Week 7 – White-Face Bromeliads on 20 Hectares, Stir Fry Texts, SlippingGlimpse, Window


Instructions: Allow this page to cycle for a while so you can take in some of the images and variant titles. When you are ready, press “begin”. Once there, read each page slowly, even aloud, watching as each line periodically re-constitutes itself re-generating randomly selected lines with that line’s variant. Eight-line poems have 256 possible versions; nine-line poems have 512 possible versions.

These are the reading notes for Glazier’s poem, which he describes as a “JavaScript investigation of literary variants with a new text generated every ten seconds.”

What is it like to read a poem whose stanzas are randomly re-constituted before you have the opportunity to read them in their entirety? What is the difference between knowledge and experience: in this case, knowledge that the poem’s possibilities are pre-scripted by the relationship between the poet’s lines and the programmer’s algorithm, experience while watching the poem shift before your eyes. Do you see any interesting or significant linkages between variations? Is there anything in the formal structure or textual content of the stanza that holds it together, even as it changes? These are just a couple questions to consider as you read Glazier’s poem today.

As you begin to experiment with Jim Andrews’ site Stir Fry Texts and its collection of texts by various writers, read this short essay by Andrews on the concept of Stir Fry Texts that helps to explain how it is positioned in a literary history which includes William S. Burroughs concept of the cut-up. If you want a short definition of the cut-up, the technique Burroughs was experimenting with in 1950s and 1960s, here is how he describes it in one place:

The method is simple. Here is one way to do it. Take a page. Like this page. Now cut down the middle and cross the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 … one two three four. Now rearrange the sections placing section four with section one and section two with section three. And you have a new page. Sometimes it says much the same thing. Sometimes something quite different–(cutting up political speeches is an interesting exercise)–in any case you will find that it says something and something quite definite. Take any poet or writer you fancy. Heresay, or poems you have read over many times. The words have lost meaning and life through years of repetition. Now take the poem and type out selected passages. Fill a page with excerpts. Now cut the page. You have a new poem. As many poems as you like. As many Shakespeare Rimbaud poems as you like. Tristan Tzara said: “Poetry for everyone.” And Andre Breton called him a cop and expelled him from the movement. Say it again: “Poetry is for everyone.” Poetry is a place and it is free to all cut up Rimbaud and you are in Rimbaud’s place. Here is a Rimbaud cut up.

“Visit of memories. Only your dance and your voice house. On the suburban air improbable desertions … all harmonic pine for strife. The great skies are open. Candor of vapor and tent spitting blood laugh and drunken penance. Promenade of wine perfume opens slow bottle. The great skies are open. Supreme bugle burning flesh children to mist.”

Cut ups are for everyone. Any body can make cut ups. It is experimental in the sense of being something to do. Right here write now. Not something to talk and argue about. Greek philosophers assumed logically that an object twice as heavy as another object would fall twice as fast. It did not occur to them to push the two objects off the table and see how they fall. Cut the words and see how they fall. Shakespeare Rimbaud live in their words. Cut the word lines and you will hear their voices.

Andrews takes this idea of writer as re-mix artist and offers a platform for performing a kind of web-based cut-up:

If we acknowledge that our ideas are drawn not always from a blank tablet but are instead indebted to the work of those whom we have read and heard and seen, we see that much of what we do, however original, is cut together from the work of others. More generally, the language we use is gotten not from a blank tablet but from what has gone before. So there is a sense in which even this sort of writing is a cut up or cut together.

What’s new in the stir frys is the spastic interactivity they give to the reader/viewer, the way that they insist on hanging together as texts, physically, anyway and, if they are successful as texts, rather than simply as langwidgetical text toys, the range of insights they afford into themselves and the random and the cut up and the Web and into oneself, since the stir frys allow you to make your own texts.

Enjoy experimenting with these texts, and remember to deploy the critical reading skills you’ve been honing throughout the course.


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