem by highlighting words in the book. This is usually done across a two page spread, which must be challenging.

HelenMHunt said...

I particularly like the second one. You've used the words and turned them into something totally different which I feel is a totally legitimate way of starting a piece.

Poet in Residence said...

THIS IS REAL POETRY! I'm sure some so-called household names use the technique on the quiet!
But, we, like Virginia Woolf, are not afraid of being discovered. In fact we announce 'our world well' source with pride!
The 3 skills here are (i) in being able to appreciate the poetic turns of phrases and save them (ii) then having the ability of correct selection to make something new and meaningful (iii) and to do so without losing the poetic qualities.
Many poets used to trawl through books like the bible.
Of course it's legitimate: the phrases in the newspapers, journals and wotnot are the apples on the trees. Pluck away or cast your net. Whatever turns you on!

Heather said...

If I were a writer, I think I would find it harder to reassemble someone else's phrases into a poem than working from scratch. It is always advisable to read good writing in order to learn what 'good' is, but is it quite acceptable to recycle another's words and sentences into a piece of one's own work? However, this could be the basis of a worthwhile exercise or fun-to-do challenge, and you have achieved a fine result with your customary flair. I heartily agree with the comment you left on my blog, and when all has returned to normal I shall swan around in a daze of smugness!

Jenn Jilks said...

Wonderful, Weaver!

I often asked my students to cut out newspaper headlines and magazine titles to shape prose or poetry. P.I.R. has some great ideas. I miss teaching!

It is a good challenge for the brain.

I wrote a poem, too.
Today would have been my mother's birthday.

Jane Moxey said...

I like both these poems. I think it's absolutely valid to take phrases from other sources. I think that's called "inspiration." I am a maker of quilts and am always looking for words or phrases to inspire original quilt art! You have taken those phrases and bent them to your own voice. Good job!

Crafty Green Poet said...

These both work very well and I think its a very valid way of writing, particularly if you're using snippets from very different sources.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I really like both poems - particularly the second one. I think using sentences or words from somewhere else probably jiggles the unconscious mind into new ways of thinking and sets off new flows of creativity.

Leenie said...

Great combinations of phrases. I enjoyed both poems.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

You've creatively assembled a pair of legitimate poems. I do like the second one best.

Personally, as a writer, I have no real difficulty fiddling around with another's words, fashioning them into something else. That's essentially what I've regularly done when editing magazines or books. My editorial philosophy has always been to not so much rewrite as simply polish and tweak, keeping as much of the other writer's style and original work as possible—which is always harder than just rewriting.

I expect some published/publishing poets have created various works via this trawling methodology…but I also believe this could prove the very antithesis of finding and developing a genuine poetic voice. Voice, style, and syntax all give poets their individuality—their way of phrasing, their eye for detail, their area of work. There's a difference between being able to recognize a poetic phrase and being able to create a poetic phrase. I can recognize a great painter and I can assure you I have no talent whatsoever for painting.

Now I'm not saying this isn't a good exercise; it is. It will help you think creatively. You might also take a number of lines, assemble them into a "poem," then exchange nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc., and make the lines into something else entirely. Another creative exercise.

But in the end—and again, I'm speaking personally—I'd rather read an original effort, even if it doesn't quite work. Moreover, I've already read several of your past poems—and all you need do is keep writing.

EB said...

I love the 2nd one. Doesn't bother me how they're made - you're relatively unlikely to make up words, after all!

Woman in a Window said...

Hum, that's a good question. And I think the end result is quite good and interesting in both cases, however, I don't think it's fair to collect phrases. I think it's ok to collect impressions, feelings, ideas, but the phrases of poetry should be born of the writer.

What do you really think?

Mistlethrush said...

I think they both work. The first has a surreal quality about about it and the second flows so well I'd never have guessed it had originated from several sources.

Mistlethrush said...

By the way. How did your poem go down with the local writers' group? And what did you decide to call it?

Cloudia said...

Found poetry!


Poet in Residence said...

If anybody wants to take this further I'd suggest getting hold of a copy of Finnegans Wake with its millions of words. I think, as I hinted, that the bible has outlived its usefulness as a source of the inspired phrase. I don't mean that we should start plagarising Joyce but of coure the Wake is an amazing source of rich phraseology and for writers not to take it further ´would be a sad waste´ as Mr Quark might not have said. Obviously you can blend in some fitting words of your own. And you should do so.
On my blog if you search for 'Finnegans Wake' you'll find an example of how poetic the book is - and on there is a poem (as I've made clear) I haven't changed one word of Joyce's. So in effect, James Joyce is still alive and well round bend of bay perhaps and penning poems, or one example of his poetry anyway, on PiR. Enjoy. Experiment. Have fun.

The Weaver of Grass said...

The consensus of opinions on whether it is valid to collect words and phrases from other good writers and rehash them for one's own work seems at present to be about fourteen to two in favour - I really don't know what I think!
But PiR's second comment and Scribe's comment do make sense to me - and I shall continue to try it in the hopes that one day I shall produce a poem without the aid of that crutch. Thanks to you all for joining the debate - so stimulating to get discussion going in blogland, isn't it?

The Weaver of Grass said...

PS Nice to think of James Joyce as still alive round bend of bay - and still penning poems through us all. His statue in Dublin has an air of just being there for a while - so perhaps he's gone down to Galway!

Poet in Residence said...

Yesterday I went to see the Harrison Birtwistle / Robin Blaser
opera 'the last supper'. Now, there's a poetic mixture of text for you! The music is pretty good too. Well, so it should be, coming from Accrington's equivalent to Wagner or Verdi. But the point is in order to create this wonderful scenario, of the 12 disciples and a broken-hearted Jesus meeting for another 'last supper' to commemorate the year 2000 and mark the end of the 'century of holocausts' one must raid the biblical wordpile. And I see no valid difference between doing so to create an opera or a haiku apart from the scale of the thing. One lasting 2 hours and the other barely 2 or 3 seconds. Here's a 5-7-5 summary of the whole thing:

bread broken to share
wine drunk perhaps to excess
- genocidal songs

Janice Thomson said...

A neat way to write poetry and still requires a great deal of talent to put together properly. Well done Weaver.

Denise Burden said...

I love both poems. I don't see anything wrong in borrowing words and phrases from other people - you are the one who has welded them together.
David Bowie uses a similar technique when writing his lyrics.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do love reading your poetry.

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