Travis MacDonald offers up a work-intensive prompt that requires building source material from books on our shelves by starting from the left hand side of our shelving units, picking the tenth book, typing in page 10 of every 10 books until we have 10 pages of transcribed text, then deleting duplicate words via the search function on our word processors.
My source books were all poetry:
1. Jan Allen, Personal Peripherals (Buschek Books, 2006)
2. Elizabeth Bachinsky, The Hottest Summer in Recorded History (Nightwood Editions, 2013)
3. John Berryman, selected poems. kevin young, editor (American Poets Project, The Library of America, 2004)
4. Stephanie Bolster, White Stone – The Alice Poems (Signal Editions, Véhicule Press, 1998, Fifth Printing, 2005)
5. Tim Bowling, The Thin Smoke of the Heart (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000)
6. Mobility of Light, The Poetry of Nicole Brossard selected with an introduction by Louise H. Forsyth (Laurier Poetry Series, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2009)
7. Stephen Cain, I Can Say Interpellation. With art by Clelia Scala (BookThug, 2011)
8. An Oresteia, translated by Anne Carson, Agamemnon by Aiskylos, Elektra by Sophokles, Orestes by Euripedes (Faber and Faber, Inc, 2009)
9. Margaret Christakos, What Stirs (Coach House Books, 2008)
10. Victor Coleman, The Occasional Troubadour (BookThug, 2010)
What surprised me was how little repetition there was. Mostly function words. I was surprised to see God and love only once, for example.
Thank you to Travis for this prompt. It was a long process but quite meditative. I rediscovered some gems on my shelves. I thought a lot about language as I was typing in the poems and as the duplicates were disappearing. I found some intriguing and resonant juxtapositions, like “delicious body god bells” when the language from one poem collided into the next. When I put all the reduced text together in a big chunk, it occurred to me that if I sliced sections off the chunk, I would get some interesting combinations: “crass lapspark” and “lived rat.” In the end what I liked most was the possibility for sculpture, so that’s what I made.
Thank you to all the poets who provided, albeit unknowingly, the text for this experiment. One of the things I love about these prompts is that it offers new ways of engaging with a work to create something new.