Nedd Ludd: Good evening everyone. On tonight's program we have a Silhouette, and I don't mean the shadow of someone. Part droid, part replicant, the APG Silhouette is a group of people in one body with all the complexities that involves. I understand that the APG Silhouette is also experiencing some malfunctioning this evening and we've been asked to dim the lights as much as we can. [The lights dim nearly to darkness] All right then! Let me introduce or guest for this evening... [Silhouette enters. Shakes an appendage with Nedd Ludd and seats itself in the first chair next to his desk]
Silhouette: Hi. Hello. Hi Nedd. Howdy.
N: Well, hello to all of you in there. It sounds kind of crowded.
S: It doesn't feel crowded. That's because you're not stuck over here. You don't have to be stuck. They're just bickering for fun, none of us are in here.
N: Of course not. How could a whole group of people fit into the form of a Silhouette?
S: Diced? Isn't that the whole problem? Did you say 'diced'?
N: You said 'diced.' [Laughs] But what did you mean by 'the whole problem'?
S: I, and by that I could mean 'we' are conscientious objectors to form. I'm not part of that we. Ok, fine.. but could I finish before you start heckling? Thank you. For me, form has too many problems both as a term¾on account of it's static associatons and a conceptual lineage that leads back to the notion of shape¾and because of the ways that it's used, the continual intimations that it is of vast significance and knowable when instead what there is that can be known about it seems only useful when it's at it's most trivial. I like caramel cremes as much as the next poet but that they be ovaloid isn’t why. Likewise knowing that they are oval and composed of two sections, the caramel and the creme, doesn't give me any significant insights into the taste or experience of one. I think somebody's hungry.
N: So you don't think that a formal analysis yields any significant insights?
S: That all depends on what's meant by formal analysis. My suspicion... Mine too. ...is that adding the word "formal" to "formal analysis" adds nothing of any significance. Like a 'true fact.' Yes, exactly. I really like short poems writing(riding) in a jeep, not the jeeps with doors, the doorless jeeps. Form is a means by which one makes solid one’s discovery. This could be disastrously false, but it seems to sometimes be the case. Hmm. I wonder at what that says; for instance, might one say that the splop is the means by which we spill the macaroni?...the means by which we refer to a spill?
N: So you don't think a distinction between form/content is helpful for either the writer or the reader? Also I need to tell you I'm at something of a loss as to how to respond without being able to address individuals. Could individual speakers identify themselves for me?
S: No. Naah, I don't think so. You see, in this instance, as a collection of atoms of ink on a computer screen we cannot distinguish ourselves. Which is not to say of any one of us that we aren't tired of being both individuals and part of a group. Some of us are instigators, and some of us are closers, some of us are flirters and some of us have preoccupations with fish or soap opera logic. No. What? Nedd asked whether we thought a distinction between form and content was important, right? Well I say, no. I dunno it could be couldn't it. We don't all agree you see.
N: Well, how about we ignore for the moment the qustion of whether 'form' is a satisfactory term for some parts of you and instead ask whether you use 'forms' in the sense of particular and identifiable 'types' of poems. You know, as when someone says 'sonnet' or 'haiku' or 'pruntiform.'
S: Ok. Do we have to? Come on, let's try and be nice. For “form” (questionable quotes not scare quotes) to have much importance it must be utterly trivial and easy to transmit but not necessary to transmit to anyone outside the creation of the poem. I'm not sure I agree. You had your turn be fair. In other words form is more useful as method than structure. For(m) example consider the “Horizontal Creep” method. Which is very dependable and does a wonderful job of leveling inputs from a group of poets, but is, in itself, trivial. You wanna tell Nedd and the studio audience what a Horizontal Creep is? [The lights very slowly brighten]
N: Yes, please.
S: It's a way of writing a poem in which multiple poets collaborate and the first poet writes the first word of X number of lines, the next poet to write writes a second word to each line, the third poet adds a third word and so on until it is concluded, either by virtue of everyone having a certain number of turns or a sense that enough is enough. In the APG someone usualy says that the poem is ‘called over with.’ Yes. Now part of this idea is that the poem grows from the left margin toward the right... Hence the horizontal bit. ...but when writing on a computer one might elect to be able to put the word anywhere in the line and so it's still a creep... Not the only one. ...poem, but not strictly a horizontal one. The lights must be lower! [Lights dim again]
N: I'm sorry. It disturbs the cameramen and the producers when it's too dark to see the guests.
S: Sometimes when I'm improvizing a poem I keep my eyes closed. Except that I don’t like to hear myself or read out loud, so I write for the page instead. Returning to where I think the question was wandering, a 'form,' or better yet, a method, such as the horizontal creep, while of some importance in the moment of the poem's creation, is not particularly relevant to any reader, auditor or experiencer of the poem. Plus, when we do it somebody always cheats. The poet must always be able to bend or break any rule they need to. Sonnets too are trivial qua 'form' while potentially being wonderful as poetry.
N: Well whether you break the rules or not, it seems to me that you guys have a formal practice.
S: Well, “Haphazard and Deliberate” has been one approach. Nothing is random. Having said that, one is able to deal with the material in a specific way without referring to (or worrying about) the anxious anti-randomness, which is ultimately inherited. What was just said is very interesting I think but before I forget I want to answer your question about formal practices. The short answer would be, no. I might say, yes. Well it would depend on what he meant by 'formal' again wouldn't it. It always comes down to words...
N: But wait, could you say more about the 'anxious anti-randomness'? Was that the phrase?
S: Yes. Do you wanna do it? Uh, well, naah. Shall I. Let's tag team it. You first. Ok. Think about a screwdriver. Philips or regular? It doesn't matter. Who's Philip? Ok, say it's a regular screw driver, ok? So, the shape of the tip of a regular screw driver is useful for screwing... Cool. [laughter] ...and unscrewing... Unscrew you. ...Jeez. What I'm trying to say is that the tip and the screws are designed to work together in a certain way. Just like the poets writing a horizontal creep work with the basic rules for... Right. ...right. This interaction is designed to bring about certain effects. Right. Yes. But unlike the interaction of the screw driver and screw¾a relationship where one has a good chance of predicting the outcome¾in the horizontal creep poem or the sonnet or especially in a polyphon performed from a non-lineal score, one's ability to predict the outcome decreases to nearly nil. The form may (should?) be discernible when the poem is taken in the context of ‘a complete life’. True enough I guess, but note where that leaves you as poet¾dead. Static.
N: Are 'polyphons' or 'multi-lineal scores' other, um, [Sheepishly] 'forms'?
S: Ouch. Polyphons are multiple voiced poems. That might mean the same poet's voice multi-tracked in some fashion or it might mean multiple poets performing a piece. 'Poems' as one usually encounters them at readings and such might be referred to as monophons. Multi-lineal scores are distinguished primarily by there being no clear and obvious sequence or intended order. An intended disorder, maybe? Yeah, sort of. A poem that is "indeterminant with regard to it's performance" as JC might say. Jimmy Carter? Ssshh. I think of writing musical scores with the intention of never performing them because the patterns of notes look better. Did we answer your question Nedd?
N: I think so. Or, well I don't know, but let's backtrack for a second. Let me get this straight: you indicated before that the term "form" as "structure" does not or should not influence the meaning or enjoyment of the poem. So three questions, is your statement descriptive, i.e., that form does not influence, or normative, i.e., that it should not influence? Second, does the first question apply to meaning, enjoyment, both or neither. And third, how do those answers come out under your idea of form as "method"? Oops, I dropped my pen.
S: I think form and structure are inextricably smurfed with meaning and enjoyment of any poemy thing, so (1) it does influence same; (2) it can't not influence same, except that "influence" isn't not a relevant smurf here; and (3) form and method yes; not a bundt cake w/o a bundt cake pan¾method¾pour batter into pan and get cake or pour onto floor and get non-cake. Great, so we get what then? For every pastry there must be another specialty pan to purchase? It get's stinky Kantian then doesn't it tho? Where for every poem there must have been a poetic underpinning available and so suddenly the underpins are all the rage and people hang their pictures facing the wall so that the places where the molding are... Uh-oh, I feel a poem coming on. Uh-oh. Form is simply an excuse for writing.
damn bits of crap
off my hands, time,
wood knot heed wit wooden
no, not her ... yet
he would know it should he meet her
he'd recognize her from her form
all ways of speaking
(old fashion things the way they fashioned things of old)
it's quite amusing to hear and to see it
so charming how it makes you tap your fee-it
N: Well, I'm sure that will comfort our more pro-formal viewers.
S: Maybe. What will? You mean those folks that got up and walked out awhile ago? Sometimes I get the sense that folks who are positively disposed to using the term form... As in; using it every other sentence. ...yeah, well, I sometimes feel like they have a need for a sort of check list, or to ascribe what interest the poem has to the so-called formal qualities. All of us have substantial shoes. And so it occured to me that we might provide
A SUCCESSFUL POEM CHECK LIST
N: What do you mean by touch the language, would you elaborate?
S: No. No, that would ruin it I think. Look, whatever any of us think about the absurdities of form and formalism, the only use that a book full of such discussions is going to have for most poets is to suggest other ways of working and thinking about the creation of poems. Granted. So why don't we tell about some of the different practices and not get hung up on all the formal mumbo-jumbo?
N: That would be great, but first we have to take a commmercial break.
|"There's nothing wrong with my memory; I just wasn't
paying attention. So, when you get in your 30s you start to think about the
first half of your life. I started wondering, but couldn't come up with any
real memory of what I've done for the past thirty years, and that's a pretty
long time to not remember.
If there's a medical or physiological reason you don't remember things, it's not your fault. You're entitled to get help, to get sympathy and understanding. If it's your own fault, and it is my own fault as far as I can tell, that you don't remember anyone or anyplace, it's hard to expect people to cooperate with figuring out what happened.
So, I decided that it was pretty important to do whatever I could to regain my memory of the past thirty years and since it's important, it seemed like it would have to be done however possible, even if that meant not being entirely up front with people."
- Jack, on the origins of the Synthetic Memory Project.
JS Associate: Applied Poetics
Synthetic Memory Online Contribution Form; http://www.jsassociate.com/form.htm
N: Howdy everybody... or those of you still out there in our studio audience or watching at home. I'm here talking with the Silhouette of the Atlanta Poets Group and there's no telling what if anything could happen next. So, what ah.. [coughs embarrassedly] forms do your collaborations take?
S: They don't take, just give, from the heart. Shut up! The primary form is a form of bumping out at the top. Except when they go for the blink and then they tend to dent the meter. That happened so bad once we couldn't get the coin in, just the token. Right, and it made all the meter readers mad. I guess I just don't enjoy counting enough for this discourse. I have to go to the bathroom. Would it not be more accurate to say that we use constraints at times and other times we use prompts, likewise improvizory practices, like...
N: What's the difference between form and constraints?
S: Constraints are less constraining. In the idea of form, whether my cohort wishes to acknowledge it or not, is this static and shape-based notion. 'Constraint' needn't fall prey to that fault. That's not my fault. Nor for the most part do prompted poems or improvized poems fall into this static thing. Formal poems are prize winners, but wouldn't be if the judge had noticed the form. Well, but what about Bill Lavender's new book? [look the universe is dreaming, forthcoming from Potes & Poets in 2003] I read much of it before learning of the methods used to collect the material and how he processed it after that, but after learning about this it changed my whole experience. Yes, exactly. What? The change that you've just described, one of the art-effects of that book, is not a formal thing.. not a formal mattering. The text remains the same and your head has been switched through knowing something about the methods and such that brought it about. If you can do it, that's cool, but most of the time, certainly when what you're talking about is a responsible use of 'form' that's not particularly relevant. What you call method is saying "I want the police to be invisible."
N: We've drifted back into the same quandry again. Could I redirect and ask again for some accounts of the sorts of things you folks do collaboratively?
S: We party! You party, some of us have to go to work in the morning. I go to work in the morning. Nedd, ignore them. Here is a thing we did last week, and it's also a good funny on James. Hey! I started the typing and everyone was talking about stuff and I wrote based on this talk, changing a bit but trying to stitch as much as I could catch of different people's talk into the poem. & when I was done someone asked "what's the method?" and I said "if you read it when you get up there you'll figure it out." So then everybody types and everybody figures it out until James is up and I see him up there counting shit with his finger! [Multiple laughs]
N: You don't seem to take your poetry too seriously. Do you have a serious side?
N: Uh, you mean what I said is nonsense or the answer is nonsense?
S: Right. Wait, that's not true. Too true if you ask me. Not true, not true...
N: Ah, a dissenting voice....
S: I thought I was agreeing. One thing we do a good bit of Nedd, or at least it seems like we do, is perform our work. That's all I do. Right but everybody has their own priorities in that. Tell them about "Fish, Anxiety or Myrtle Beach." Ok. I wrote this poem where the reader has the option of putting in one of the three options, "fish," "anxiety" or "myrtle beach" at any point in the poem where there is a blank. The audiences always seem to really dig them. Did you say 'dig them'? That really shows your age. I usually ask multiple people to read them so that you hear their overlaps and contrasts and it also keeps the fact of their being choices made clear to the audience. Another of Randy's cool ideas is 'body tapping.'
N: And that is what exactly?
S: Well, Randy would be reading a poem, so far it's always been "The Birds are Scratching" and someone else, usually John plays Randy. Yeah, he would drum his fists on my back or hold my nose or squeeze my face out of shape. I liked it best when he was squeezing you around the middle, you could really hear his manipulations then. Like a freckle of great literature among the mess of...
N: Yes?... A mess of what?
S: More like the mesh of. By that you mean that little ways have an end? Yes, but they may change. Like 'of rain' has a rain of meaning and a meaning of rain. I don't like rain of rain. You're weird. Ok, let's be more natural.
N: How do you form mesh?
S: With verbs. We don't, it's just there.
N: No nouns or adjectives?
S: No. Never. Oh come on, that's not true! Ok, the third wednesday of each month we ride Marta and write down all the nouns.
N: What's your favorite verb?
S: Crank call poems.
S: Do you have voice mail, Nedd?
N: Uh. No. Actually, I'm something of a Luddite. But I could give you a number for William Allegrezza if you want [writes it on a slip of paper and passes them to the Silhouette, as the lights brighten to blinding]. So performance is a big part of your poetics? If I heard you perform what would I hear?
S: [distractedly] Sounds. You should stop by Eyedrum sometime, we do gigs there pretty frequently [http://eyedrum.memoryflux.com/]. Hey do any of the rest of you see this flashing red light. I can't see anything in this place the lights are too bright. I think it means our battery pack is wussin' out on us. Nedd, it's been real. Form; stop thinking it!
N: Any final comments about the poetry or language?
S: What's the difference? I don't see any difference. It seems like it, but no. No difference. It's not big because it's just there. It just is, speaking, hearing, you know, just poetry. Your art got language?¾if so, you're there already.