Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sharps (Warding Remix) (2009)

Nathan Moore : 'Sharps', remixed by Stu Hatton

There’s a booklet called Patient Rights which no one has read. Ceiling-mounted cameras raise conversation from its natural pitch by a semitone. Count the kinds of innocuous: white walls; a small set of lies played back to placate. For some of us the timetable remains mysterious, opaque; it approaches the divine. Fluorescent tube flashes code; spasmodic pain. Clipboards held towards white coats, shieldlike. Conspiring to dull us; that’s my theory. Ticking off the codeine. The sharps (syringe, paper clips, knife) stored in micro-lockers. Some inmates bemoan the lack of music. Keys carried by orderlies provide semi-regular percussion. Padded footfalls. The door’s alarmed; red pulsing bulb. When a car pulls up outside we set our foreheads on the glass. We ogle with the sincerity of children. The muscled orderlies arriving to move us on, their strides replicated on the monitors. Such incidents are all we have. Sometimes manhandled, sometimes a needle pierces.

Process Notes:

I visited Nathan's old blog, Exhaust fumes and french fries, to choose a poem to remix as part of our remix exchange. The first poem I came across was 'Sharps', and immediately I felt drawn to it - the atmosphere it creates, the moods of the ward, the emphasis on safety precautions, the way the inner lives of the inmates are evoked in the poem. I read through 'Sharps' a number of times. I selected key phrases - phrases I felt were auspicious, which I could perhaps reshape or re-contextualise in an interesting way. A number of those phrases survive in the remix, altered to differing degrees. I'm not sure how I decided that the remix would be a prose poem. Prose has more or less become my 'default' form, unless I'm specifically aiming to create something that's more rhythmic and/or fragmentary - which isn't to say that rhythm and fragmentation can't be accommodated in a prose poem.

I felt the phrases I'd selected didn't constitute enough material to work with - I needed to draw material from elsewhere to make the remix 'my own'. So I messed around with Googlism, and happened upon some other interesting phrases by running a search for 'sharps' and a couple of other words which seemed relevant to my purpose. Then I began
assembling sentences by expanding upon the phrases I had, twisting them around and free-associating.

I worked at the remix sporadically, usually spending no more than half an hour on it at a time, adding a sentence or two per sitting, and tweaking what I already had. Several sentences didn't make the final cut, and a number of the phrases I'd gathered weren't used, but the majority were. I swapped a few sentences around as part of the editing process, but mostly the flow established itself without too much interference.

I figure I've kept pretty close to the thrust of Nathan's original, so that this isn't a 'wholesale' remix (the face of the original is still very recognisable in it). Probably my favourite part of Nathan's poem is the reference to seeing the crotches of people in cars from the vantage of the second floor, but this hasn't made its way into the remix. In Nathan's poem this image was unexpected, startling, but struck me as completely authentic. There's an honesty to it that I admire; for me it opens up questions about the 'innocence' of the gaze (can a gaze ever be innocent?), and the assumptions we make about the gaze of the other, especially when we perceive the other as 'childlike'. This aspect found its way into my remix in the line 'We ogle with the sincerity of children.'


  1. Stu, this remix is wonderful. Strides being replicated on monitors is a great image. I love the process notes, too.

  2. Thanks, Dana. :) I find that like the poem itself, process notes can be difficult to write, but sometimes intensely rewarding if you take the time.

  3. Yes, great notes -- fascinating. I love Googlism. This remix is fantastic. Your echoing of images, music and flashing lights, is wonderful. And that phrase: "that's my theory" really fleshes out the sense of a human being in the middle of this situation.

  4. Thanks, Nathan. Not sure if you noticed, but I added a word at the end of the poem. I don't know if it's quite the right word, but I'll let it sit there for a while...

    Reminds me of O'Hara's 'Why I Am Not a Painter': 'Yes, it needed something there.'