Monday, 12 April 2010

Do Words Need Zimmer Frames?

Thirty pieces in thirty days, and can I still tap those artesian wells? Because of my uncertainty, I’ve played with triggers, been more experimental, looser; improvising as I go…. Instead of hands and buckets, I now have pistons and pumps, and still the water comes, the words flow…

It reminds me of Oulipo and the self-imposed limits they imposed to their creativity. One example from the Yale Anthology of C20th French Poetry is Michelle Grangaud’s Michelle Grangaud Creating Anagrams; each line of which is an anagram of the title (the original in French is called Isidore Ducasse comte de Lautréamont). Some lines:

turn a manacle arches a giggling dream
a mugging canal is cleaner than a glad rag
gurgling ale a strange man a charm dice

These sound more surreal than Breton, in the same volume:

Of privet and the nests of angel fish
Whose arms are sea foam and river locks
And the mingling of wheat and mill
My love whose legs are fireworks…

Or take Jackson Mac Low, who creates his own rules to create:

George Washington never owned a camel
But he looked thru the eyes in his head
With a camel’s calm and wary look.

The rules here: each section has a president’s name, and the letters of all the names have images associated with them (actually their Phoenician meanings… there are other subsidiary rules to keep it interesting) some which are then used in that section. You get a cluster of similar words, which can add a density to the work.

Oulipo more surreal than Surrealism? Maybe it is, and it may give us a clue to the shortcomings of the latter movement. Seen as an exploration of the irrational, it may not be this at all. Instead, the images may come from an all too rational mind (see Mark Polizzotti’s biography of Breton for some confirmation of this). Rather than an understanding of that other world outside our senses (absolute reality?) it may simply be a jumbled up jigsaw puzzle of the rational consciousness.  This may explain its affinities with the games of Oulipo and Mac Low.

The irrational is stronger than that, surely?

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