Welcome to the 2014 Blog Tour. You may have been a stop on the tour yourself, or perhaps you’ve toured elsewhere in this or previous years. At any rate, the idea is that someone ‘tags’ you, you answer some questions and post your replies, then you get to tag two more people.
I am honored to have been tagged by the wonderful poet Tina Biello, whose book In the Bone Cracks of the Walls was published in May by Leaf Press and whose book A Housecoat Remains is forthcoming from Guernica Editions in Fall 2015. A poet, playwright, actor and mask performer, Tina writes poems that are both animated and profound, infused with personal reflection, humor and rich metaphor. You can read Tina’s blog tour responses here. “I am wounded by wind. It is all language can reach.” (from Puja, by Tina Biello, in Vanishing into the Leaves, Leaf Press 2014) Thanks, Tina.
Herewith, the questions and answers…
What am I working on?
If you’ve visited chocolate is a verb before, it will come as no surprise that I am working on a series of found poems. Now numbering close to 650, these small collages (4.25” x 5.5”) each bring together three to six “chunks” of de-contexted magazine verbiage. They look like this:
By de-contexted I mean that the words are entirely removed from their original meaning. Through the accident of typesetting, the words in each chunk happened to fall together on the page, but they were never intended to be connected by meaning. In fact, if the words retain too much of their original sense, I won’t use them. This may be my only rule in creating these pieces.
As the collection count moves toward 700, I finally feel I might have enough “good ones” for a book and am slowly moving in that direction. The challenge is to find a publisher who respects the visual as much as the verbal and who can help to get the book into the hands of an appreciative audience (for example, people who go to art museums).
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
While there is a venerable tradition of found poetry dating at least to the Dada period and a recent revival of interest in “black-out” or erasure poetry and other altered texts, my work employs a slightly different vocabulary: found phrases from multiple sources, assembled visually. Among quilts, it would be the patchwork.
Why do I write what I do?
In addition to amusing me, these found poems seem to offer a balance to my more, um, conventional poetry writing. They are visual and verbal in equal measure (I don’t see those elements as separate) and satisfy my need for both. This process seems to have something to teach me about seeing, about writing, about making poems. I love the accident in them, which is something I seldom feel when I sit down to write a lineated poem.
How does my writing process work?
Most mornings, I take my coffee to the work table, where I stand and look through magazines. I scan headlines, subheads, pull quotes, captions, ads and, occasionally, article text, waiting for a word to catch my eye. If one does, let’s say the word butter, in the second poem shown above, I look around it to see if it might be part of a phrase. When I find the precise butter, even though I have no idea what it might mean, I cut it out of the page and then tear the block of words out of the small rectangle I’ve cut. The phrase then goes into the vast holding zone of my table, which looks like this:
Some of the phrases fall into subject groupings — writing, water, memory, weather, love — but most wait in a more random array, which I review frequently.
What typically happens is that as I continue to browse for words, I will find a phrase that triggers an association with words I’ve already collected. In this case, perhaps it was sunbeams that called out the precise butter and a lark. As I do when I’m writing more traditional-form poems, I move the lines around and around, testing them for sound and meaning, metaphor and surprise and here, visual effect. Eventually, I glue them to a small sheet, scan them and that’s that. They’re not conducive to rewriting (although sometimes a found phrase finds its way into a written poem); they’re just a step in a process that is, perhaps not surprisingly, getting harder as I expect more of each poem.
That’s enough for now. Ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer.
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And here’s the fun part: I get to tag two more writers. I am very pleased to pass the baton to Carey Taylor and Bethany Reid.
Carey Taylor is one of the people I know who is a “walking poet” — someone whose poetry seems to be stimulated by the very act of walking around. (Jennifer Bullis is another.) If she is something of a newcomer to poetry writing, she seems to have started at a level of maturity that many of us never attain. Carey’s wonderful words can be found in Cirque, Clover, Brevity Poetry Review, on her blog and elsewhere. She has recently moved into a house with a “real” writing studio, so I eagerly await her poems to come.
Bethany Reid’s second book, Sparrow (Big Pencil Press, 2012), was selected by poet Dorianne Laux for the Kenneth and Geraldine Gell Poetry Prize. It is a page-turner of a poetry book, transforming the ordinary, the given, into language that is vivid, compelling and intimate — a kind of alchemy, to use a word from the name of Bethany’s blog, A Writer’s Alchemy.
Postscript: I was curious how the blog tour got to this point, so I tracked the baton back a few months (it goes much further and spreads much wider; this is just the direct route): Christine Miscione invited Michael E. Casteels, who invited Jason Heroux, who invited Steve McOrmond, who invited Susan Gillis, who invited Anita Lahey, who invited Alice Zorn, who invited Matilda Magtree, who invited Barbara Lambert, who invited Janie Chang, who invited Kathy Para, who invited Eufemia Fantetti, who invited Tina Biello, who invited me. Thanks all!
Post-postscript: As Tina mentioned, I also do poetry posts most days on the Boynton Blog.
found poems © j.i. kleinberg