Posts Tagged ‘blackout poetry’

So, I’ve been thinking about weaving and my ongoing taxonomy project. (I started these sets of works after hearing a colleague talk about her MFA program assignment in which she made 10 sets of 10 works. I am going with sets of 5 and using the term ‘works’ very loosely.) My most recent set of works for my taxonomy project was weaving with sticks and yarn. At the end of my post about it, I thought about doing something with words next as I have been doing quite a bit with blackout poetry this past year. And, that is what I did. I combined weaving, blackout poetry, sewing, and some loose pieces (stamps) to create this set of works.

Each image is a combination of facing pages torn from The Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard Evslin. I have a very hard time destroying books, but I am getting better at it. The first tear is the hardest. This particular book was not in good shape, pages taped it, very discolored, etc. Anyway, I started with a page of text and cut each line part, keeping the very left hand side uncut. Then I found other paper, brown craft paper, music score, magazine images, and patterned paper, and cut a similar sized rectangle with wide vertical strips. I wove these together. That was step one.

For step two I decided to take the facing page and make a blackout poem.

The next step was creating dome sort of unified image with both pages and some other bits and pieces. I have a lot of Greek stamps, so I got those out first. Since I had heavy white paper as my background I thought about painting some of the backgrounds. However, in the end I didn’t like most of the painted backgrounds and swapped them out. The light water color colors were not working for most of the images.

Finally, I sewed on top of everything. Sometimes the sewing related to the words or image, other times it did not.

Now for the images.


This is one of the images that started out with a watercolor background. I think the white is much better, especially with the red stitching, which I did with a sewing machine.


The music score makes the right hand side very busy, but the poem side is minimal. I had another watercolor background that I decided not to use for this one. I like the free form swirls on on both sides. I had a stamp that I was going to put on, but I forgot and decided that it is fine without it, for the moment anyway.


I wanted muted colors for sleep, hence the gray edge and blue stitching. The image on the stamps seem sort of dreamy. The image on the right has a picture of kids on one of those swing rides at an amusement park.


This is the only image where I like the pastel softness. The last line of the poem reads, “she did not flinch.” So, I like the combination of the lily on the stamp, the lavender stitching, and the strong words. The image woven into the text is a woman standing next to a battered boat, which I thought was particularly good since the books pages were from the Circe chapter.


This one has the most going on. Between the patterned paper on the weaving page, the multicolored background, the writing, the stamp (the ‘and yet’ part come to life as the men return to fighting) and the sewing, there’s a lot to take in. And yet, (ha!) I don’t find it overwhelming. I really like how the yellow swirling stitching connects the two sides of the image.

What a great way to spend a staycation day.

So, I’m still thinking about my taxonomy projects and blackout poetry. (Read about the origin of my taxonomy project works in this previous post.) This has definitely been a year (school year) of art and words for me.

Lucky for me, our school library recently moved. This lead not only to me getting a very nice new office in the new Learning and Research Center, but also being able to acquire many books that were being deaccessioned from the collection. Some of these books I took for artistic purposes not necessarily literary ones.

One of the books I now own is a very large (12×18) volume about Ancient Japanese Buddhist Art. I also took a few little books with Matisse cutouts. Of course, when I saw the books next to each other I thought I should combine these ideas with some blackout poetry. Since I am doing sets of 5 works for my taxonomy pieces, I have a selection here of 5 things. The first two are actually multiple page works. I used the two essays that begin the book as the basis for two black out poems. However, instead of blacking out the words I didn’t want, I boxed them and left the others. In addition, I chose words from multiple pages and cut down to that layer. This first slide show shows the pages in the first work.

Reading as if on one page, the poem reads:

J has never given up

to study, to comprehend, to symbolize, to understand

to understand in defiance of anatomical truth

Scholars arrived for their movement.

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One of the things that I think is interesting in this is the way the one picture page has just one hole in it, and it happens to be positioned in such a way that it seems the person in the image (maybe the scholar) is holding a sign that reads for their movement. I also am intrigued by looking at the pages as they turn and seeing some words and some holes.

Here is the second multi-page work. Read as a single poem it reads:

B played

beautiful lady standing under a tree

his exile, roughly speaking of course,

tradition rich in art

After the official introduction

B is placed in

Rocks, trees, and bears

This pair is entirely different from family

(hidden on a later page and not visible from page 1: there remain only a few.)

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Again, some of the pages are more interesting individually than others. Seeing them in person you can see the depth in the cuts down several pages to get to the word, and I think that adds something. As I took words and phrases from different levels, sometimes I misjudged their location on the page and couldn’t cut the above pages. However, having there remain only a few hidden (like an Easter egg in code) is even better. And, it’s doubly better since it was accidental and yet worked with the text.

Then I did 3 other images that are single pages. I added more color to the words on this one. Because I didn’t think the yellow was enough on the page, I colored the word boxes red. To get away from the appearance of “coloring in” and to have a less rigid shape, I irregularly extended the red beyond the boxes.

Photo on 5-24-16 at 8.53 AM

Poem reads:

The eleventh public record

National Commission, National Commission,

Ministry, Ministry

National Commission, Specialized Committee,

National Commission, National Commission, National Commission,

National Commission, National Commission,

National Commission.

 

Then the final two works.

Left hand poem reads:

In the main hall,

a youth riding out of the palace gates

In the five-storied pagoda

mother of all

and an attendant.

Right hand poem reads:

Protecting believers

a manifestation of paradise

The teacher, founder of legends,

sent back through the air stories

hurrying to the crown in excitement.

So this is some of what I have been up to in my spare time.

So, I’ve been thinking about blackout poetry for quite a while. I’ve also been on my taxonomy project kick for this school year. (The taxonomy project is where I make sets of works of some kind. I have chosen to make sets of 5.) These two interests have proven to be a good combination. This time around I decided to add some other elements to the poems: embroidery, little plastic shapes made with the 3D Doodler (it’s like a hand-held 3D printer that really is better if you stick with 2D), and/or some pictures.

First up, adding in a little sewing to the poem and keeping some surrounding images from the original pages.

Photo on 2-7-16 at 1.07 PM #3

New York Panorama

Can you dance

during the week, for a few beats

it’s a time before it vanishes.

safe

With this poem, I added the red stitching for emphasis and even added words, which I had not expected to do. However, I think it works well and adds to the overall effect.

 

 

 

Safe

No sheer

flirty hem

red bow

not about the

body

flat abs

décolletage

Here statement

her choices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, I tried incorporating some designs made with the 3D Doodler. This first design began as an image that I made separately, but I later noticed it worked with the poem.

Photo on 2-7-16 at 1.06 PM #2

Go

The seven story building

has been reimagined

an eccentric friend

gave you a key.

The designs in the next two works were done right on the newspaper, after some testing on other paper, and were created specifically for the poems. First up: Spotlight.

book fanatic

Spotlight

The book fanatic

and resident documentarian

tickled

the chief researcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, this one.

Since it is called “Ghosts: A City Below Ground” I thought I would use the grayish plastic for the 3D Doodler pictures. Then, it turned out it was also glow-in-the-dark, even better. Each building is numbered and the text in that building is to be read top to bottom before moving on to the next.

Ghosts

Ghosts: A city below ground

1

S. wearing a suit and tie,

sitting.

2 feet

flooring

photos

joists

3

destroyed

discovered

4

dig a whole anywhere.

Again, no poetry prizes here, but I really enjoyed thinking about what else to bring to the poems. It made me consider the relative merit of literal or more abstract images, design, grouping, and organization. In addition, after the first go round, I only had 3 poems with added visuals. So, having set my goal for a taxonomy group at 5, I went back to some other poems I had and consider how to embellish them. In the process, I worked on another one or two totally new poems and ditched one of the original 3. This does not represent a huge time investment, but it does represent some time spent thinking differently than I might ordinarily think. And that is something to make time for whenever I can.

So, I’ve been thinking about the impact that restraints have on writing. This was a topic on one of the days of the teaching writing workshop I attended and loved over the summer. The two creative writing teachers shared a number of ideas from their classes.

The idea is that having some constraints around the writing is in fact helpful for getting going. They particularly suggested setting as something to consider making a constraint. So, the class might brainstorm a list of possible settings and then each student would write a brief piece set in one of the times and places. Try considering this yourself. If you are told the story takes place on a bus or in a local chain restaurant or at the library, there are probably ideas that come to your mind right away.

This past semester one of my goals for my English class was to do some creative writing. We did talk about the setting exercise and played with the idea in class. Then, what I ended up doing was asking students to find a sentence in the book we had just finished and use it in their creative writing. (I wrote earlier about my other goal for this project, which was to find an audience for this work. That part did not end up being super successful. More on that later.) However, providing the constraint of the sentence by our expert author was successful. Some students took a sentence and also borrowed a similar  general genre. Sentences from Slaughterhouse-Five ended up in new stories about people returning from war. However, others took it as a deliberate challenge to do exactly the opposite with the sentence. What? Students setting a challenging goal for themselves and then following through? Victory.

I did not write a story with a sentence, although I should have. I have continued to work on blackout poetry, which I have written about numerous times on its own and in conjunction with my personal taxonomy projects. Most recently I tried using catalog text, which did not lead to such great work. I have been thinking about moving to the sports section of the newspaper as my starting block. Like my student who wanted to turn the sentence he found on its head, I wanted to take on the constraint of articles from the sports section and erase all sports from the resulting poems. Although I had started this a few times, I finally got to it on our snow day. Sports themed blackout poetry taxonomy project here I come. Thank you Jonas the blizzard.

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I took the Sunday Sports section of the January 24th New York Times and started with the front page articles. I was lucky in that there were a few not so sporty articles. As I got going, I realized that the article was continued on an inside page, as were all the articles. So, I decided to add another constraint to my poetry–all the poems from the front page portion of the article had to end with the word continued (or continue).

I found that having that end goal gave direction to some of my other word picking. I find it easy to be distracted by a choice word when I am trying to write one of these poems. (I have the same trouble at a buffet. One thing grabs my attention and then the next thing you know I have a plate full of random items that do not go together in any way other than they are yummy.) Since I do need to have something leap out at me or force me to make a first choice, it’s in some ways handy to have a word jump out at me. The problem is that sometimes that first sparkly word should just be the catalyst and nothing more (catalysts do not actually get mixed in with the chemical reactions. They get things going, but stay apart. So interesting.) Anyway, some of the first words that catch my eye or ear should not really be involved at all in the final poem. But knowing that I had at least one word all set was sort of comforting.

Here are the three first poems.

Poem 1

Untitled

A car shop on Friday afternoon

He leaned on the counter and smacked the bell several times

He claims to have arrived that day

He figures that some version of his sales pitch can continue.

Poem 2

“Danger May Lurk”

Take Pause,

They meet to decide to do

Something they rarely do

It is continued.

Poem 3

“Most Unlikely”

The man did not mind

The talk about lucky charm that seemed to grow

Like virulent kitchen mold.

There is the matter of finances;

The spending continued.

Then, I decided that I would go to the continuation of each article and make another poem from the rest of the article. No continued in this poem and the point was to have the poem be different. I also tried to have words from all columns, even though the poems are meant to be read left to right instead of up and down, and to have some words towards the end so that the poem got all the way, or most of the way, down the page. This seemed important to me visually; I’m not sure why. Another constraint.

First second part

“At Least in Winter”

From the front room you can probably see

Posters from the movie.

I’m thinking why would you do that?

For about the next 15 years

He does good work–great work,

Cradling the phone

Flashing a peace sign.

Second second part

“Favorites, Take Pause”

At this time of year

You just get accustomed to this trouble spot.

In late November love

Was a lot different

To play.

Final second part

“Most Improbable”

The story routinely

Almost exclusively

And undeniable

Took place at the final buzzer

In Charlotte four years ago.

He would never forget

That there was more.

So, there you have it. I claim neither to have written award-winning poetry nor to have students who wrote prize-winning stories. However, we all created. We all made these little bits of things with words within the constraints, which turned out not to constrain us at all.

So, I’m still thinking about my abbreviated and slowly progressing taxonomy projects. In addition, I’m still thinking about the #twitstedpair blogging challenge. I think this set of work for my mini taxonomy also fits the twistedpair idea.

I have been working with blackout poetry for a while. As I think about it, blackout poetry is a lot like the altered objects take on my art works; it’s creative to a point, but there’s a sizable starting block. Even if I do not like the starting block, I don’t have to make it too. So I get a little boost and take a little less credit. For me, fair trade.

My next group of works and poems, and I use those terms very loosely, is a set of blackout poem based on catalog descriptions.  I used two catalogs that were sitting around my house, found some of the wordier descriptions, and set to work. I have to admit, one set is pretty boring. So, I put them into a little book format to try to dress them up. Not sure it helps.

image

Poems, top to bottom, left to right, from top right: 1. Women are not all the same, for decades they rave, substantial is just right, won’t like regular labels. 2. Wicked Good, here in Maine you’ll understand imitations, you are Genuine, Imported. 3. Lined with our men selected to complement its machine. 4. Storm, the protection of rubber boots, running, feet dry. 5. True heritage split flat falls low.

The second set is a little more interesting and came from a catalog that tries to have more of a specific personality. I added some bits and bobs to the pages with the poems since they seemed to call for something more off beat.

image

Take transformative power and find it dark both early and late, join me (hidden in image by paper shreds).

image

Yarnspinner For every performance conquest is on the horizon, our skin skimming Glacier ice, the cold reflective, solid.

image

Baselayer the families fell in love with What was just thin enough, slides easily this year. A bit of whimsy, itch-free, wide, comfy, breathable, light on our feet.

image

Katy is a transplant with no perfect daily story online.

image

Speed and thunder, steel rail, take us beyond home.

As I think about the poetry and catalogs as a twisted pair, what I like is that both are, for the most part, about economy of words. (Yes I know there are epic poems, but they are the exceptions.) And, as I read the catalogues for words, not for meaning or content, but purely for range of words, variety of potential ideas, etc., each catalog had a personality even in very few words. One was fairly vanilla–practical clothing with functional descriptions. It was harder to work with that raw material. The words of the other catalog were more fanciful and aimed to help me imagine a situation in which I would wear item x, y, or z. Again, the pictures were not at all part of this equation. Both catalogs were for clothing and since it is fall and I live in a 4-season part of the world, keeping warm and dry were important ideas for both companies, yet their takes were very different. In looking back at my poems, you can see the differences. With so few words to work with, compared to having an entire newspaper article, it was hard to break out of the vision of the original. I think that’s what makes this combination interesting. Trying to take something functional (catalog descriptions) and make them into something that is not about function.

Often when I start with an article for a blackout poem, it is from a section of the paper that I am already interested in reading. Thus the ‘Sunday Styles’ and the ‘Arts and Leisure’ sections of the Sunday New York Times figure prominently as my starting places, even the ‘Metropolitan’ section makes an appearance. As I think about the catalog project,  I wonder what would happen if I started with the sports section. I read somewhere that some people consider sports writers to be some the best newspaper writers because they write about the same things over and over and therefore have to come up with a different way to say the same things. (I would attribute this if I could remember where I read it.) I think that is my next experiment. Will it matter what sport I choose? Will it be obvious that I started with a sports article? Should the set all be based on articles about the same sport or should they be all different. Ooh, so much to consider and on a long, holiday weekend. I can’t wait.

Untroductions

Posted: June 25, 2015 in clmooc
Tags: , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about introductions and untroductions. I am participating in CLMOOC this summer (Connected learning massive, open, online COLLABORATION). The time is always right to join.

Our first make cycle was an introduction of sorts. No surprise. However, the request was to think a little beyond who am I?

  • what is the typical introduction script?
  • how can we unmake that?
  • who gets invited
  • do we need an invitation anyway

I have been doing some work with blackout poetry, so that’s where I started. Given the conversation about the “set script” of an introduction, I thought taking the set words of the email describing the tasks, yet trying to be creative within that structure was an interesting un-making or re-mixing.

Here is the result:

I like the final video, but do you learn much about me? What can you say having met me in this way?

Here’s another option. I also recently read Lorrie Morre’s novel Anagrams, which included this wonderful sentence:

Meaning, if it existed at all, was unstable and could not survive the slightest reshuffling of letters.

So I then took the subject line of the email about the first make cycle (CLMOOC Make Cycle #1: Unmake an Introduction) and used it for the raw material of my anagrams. I tweeted this image.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 3.19.55 PM

Another meeting, any more information? I don’t think any of my phrases are particularly introductory. They tell you nothing about me.

Finally, I tweeted this in response to the #donowimge prompt.

So what do all three of these unmade introductions tell you about me?

  • Do I like poetry or crossing things out?
  • Do I not like to show my face?
  • Do I like verbs? to make trouble?
  • Do I spend my time on anagrams or crossword puzzles?
  • Is Lorrie Moore my favorite author?
  • Do I like red shoes?
  • Am I opposed to open toed shoes? heels?

Hardly anything on that list is true. However, if you look at all three introductions together, maybe you start to get a picture. There’s some creativity there, some interest in books, shoes, maybe some humor or at least not taking things too seriously.

I got to thinking, how often do I feel an introduction really tells anything about me that is important anyway? These options really scream “NOTHING!!” but do standard introductions say very little in more socially acceptable ways? Maybe the important part of an introduction of any kind is the chance to be seen, the potential to interact.

So, I’ve been thinking about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) projects lately. I spent some time over winter break making Chibitronics projects with my personal kids. And then I decided to introduce paper circuitry to blackout poetry.

You know how sometimes you think 2 kids or people should be friends? You see all these connections, but they don’t? It was a little like that with my Chibitronics and Blackout Poetry matchmaking; they were not friends right away. However, as they have sat day after day near each other on my desk, a friendship has developed. Here are some details.

I started with my blackout poem.

Then, I had been playing with DeviantArt-Muro and the drawing with text options. I entered my entire poem as the text and then drew with the words in the shape of exploding fireworks, since that is what “bursts of sound and light” suggests to me. I printed this, enlarged, on to various colors and qualities of vellum. I ended up with this. (many, many tries later).

poem words printed on vellum in the shape of fireworksSo, then I used the copper tape, light stickers, and some sensor controllers to make 2 circuits that light my “fireworks”. One lights in response to sound, which you can’t see in the static image; the other is set to twinkle. However, the copper tape lines and battery folds are a little distracting, I think. Plus I wanted the actual words of the poem to be more prominent.

My next idea was to create another circuit that would be on a lower layer and position the lights at the location of the words in the poem. With one battery, the lights were not lighting consistently and were not powerful enough to be seen through the paper unless they were pressed together. I tried sewing the layers together, messed up the order, removed the thread, and then realized that another battery would help.

IMG_4454

With all the layers together, here I am.

IMG_4456

Issues still to be resolved:

  • How to connect the 2 pieces of vellum? or just have one and leave the bottom part “exposed”
    • sewing, glue?
  • Do I somehow cover the path of the circuit on the fireworks lights? I find it distracting.
  • How do I piece it all together
  • Does it need some color
  • Will it sit in a frame

Any suggestions would be appreciated.