September 2013

All day at home to make an end of our dirty work of the plasterers, and indeed my kitchen is now so handsome that I did not repent of all the trouble that I have been put to, to have it done.
This day or yesterday, I hear, Prince Rupert is come to Court; but welcome to nobody.

To make our work last
in my kitchen is
so handsome a trouble.
I have been
a prince come to court,
welcome to nobody.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 29 September 1660.

Ah at the end of the day, to sleep
the sleep of the just
, my elders would intone—
The just what? I wanted to know, impatient girl

wanting to hurtle into the rest of my life, little knowing
how unprepared I was. Once, I burned to follow in the trail
of rash desire, leave the gleaning and the gathering,

the industry that marches, single file, from field to hive;
to slip away into the orchard where the grasshopper pulled
on the bow, pushed the slats of apple crates aside

and tapped out some sweet tune—
Oh my soul, how I want to lie beggar-like
on the grass, under the waning stars, surrounded

by the fragrance of shriveled peel and cast-off husks.
You fill my vaults with stubborn hope that there is more,
though only so much to be earned and spent.

 

In response to Via Negativa: The Good Life.

I made this videopoem entirely out of found text and footage from American television commercials of the late 1940s and early 50s. I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of collage in videopoetry ever since I saw what Matt Mullins did with a sermon by Oral Roberts in Our Bodies (A Sinner’s Prayer). This doesn’t rise quite to that level, either technically or conceptually, but it was a fun experiment. Thanks to the Prelinger Archives for the material, all in the public domain.

(Update 9/30) I suppose I should add some notes about my process here. I’ve been downloading compilations of old television commercials for possible use in videos for poems from the new chapbook. While making poetry videos for pre-existing texts is fun, it’s easy to get sidetracked by a wealth of good material, and yesterday I decided to give in to the temptation. I went through one of the compilations, writing down all the good lines in a text document, in order as they appeared so I could re-find them easily. Then I wrote a rough draft with some of the most interesting lines, loaded the source material into Windows Movie Maker and began to cut and paste the snippets containing the lines I’d liked into the order I’d put them in the written draft. Once I had fully assembled the first rough draft of a videopoem, however, I found the words went by rather too quickly. I had the idea of using wordless or nearly wordless segments from a single ad both to give space to the lines of found poetry and to act as a sort of refrain.

At this stage, the working title was “Industry at Work” (taken from a clip that I subsequently removed). However, after a couple of hours of trimming and moving things around, it became clear that the refrain segments just weren’t gelling, and the video overall seemed too scattered and miscellaneous. I began looking at another compilation, and the very first ad in it — a commercial for Budweiser — had lots of wordless footage that I liked. It was only after pasting some of those segments into the draft project that I got the idea of using the first half of Budweiser’s then-slogan, “Where there’s life, there’s Bud,” as title and refrain.

I go into all this (hopefully not too boring) detail simply to show that the process of composition doesn’t differ all that wildly from the way regular poems are made. If I were teaching poetry, this is the sort of thing I’d make beginning students do. Of all the possible approaches to videopoetry, found-poem collage with public-domain (or otherwise free-to-use) footage has the lowest barrier to entry. All you really need is a computer with a DSL or faster connection and whatever video editing software the operating system came with. Moreover, this way of making videopoems comes much closer than the typical poetry video to Tom Konyves’ conception of videopoety as

the Duchampian “assisted readymade”. Consider the recorded image as the readymade; the function of the videopoet is to discover whether there exists something significant, yet still incomplete, a collaborative property beneath the surface of the present moment.

This entry is part 5 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2013

 

Silent as a thief, the sun climbs through the trees:
it takes the shadow from the weather vane, erases the film

that presses on the windows of new homes. Each one’s
identical to the next, from color, trim, to gable;

they’re sided in aluminum that’s made to look like wood.
Square footage’s under 1600 feet. Between each unit

is a gap of air; interior panels are soft wood (spruce,
or pine, or fir). I might hear you scrape your chair

away from the dinner table, or yell downstairs
for someone to take out the trash. Each one

that lives here now paid more or less the same coin
from their coffers— Or rather, has had their credit

scrutinized and been approved for thirty years’ indenture.
But all things new invariably deteriorate, just as the bread

which starts surrendering to mold after the first hot kiss
of air. The man in Unit B is missing the quarter round

mouldings from his bathroom tile: the rest run through
his rooms and hallways, ending at the beak. In Unit D,

a family of mice has burrowed through an air leak:
from their nest behind the eaves, in the quiet house,

you can hear the mewling. There’s always something more
to sand, to fit, to finish. But some contracts are impossible

to rewrite, restructure, refinance: so let it go
when the sun goes down, torching the leaves in exit.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

(Office day). This morning Sir W. Batten and Col. Slingsby went with Col. Birch and Sir Wm. Doyly to Chatham to pay off a ship there. So only Sir W. Pen and I left here in town.
All the afternoon among my workmen till 10 or 11 at night, and did give them drink and very merry with them, it being my luck to meet with a sort of drolling workmen on all occasions. To bed.

This pen and I work
till 11 at night.
I drink and err with luck—
a droll occasion.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 28 September 1660.

This entry is part 4 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2013

 

The sugar houses tilt; through open windows,
catch the drift of wine-dark voices in the rain.

The clapboard shingles drum a faint tattoo
and fences sag beyond the driveway’s rough terrain.

A clothesline hung with linens might swing
the distance from one windowsill to the next.

But space is paramount and plaster does the trick;
and paint’s the cheapest blanket to prime the deck.

We’re told a home’s no longer a place to live
until you die: we’re told the savvy thing is flip

the property before it turns into a crooked house—
So take possession, but mind how all is still a tenantship.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

To my Lord at Mr. Crew’s, and there took order about some business of his, and from thence home to my workmen all the afternoon. In the evening to my Lord’s, and there did read over with him and Dr. Walker my lord’s new commission for sea, and advised thereupon how to have it drawn. So home and to bed.

I work all afternoon.
In the evening to the sea—
a raw bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 27 September 1660.

This entry is part 3 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2013

 

“Let us stay here, and wait for the future
to arrive, for grandchildren to speak
in forked tongues about the country
we once came from….”

~ Tishani Doshi, “The Immigrant’s Song”

What comes out of my mouth’s a tinny sound,
whatever comes out of yours is gold.

The mat my hungry sister wove three months,
you pay a handful of pennies for.

The dress that’s draped, metallic sheen
on shoulders of the mannequin, is cheap

as her perfume. Her legs, splayed open
in the dim boudoir, tell time rented

by the hour. You did not live that decade
when tanks rolled over bodies in the streets,

when martyrs lay in blood on concrete fields.
You did not see the bridges fall, the sky

explode with ashes. My solidarity, you cry;
you try to mimic, like a bird, the sounds

the fallen made. You gather stories not
your own and pin them to your breastplate.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Office day. That done to the church, where we did consult about our gallery. So home to dinner, where I found Mrs. Hunt, who brought me a letter for me to get my Lord to sign for her husband, which I shall do for her.
At home with the workmen all the afternoon, our house being in a most sad pickle.
In the evening to the office, where I fell a-reading of Speed’s Geography for a while.
So home thinking to have found Will at home, but he not being come home but gone somewhere else I was very angry, and when he came did give him a very great check for it, and so I went to bed.

Home, where I
brought home with me
all the house—
a sad geography, thinking
to have found a home
but not being home—
gone somewhere else
as angry.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 September 1660.

Here is my passport, my bill of lading, my one-
way ticket, my nowhere fare, my stub you’ve stamped

to certify. All night I clean the lint
from rusted laundromat machines. All night

I mop and polish schoolroom floors. All summer
while you go off to Florida or France, I tend

your mother’s bones, empty her bedpan, feed her baby
food as she babbles in the granny bin. My fingers

have pulled bodies of bitter melon from the vine
and splayed them open on the chopping board.

Come sit and eat with me sometime— I’ll make
a meal from seeds and pith, a sustenance of green

and verve plucked raw from my own nerve. I steel
myself, passing through each turnstile, bending

through each furrow, threading the factory needle back
and back into a hundred collars and sleeves— Eyes

that sweepingly appraise the education in my hands,
the dusky sheen of my corn, the perfume of my salt

and pickled shrimp, the bile I drop
into the soup to make me strong.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Trader.