"Brain, shake out thy water, dog-like." -- Ron Padgett

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Class 11: On chapbooks, broadsides, ephemera

bpNichol's famous The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid in its original chapbook form.

"I like narrow-casting, if by that you mean smart content aimed at a small audience." - Nick Carr


First some thoughts on small press publishing, then HOW TO CREATE A CHAPBOOK without creating X-Acto knife finger snowflakes.


Publishing is not a neutral act. It is implicitly political and aesthetic. The publishing is part of the aesthetic of the work, in terms of its look, its distribution, and how the audience interacts with the work, both in terms of reading it, engaging with its writers and publishers, and in how it finds its audience. In the small press, there is a reason, a conscious decision, to publish the works in the way that they do. The presses choose to publish in this form not because they have to, but because they want to. In this kind of publishing, success is defined as an authentic interaction between engaged writing, publishers, and readers.

Charles Bernstein:

The power of our alternative institutions of poetry is their commitment to scales that allow for the flourishing of the artform, not the maximizing of the audience; to production and presentation not publicity; to exploring the known not manufacturing renown.  These institutions continue, against all
odds, to find value in the local, the particular, the partisan, the committed, the tiny, the peripheral, the unpopular, the eccentric, the difficult, the complex, the homely; and in the formation and reformation, dissolution and questioning, of imaginary or virtual or partial or unallowable communities and/or uncommunities.


more Charles Bernstein on Small Press :

Intellectuals and artists committed to the public interest exist insubstantial numbers.  Their crime is not a lack of accessibility but a refusal to submit to marketplace agendas: the reductive simplifications of conventional forms of representation; the avoidance of formal and thematic complexity; and the fashion ethos of measuring success by sales and value by celebrity.  The public sphere is constantly degraded by its conflation with mass scale since public space is accessible principally through particular and discrete locations.



The final assignment for this class is to create and hand-in a chapbook consisting of several poems written and revised during the class.

A chapbook is a simple form -- though one extensively used -- to present short poetry or fiction publications. They can be created simply and functionally or made into beautiful book objects, using fine papers, handmade elements, letterpress printing, hand binding, and many other highly developed or varied elements. They come in numerous sizes -- from tiny books to huge swathes of paper.

For our purposes—unless you are so motivated to make your chapbook a monument to super-gussied-up real purdy-fine fine art-like fanciness—a basic chapbook will be sufficient.

A standard letter-size printer paper (11" x 8.5"), printed landscape, two sided, and folded in half and stapled or sewn is a pretty standard size to make chapbooks out of.

When you print a folded booklet (like a chapbook) you need to assemble the pages so that the right page prints on the right sheet of paper. Creating a paper-mock-up of your chapbook is invaluable in helping you figure out which way is up, or your verso from your recto.

However, Adobe Reader, through the gobsmacking wonders of MODERN TECHNOLOGY, can compile it for you.

Here's how:

Create your chapbook with each single page as a  portrait-oriented 11 x 8.5" pages and then save it as a PDF file. Then open the file in Adobe Reader.

If you select the "Booklet" feature—hey presto, Stephen Harper's hairspray—it will automatically compile your file into a landscape-oriented and ready-to-print file.

You can print out your booklet and it will be ready to photocopy as a chapbook. (You just have to make sure to get the right backside of the page together with the front. It's like dancing.)

If you'd like to print your booklet out on a printer, you can select the "Booklet subset" button and choose "Front side only." Print this. Then stick the printed-out pages back in the printer in whichever way your printer requires you to do so to print on the back side. (This may take some fiddling around and trial and error to figure out which is the right way.)

Now select "Back side only" back at the Booklet subset button on Adobe and print away. The book should now have both pages printed appropriately. All that is required is to fold the pages and staple (you'll need a long-arm stapler) or to sew the spine (the fold._

Here is an MS Word DOC Mock-up of a Chapbook. You can substitute your content for what's here and then safe as a PDF.

Your saved PDF should look like this PDF Mock-up of Chapbook. You can follow the above-noted procedure to print it out into a snazzy chapbook.

The first page—and the back of it, pages existing, at least in the real world, in three dimensions—is intended to be for the cover page. It'd be a good idea to print this on some thicker cover stock, and likely, in a colour. It can be a nice effect to stick in a contrasting blank colour page (non-cover stock) between the cover and the white pages as a kind of flyleaf.


1. Ekphrastic verse. Write a prose poem based on one of these images. You can be inspired by the general mood and/or specific details in the images. You can take the point-of-view of anything in the image or anything outside the image. Or you don't have to have a coherent POV at all.

a. Cloud

b. The Lost Jockey (Magritte)

c. Skeletons

2. Write a line which includes something happening. Now write the same line at least ten different ways, using synonyms, figures of speech and all sorts of varieties of circumlocutions in order to same the same thing in different ways in each sentence. (I stole this exercise from writer/writing teacher Stuart Ross. Link here.)

14 times the same line

Irish stamp features entire prose poem
3. Prose Poem. Many writers (for example, Russell Edson, Charles Simic) begin a poem with a fanciful premise. "There was a man who had a son who was an anvil." Then the poem explores this premise–psychologically, narratively, surreally, associatively, or in some other way. Here's a poem of Edson's which has a whole pile of 'what if's'.

4. Write a prose poem in which there is some non-standard grammar (a 'grammar mistake') in each sentence. Non-agreement of subject and verb, of verb tense, of plural. Whatever non-normative 'mistake' that you want. How does this affect the poem? How does it affect your writing process? How does it affect how the poem works or the 'voice(s)' of the poem?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Class 10: Collaboration

Why collaborate?

What is the single author?
What can collaboration bring the individual writer/the poem?
Leaps & word tennis
More than one voice

How can one element relate to the other?

-word repletion
-contrast – of tone, word, content, etc.
-tangentially related image
-‘leaps’ /contrast.
-how far can a line/stanza leap before the poem falls apart?
-what elements can be used to 'hold it' together?

-see link to how renga link verses below.



Interesting ways to link verses (see about halfway down the linked page.)


Wight by Stanley Plumly

Hip-Hop Ghazal by Patricia Smith

Drizzle by William Matthews


1. Write a first line to a poem. Give it to someone else to finish. (Write four lines in addition to the first.)

2. SPEED DATE:  alternate words. Time limit: five minutes.

3. Alternate lines with another writer.

4. BLIND DATE:  write five lines containing the words:

parking lot 
Then you have 6 minutes to put the lines together together with another writer into a ten line poem.
Together you revise & change at will. (Variation: you each take the poem and revise it in your own way.)

5. Everyone writes a draft of a poem. (3 minutes) Then they give their draft to someone else to revise.

6. Write a renga with a partner

7. Write a ghazal

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Class 9: Performance and writing with music.

1. Jack Kerouac: American Haiku: video

2. Laurie Anderson: video

3. Amirki Baraka: Wailers: video

4. Patti Smith performs Howl: video and another Ginsberg poem

5. Gary Barwin: Inverting the Deer


1. Write a list poem. Each line begins: "The first time we met." 
Mention a river, an instrument, a regret, a dream, a place name.
Think of the Kerouac example above. Perform with saxophone.

2. Write a "Corrections" poem where you say what things are NOT. See Dani Couture's poem, here. Perform with music.

3. Imagine how you might integrate the following definitions--see below--in a poem. Think what Jack Gilbert did this, here.

4. Perform a text by setting it for multiple voices. Divide lines for performance in duos, trios, etc.
Voices can be in dialogue, dividing up lines, or words within lines. Performers can perform the same words together, or different words simultaneously. 

To blind by putting a hot copper basin near someone's eyes
Given to incessant or idiotic laughter
A person who is learning the alphabet
Excessive spending on food and drink
The practice of eating or drinking while lying down
An incestuous desire for one's sister
An incestuous desire for one's nephew
An incestuous desire for one's niece
Skilled writing on an unimportant subject
A pompous windy bore who pretends to have inspiration
A person who never laughs
The state of looking younger than one actually is
The wire that holds the cork in a champagne bottle
Prowling around with the intent to commit burglary
The marriage between a young woman and an older man
The practice of writing on one side of the paper
The act of mentally undressing someone
One who speaks or writes in a smug fashion about their own life and accomplishments
The worship of one's self
One who cuts their own hair
An overwhelming desire to neck or kiss
One who eats frogs
Speaking in a flattering or ingratiating manner
Pertaining to something poorly or disgustingly designed
To loudly hum or buzz continuously
The rumbling sound of gas passing through the intestine
Having a short nose
Strongly smelling perspiration
The low rumbling of distant thunder
Loud or hysterical laughter
A bad habit or insatiable urge
An unhappy marriage
Having well-shaped buttocks
To heap up into a pile
Slightly intoxicated or tipsy
Kissing using the tongue, French kissing
A sofa built for two people
An artfully veiled insult
Being attracted to a person's lips
An alternate title for a barber
The act of plundering food
Estimating a woman's beauty based on her chest
A secret meeting of people who are hatching a plot
One who loves doing crossword puzzles
The tip of the middle finger
Counting using one's fingers
The act or attitude of lying down
To throw out of a window
To burst open, as the pod of a plant
Pertaining to one who talks through their teeth
To make something fireproof
A second marriage after the death or divorce of a previous spouse
The act of beating or whipping school children
A woman who trains animals
One who fakes a smile, as on television
The act of removing obstructions from or cleaning bodily passages
A horses's attempt to remove its rider
The collective hisses of a disapproving audience
The state of being stuffed with food (overeating)
Suspended by a single thread
The categorising of something that is useless or trivial
Having a dark rusty colour
Being full of beer
Heavy tickling
The sensation caused by tickling
An idle spectator
A surgical sponge accidently left inside a patient's body
A double handful
The urge to stare at obscene pictures
The sensation that someone is mentally undressing you
The practice of constantly using the word "Hell" in speaking
Being likely to make a mistake
Pertaining to extremely long words
With honour

Speaking foolishly or saying silly things

(definition from here.)


November14 student work.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Class 8: Radical Translations and Variation

Throughout the ages, men have attempted to foretell the future by casting stones, or coins, or dice, or sticks. By observing the effects of decisions made by an extra human agency, that force which determined the fall of the dice, chance, fate, karma, the Tao, it was felt that the workings of the universe itself could be observed. The invisible could be inferred by its effects upon the visible, a feather launched into the wind, a stick cast into a river. Although the results of these fortune-telling experiments can be fascinating and even educational, especially when applied to the arts, their true importance lies in the attempt by the experimenter to understand the universe, its purpose and his own relation to it.
—Blaine Reininger: lecture to the Futureplaces Festival, Portugal October 2010

“Any English professor will tell you the distinguishing feature between poetry and prose is a constraint, a self-imposed rule, whether it be a rhyme scheme or a prescribed number of lines.”
University Affairs, Dec 2013.

Here's a page with all the links to interesting online text transmogrifies, generators, morphemes, and more.


1. Erasure

Jen Bervin: Nets (erasures from Shakespeare's Sonnets)

Jordan Abel
Jordan Abel's erasures of Western Anthropologist's take on Indigenous work.

Jordan Abel's Injun. Erasure and reassembly 

NourbeSe Philip: Zong!https://bagelabyss.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/zong1.pdf

Mary Ruefle: Melody, the Story of a Child 

Tom Phillips: A Humument  

Gregory Betts: The Others Raisd in Me (an entire book based on one Shakespeare Sonnet)

See  http://thedeletionist.com/

Article on the "boom in erasure poetry in the Trump era. https://newrepublic.com/article/145396/trump-era-boom-erasure-poetry

2. S+7 or N+7 translations: change all the nouns or verbs or both of a given text.
an online tool is here.

Hamlet: every consonant replaced by an H

Starlings Are Not Wanted: Put Them Out

he was my nosebag, my sou'wester, my eater and whacking
my workout weevil and my sunny rest-room
my no-one, my midwife, my tack, my songbird

he was my nostrum, my light to land on, my rat jelly and wheel
my weird worm and my Sunday result
my unexpormidable caribou, my talc, my sorceress

he was my elegy, my short haul, my ecclesiastic and wheelbarrow
my worrying weirdo and my sundial bloom
my calm honey, my midpoint, my talk, my Bloor

he was my oak hunch, my spade, my ecologist and wheelwright
my wound welt and my someday retard
my window and stone, my militia, my tick, my soufflé

I was wrong
I was wrong
I was wrong

Based on Auden's Stop the Clocks...:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

3. Homophonic translations:  translations through ‘sound’ not meaning.

A schoolboy example from Latin to English:

Caesar adsum jam forte.       Caesar had some jam for tea.
Brutus aderat.                       Brutus 'ad a rat.
Caesar sic in omnibus.         Caesar sick in omnibus.
Brutus sic enat.                     Brutus sick in 'at.

4. Antonymic (write the ‘opposite of each line’)
What is the opposite of potato?

Example: based on Old Lang Syne: (one side antonymic, first two stanzas of other side, homophonic.

Old Lab Signtranny (homophonic translation)

shtetled, a quaint aunt’s beef forked hot
and naïve fever tomb-mined
shit, hold our queen tense beefier caught
handhold long sign
for owled long sighs mightier
Thorold lanks I’m
wheel talk a couple kind less yet
furrowed links nine

Cutting up, gender switching, etc.

6. Mesostic Generator. Mesostics were used by John Cage. He would use as the spinal text (the text running down the middle of the poem) a name of a particular person (usually a writer) and then sample from their text or a related text to generate mesostic poems. The link is to an automatic generator. You give it a 'spine' text and feed in some source text, and voila!, you have a poem. You can take the poem 'as is' or revise it.


a. Take source text. Perform an erasure, either mining it for words, or redacting or covering over the text on the source page.

b. Perform a homophonic translation of a source text in a different language (see some below)

c. Translate a poem into its opposite.

d. Substitute using word list.

e. Use either the N+7 Generator, the Mesostic Generator, or the Cut-up Machine to create an alternate version of a text. Revise to make it maximally effective. (If you have no access to a computer, you can take a word list—or the word list in the dictionary of your own head—and substitute words in the poem.

f.  Perform one of the above by setting it for multiple voices. Divide lines for performance in duos, trios, etc.



Sheeps Vigil by a Fervent Person
(a transelation by Eirin Moure)


I'm a shepherd
My sheep are my thoughts,
And my thoughts are all sensations.
I think with my eyes and ears
And with my hands and feet
And with my nose and mouth.

To think of a flower is to see it and smell it.
And to eat a fruit is to taste its meaning.
- Caeiro


In the new poem, Moure's sheep are stray cats:

I've got an entire flock of cats out my door now.
The flock is my thoughts
And my thoughts, all of them, are sensations.
I think with my eyes, with my ears too,
And with my hands and feet
And with my mouth and nose.
To think of a flower is to see it and smell it.
There might never be another day like this one.
I eat fruit with respect; it teaches meaning.
- Moure


My glance is as clear as a sunflower
I usually take to the roads
Looking to my right and to my left,
And now and then looking behind me . . .
And what I see each moment
Is something I've never seen before
And I know very well how to give myself up to it . . .
I know how to feel the same essential wonder
That an infant feels on being born
Supposing he could know he was being born . . .
I feel that I am being born each moment
Into the eternal newness of the world . . .
- Caeiro


My sight's sharp as a sunflower.
I walk up Winnett to Vaughan Road all the time
Looking left and right
And sometimes looking over my shoulder . . .
And what I see every moment
Is what no one's seen before me,
And, as such, I just let myself go . . .
I feel like a child in a T-shirt
Amazed by just being born
and realizing "hey, I'm born" . . .
I feel myself born at every moment
Into the World's eternity of the New
- Moure


Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehen der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf -. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannter Stille -
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

Dödssynder åtrår ni mig ännu?
Vrede vill du blomma i mig?
Vill du driva blodet till mina kinder
och få mitt hjärta att accelerera.
Avundets korta sting,
vill du träffa mig,
låta mig fåfängt få rasa
efter ett annat liv.
Jag vill känna högmodet och gå
med högmodets vadderade ncacke,
jag vill känna den beska älskogens söta sting i min kropp,
och vila en stund på smickrarnas ockersålda mattor.
Jag vill känna hur slugheten får min hjärna att arbeta
och hur omåttligheten griper tag i mig i ett vällustigt begär.
Dödssynder åtrår ni mig?
Kan ni ännu verka i mig?

Mapuputing kamay, malasutla’t lambot,
kung hinahawi mo itong aking buhok,
ang lahat ng aking dalita sa loob
ay nalilimot ko nang lubos na lubos.

At parang bulaklak na nangakabuka
ang iyong daliring talulot ng ganda,
kung nasasalat ko, O butihing sinta,
parang ang bulakiak kahalikan ko na.

Kamay na mabait, may bulak sa lambot,
may puyo sa gitna paglikom sa loob;
magagandang kamay na parang may gamot,
isang daang sugat nabura sa haplos.