What is poetry? It seems that as Modern Poetry marches on, many of us have grappled with that question. ModPo 9.1 -9.2 -9.3 offers us an exploration into the post-modern. Po-Mo is not for everyone; the forums are alive with irritation. Meh, I remain enchanted.

I’m fond of ‘found’ poems or poems written with formula. Whilst I first happened upon these notions years ago in blogland, since there was no point-of-reference, it just seemed amusing. Now that I understand the gist of what these poems are attempting with language, I’ve a greater appreciation both for the art and the artist.

One poem that I had happened upon via a PoemTalk long before ModPo was “Dropping Leaflets”. Jena Osman has taking several transcripts from the Bush Administration after 9/11 and created a ‘chance’ poem (visit link for specifics).

Chance poetry allows an opening of poetics. This type of poetry allows the reader to explore without worry of misinterpretation in his or her close reading of the poem. Who can say you are right or wrong when the initial subject has not been cultivated from the writer’s imagination. There is freedom in chance.

“Dropping Leaflets” is a wonderful example of being able to write about a difficult topic without worry of exploitation of subject per se. I remember wishing to compose a poem after 9/11, but felt that I was too removed from the event. If I had culled others words regarding 9/11 and reconfigured into chance poetics, I would have felt that any outcome would have been a creation of somber beauty. It would have allowed me to work through my own thoughts while presenting the voices that truly needed sounding.


Whilst not all poets this week have personally resonated, most have, especially John Cage. His creation of mesostics is fascinating and fun.

During the live class this week, I thought, what did Robert Frost think of John Cage. I also questioned if Robert Frost would be a 9.2 poet if he applied mesostics to “Mending Wall”. (I did not know until tonight’s video viewing that Max had also thought of Frost.)

Well, here is my result from toying with MW the other night. I used the spine: ANTI MODERN, since that seemed to be an underlying thread of our discussion of Frost. (apologies for quality, I’ve yet to figure how to format it to work as copy/paste without major distortion, so I took a photo)

Will I use this for our essay this week? I remain undecided since I’ve loved many of Meyers suggestions. Only problem, I’ve not started and work Saturday and Sunday…hmmm…


6 thoughts on “freedom in chance

  1. “poems written with formula” – we could call this ‘the poetry of process’.

    “Chance poetry allows an opening of poetics. This type of poetry allows the reader to explore without worry of misinterpretation in his or her close reading of the poem. Who can say you are right or wrong when the initial subject has not been cultivated from the writer’s imagination. There is freedom in chance.” – Roland Barthes declared the death of the author (that’s all very well for a semiotician!) but the author refuses to die. We’re a hardy race of unstoppable zombies. There can’t be a work of art without intent, no matter how much the consumer of that art is free to interpret – and I’ll admit that is limitless.

    Nevertheless, someone has to explore. “Make it new!” said Ezra Pound around a century ago, give or take. People have been kicking art around like a football ever since, fascinating, delighting, appalling audiences, uncovering, recovering, rediscovering, innovating, embracing, rejecting definitions.

    In the end we have to demolish the Chinese walls between process and product, between artist and audience. There is no worthwhile and measurable difference between a sonnet and a piece of graffiti.

    This mornings treat for you will be to find Kurt Schwitters’ ‘Ursonate’ on YouTube. Enjoy! And thanks for a stimulating post today.

    Marie Marshall

  2. Hello Marie!
    Oh, this is amazing fun! I’m just home from work and am listening to it now. What is interesting is YouTube offers many different performances, the variation of the performance are most interesting. When I Googled to find out more info regarding Schwitters, I found the recording by Schwitters on UbuWeb.
    To compare his performance to those on the tube proves that
    each time the poem is ‘made new’.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed this post, thank you for reading. If you happen to read this response, I’d love your insight on something. I’ve an assignment due tomorrow with Many options. One is to ‘mirror’ a poem. If you were to read that, what would your approach be? I’m rather excited about the prospect of this exercise, but wonder if my thoughts on mirroring are not quite correct. It was culled from a list by PoMo poet Bernadette Mayer.

    Any thoughts would be welcome! ~ a

    • Interesting question. Let me tell you first of all my qualifications, and secondly what I have done and am able to do, and then we will approach your question…

      I have absolutely no qualifications. I’m an autodidact and, like all autodidacts, I am quick to voice an opinion.

      Secondly, I have tried my hand relatively successfully at translation (mainly French to English), writing in the style of another poet or author (including parody), writing replies to other poet’s works (including reproducing the form of the original)… I think the closest I have ever come has been to write two complimentary poems after poets Lisa Jarnot and Richard Siken. In both cases the same person asked me to do this exercise.

      I approached each task by first carrying out close analysis of each of the ‘target’ poems. Then in the case of the Jarnot, I decided to retain my own Scottish ‘voice’ rather than to adopt her American, but to use the precise construction of her original. The result can be found at the May 7th 2012 entry at qarrtsiluni (online poetry magazine) – I put a link to the page in my first attempt at contacting you, but it was shunted straight into your spam queue. 😦

      In the case of Siken, I simply had to pitch in and write something totally different. The result is at the Allpoetry web site, under the title ‘You, Midge, and the box’, author ‘Mairi bheag’ (again this reply is a re-draft, as the one containing a link was treated as spam) – I should point out that the underscores were necessary due to the perversity of the default typesetting of the site on which I posted it. Siken’s original had no underscores.

      Whether any of this counts as ‘mirroring’ I do not know. Perhaps when you find out you’ll let me know.


      • Thank you so much for this explanation! It’s after 1AM and I must soon sleep; will check for your mentioned links
        tomorrow night! I have more to ponder regarding my poetic experiment. The more I ponder the more ideas kept coming
        though I still grapple with ‘reflection/mirro’.

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