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.'

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Arboretum (Remix of 'Oh?') (2009)

'Arboretum' by Nathan Moore
(a remix of the Stu Hatton poem

Our golden dream:
the trees have been taught to enter text.

The trees are confused
by our mixed messages.

The city’s trees are radioactive. The wind
in their branches sounds like techno.

The trees can’t tell girls from boys. They need
a handbook.

When the weather’s warm we get unruly
in the rooms between the trees.

Oh, I knew this would happen. That cranky tree
bit me and broke my arm.

The tree on the tram is a tourist.

Imagine this request: be my endless resource.

Along the bald coast, among the poisoned bays, the last blue
pine shudders with fatigue.

When the trees come back they’ll be digital and they’ll
rule the planet by force.

I have difficulty forgetting
what trees look like.

Must we fail? Must we soak in sap? Hold a knife
to the living throat?

Now we raid the commons. Now we are alone.
Now it’s just us and the gods staring awkwardly at each other.

Consider optics. Consider perspective. Consider the horizon
without that tree.

* * *

Nathan's Process Notes:

Like Dana, I couldn’t keep away from Stu Hatton’s
proposal to remix poems on his blog. Although Stu is open to different methods regarding the remix exchange, I gave myself the task of using every word in his poem, “Oh?” I love the way thoughts like “we fall awake” surface and submerge in this work.

I read “Oh?” twice then waited a few days to let it stew in my brain. Like Dana, I made a
Wordle image out of it. The image is a cloud of words from a given text. Word size is determined by the frequency of the word in the original text. In this case, “tree” was the most frequently used word, so I decided to make that the core of the poem thematically and in terms of its appearance in each line. Because I wanted to use Stu’s every word, my poem ended up twice as long as it is now. Dana and I agreed, though, that the second half seemed unnecessary after the line that begins “Consider optics …”

About Nathan

Nathan is a father, poet and painter from Columbus, Ohio. His work has appeared in
Saggio Poetry Journal, Asphalt Sky and ouroboros review. Together with Dana Guthrie Martin he edited the 'mutating the signature' issue of qarrtsiluni. He and Dana also co-maintain an excellent blog

Note from Stu

I really admire what Nathan's managed to do with my poem, which itself is still very much a work in progress. I think it's a terrific remix, and that's not just because I'm a lover of trees. It reminds me a little of Wallace Stevens'
'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'. Nathan's meditations and manipulations have the effect of making trees seem 'as strange as they are'.

I'm considering remixing Nathan's remix(!), but first I'll keep up my end of the 'remix exchange' bargain, with a remix of Nathan's poem
'Sharps'. I'll post it on here as soon as it's ready.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Inspirations at the Dan O'Connell 7/3

Last Saturday there was no feature poet at the Dan; it was an all-open-mic affair, with the theme of 'Inspirations', i.e. which poets/poems have inspired you, or what have they inspired you to write?

I chose to recite William Blake's 'London', which would have been one of the first poems to deliver a cold spinal shock while I was a teenager. In my view it still stands as one of the great city poems, along with the likes of Lorca's 'New York: Office and Denunciation', which I featured as one of the recurring poems on this blog.

Next up I read Pam Brown's 'At the wall', from Dear Deliria: New and Selected Poems. As I said (with a wry smile) on the day, I hope this poem inspires someone to do something other than write poetry. It's a serious punch in the guts - the kind we need.

Finally I read the final (88th) sonnet from Ted Berrigan's The Sonnets. Every hair on my body was standing to attention for those last few lines, ending with 'It is 5:15am ___________ Dear Chris, hello'. I would've first read bits of Berrigan more than ten years ago, but more recently, after reading The Sonnets in full, and hearing Berrigan read them more or less in their entirety after downloading an mp3 from UbuWeb, they've become a central text for me. They're a freaky construction of repetitions, appropriations, interrelations, shifting textures and tones.

It was fun listening to other poets' inspirations, and the fruits thereof. Ledong Qui took the theme laterally, and surprised a few people by pulling out a thesaurus and flicking at random, sampling words from it. Berrigan would've approved.

Below: Reciting 'London' (photo by Michael Reynolds).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

sunday (2009)

caught in so much daylight
(plainclothesman's funnel)

skin warmed by eye
ignored by hand

limp handshaking all that bridges
(or else sunday cough)

analog clock semaphores
(calc the time left)

a side sleep deletes

recovered, regeared for travel

pool of glass
under blue light

& were you on an illicit?
your pupils played bent little notes

all the pixels spilled...

last night city
a dirty epic
held words
(the poem)

now that city is missing

Monday, March 09, 2009

First two remixes from Remix Exchange

Below (in the previous two posts) you'll see the first fruits of the Remix Exchange: a remix by Dana Guthrie Martin of my mini-sequence of poems First Seven Sevens, and my remix of her poem 'Suite'. Each remix also includes process notes written by the remixer.

I love what Dana's done with the Sevens. She
mostly restricted herself to the vocabulary of the original, but she's really made it her own. There's an uncanny element of seeing 'my' words remixed in this way. And there are echoes of the original also in the use of enjambment and short, somewhat arcane sentences. I like how she's chosen a significant word to repeat from each stanza to the next, thereby forging a thematic link.

Thanks so much to Dana for collaborating on this; it was a great pleasure to remix her poem and have mine remixed in return. The buzz I got out of the whole process has made me even more keen to enter into remix exchanges with other poets/writers/artists. If you're interested, feel free to get in touch, or post a comment here.

Here's a little bit about Dana:

"Dana Guthrie Martin lives in the Seattle area and writes wherever writing will have her. She shares her home with her husband, her pet hamster and her robot, Feldman. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Blood Orange Review, Blossombones, Boxcar Poetry Review, Fence and qarrtsiluni. Most of the time, she and poetry hobble along in a sort of three-legged race where there is no finish line."

I can also tell you that she's recently been accepted into a Master of Fine Arts program at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I wish her every success with that. She's also a prolific collaborator. I recommend following the mutating the signature blog, which Dana co-maintains with Nathan Moore. You should also definitely check out the 'mutating the signature' issue of qarrtsiluni, which Dana and Nathan co-edited. The entire issue is dedicated to collaborative works.

Suite (Sour Remix) (2009)

Dana Guthrie Martin : 'Suite', remixed by Stu Hatton

At your question eyes :: sped away in guilt no :: I hadn’t been thinking of :: you I’d been thinking about what :: I think about why :: would I do otherwise?

(what does inertia)

You ask :: what does inertia :: mean I say this :: suspended game board overrun :: with dice

(keep erasing)

We think in untouchable :: substances :: you vapour I :: dust I’ve been :: thinking whatever comes :: too easily knotting :: frequencies been through :: opportunities all these cold :: currencies flood :: your speaking :: mouth

(until you have)

You ask :: what does silence :: mean I say a shell :: aluminium :: egg that will not :: hatch

(what you need)

The last dream we :: sit in a café noise :: of china, knives and :: the too-loud :: music and rival :: talk at other :: tables you place :: your cup over :: your mouth as :: a semi-mask :: I fence my :: eyes with a :: napkin and :: the waiter softly :: asking us to leave

(what does silence)

Overgrown :: with silence I cannot :: listen my ears :: shrivelled buds cannot :: respond my bloodless :: tongue the skin :: a snake sheds

Process Notes:

My remix began as a reply to 'Suite', with a male voice replying to the female voice of Dana's poem. I've aimed for a kind of symmetry with the original, and retained some formal elements, such as the use of short phrases broken up with double-colons. I retained a couple of phrases from the original also.

The last part I added was the 'dream sequence' stanza set in the café. I opted for more fragmentation of the phrases in this stanza to evoke the dream-state's fluidity of association. Then I decided to apply the same fragmentation to the rest of the remix, which basically involved adjusting where the breaks (double-colons) between phrases occurred. This meant that the 'heads' and 'tails' of discrete phrases were pruned and grafted on to adjacent phrases. The result was a greater sense of discontinuity, meaning that the reader probably has to make more of an effort to follow the flow of the poem. The parenthetical phrases between stanzas were the final elements to be added.

I found the remixing process very interesting indeed. I felt I was taking on someone else's voice, which I guess is something I've done a few times in my work, but I don't think I've channeled this kind of voice before. It's a male voice, but I'd say there's a feminine edge to the imagery it projects.

Dana's notes on this remix can be found here.

First Seven Sevens (Remix) (2009)

First Seven Sevens, remixed by Dana Guthrie Martin


There are no meds.
Another lucid moment.
Inside words hunger dries.
Paranoia’s ear comes loose,
howls through fields
remembers what it means
to drown.


Another constellate goodbye.
Another tearful bedpan.
I like what you’ve done
with your forehead.
Inside the drowned,
at least one photograph:
heads thrown back.


People felt things.
Edges. Needles. Casings.
Scratch & Sniff descriptions
of goodbyes often
belong on film.
Go read something


The computers are down.
Composes turns into compasses.
Bodies spin
like dime store tops.
Spiritualize all you want,
even a cave is full of sky.
Just sniff.


They are revising deserts
into test sites again.
Dualistic thinking
brought us
sign and symbol,
hemorrhage and clog.
The sky never gets any credit.


Moving symbols
conversant in slow-dancing
lend tranquilized
reassurance to droids.
Don’t forget
the enemies of glad:
Kick blood free.


Keep tending your ego.
Dessert the color of night
skirts dazed magpies.
Awareness wears a hood,
dries in fragments.
Replicants prefer a belly
full of reassurances: We are one.

Dana's Process Notes:

The process I used was to strip all of Stu’s words out of his poem, “Sevens,” and jumble them up in a wordle. My initial plan was to remix the piece by using his words and only his words. But as with all plans, things changed. I started inserting some of my own words here and there as images came to me that I couldn’t shake and couldn’t create without using words that weren’t in the original piece.

In terms of structure, I wanted to keep the seven, seven-line stanzas because that form seemed essential to the remix. I noticed that I’d repeated certain important words in more than one stanza, and I decided that the repetitions should have some structure as well, so I placed the repeated words in adjacent stanzas as a way of threading them together.

I read Stu’s piece several times a few weeks before I started writing. But during the process, I didn’t revisit Stu’s piece at all. I wanted the words to take me somewhere without being swayed by how Stu had used them. I just went back and looked at the piece again today, and it’s amazing to read both sets of “Sevens” together. They read like a conversation. Even though most of the words are the same, there’s still a sense of different voices using those words, infusing them with meaning through tone and context.

I also just realized that I managed to leave the word “magpie” out of my version. I love magpies, and there’s no excuse for having left that word out. I just revised the last stanza to include the word “magpies.” Did you know that pies used to be made by placing a hollow ceramic magpie in the middle that would allow the heat from the pie to escape from its beak? I decided that my magpies belonged in my line about desserts. They fit right in there.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Frame Lines #7 now available

Issue #7 of Frame Lines is now available. There's some stunningly beautiful visual art inside, plus plenty of superb poetry, fiction and non-fiction. My poem pollen is also in there.

I'd recommend subscribing to receive the magazine as a PDF. This won't cost you anything, and all you have to supply is an email address!

Alternatively you can thumb through or download the magazine via Issuu, which presents documents as virtually-flickable objects (you'll see what I mean if you click on the document I've embedded below).

Many thanks to the Frame Lines editors - I'm thrilled to have my work included in such a stunning publication.