For this cut up, I pulled couplets from the Winter 2004-2005 issue of Ploughshares. Although there were a number of excellent poems in the issue, I did find it particularly challenging to find lines that fit together well -there seemed to be a lot poems that employed the past tense, relied heavily on dialogue, or tackled subject matter and images that really weren’t meshing with my first few chosen couplets. I did have two other couplets I really liked, but ended up dropping them due to differences in tense or tone.
Author: Neil Aitken
Project: Cut Up Poem #2
This cut up poem is based on couplets from the 2013 Triple Issue of South Dakota Review. For this one, I choose to use exclusively couplets from writers of color who appear in this issue. Ironically, one of the contributors in that issue is Yi-Fen Chou, the pseudonym of Michael Derrick Hudson, who regularly posed as a Chinese American writer in order (in his mind) to have a better chance of getting published. He revealed his ruse once one of his poems was accepted and published in a volume of Best American Poetry — a scandal which led to a very important discussion about identity, race, stereotypes, and representation in literary publishing.
Project: Cut Up Poem #1
When I went down to Los Angeles in November last year to empty my storage unit (and do some poetry readings), I discovered that at some point (probably during the terrible rain storms that hit in earlier in 2017), water had leaked from the roof and damaged some of boxes of books I had stored. In total, I lost around 30 books (out of 900) and 50% of a collection of sample issues from different literary journals (roughly 100 items ruined). While I wasn’t particularly attached to the literary journals (they were just representative samples I sometimes use in workshops), I did feel sad that they were all headed to the dump. So I decided to try to find a way to salvage them — the reclaim a line or two from different poems and weave them together into something new. In the end, I choose to use couplets rather than single lines (so these aren’t centos exactly — although you might argue they’re 2-per-centos (gah, I can’t believe I just wrote that!).
I’ve made two today, this one is based on couplets drawn from a 2002 issue of Poetry.
The 90th Anniversary issue of Poetry had a surprisingly large number of poems which referred to birds, which certainly end up finding their way into this piece. I’m very happy with how this one came together — especially given how different the original poems where, not only in subject matter, but also in tone and form.
Returning (Again) to the Blog
Sometimes we falter, even with the best of intentions. When I last posted, almost two years ago, I fully intended to keep writing and posting to this blog on a regular basis. Alas, I fell far short, slipped into the old habits of neglect and distraction, and did not stay firm to the resolution to write and blog more often.
So I’m trying again.
There seems to be something of a zeitgeist happening (see Donna Vorreyer’s post)– many of those of us who once actively blogged about poetry and literature in the 2000s are finding ourselves coming back to the blog form. Increasingly Twitter and Facebook feel too ephemeral, too dysfunctional, and too distracting. There, we find ourselves tempted to write for immediate response and popular validation – weirdly, for me at least, the blog form feels less of a public performance and more of a space of private reflection — a place where one can wrestle with ideas, sometimes to find answers, sometimes simply to start making sense of the many pieces we’ve gathered.
Most of what I’m interested in writing and blogging about hasn’t changed that much. I do have some projects and interests which will likely show up. Aside from poetry and technology, I’ll be spending some time talking about writing prompt creation (and how I’ve started coming up with ways to create random prompt generators) as well as cut up poetry (I lost a lot of old literary journals and around 30 books to water damage and mold — which I only discovered recently when I emptied my old storage unit in Los Angeles and hauled everything back to my new apartment in Vancouver, WA — so I’ve started working on a set of art projects to find a use for the pages and parts that are still usable). I’m still fond of British crime and detective tv shows, still interested in the occasional K-Drama and J-Drama, and still watching the occasional anime series. These too might find their way into blog posts. As well as whatever thoughts I have about the computer game(s) I’m currently playing.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to start again and hope to engage and interact with a larger dialog about writing, art, and how we make sense of the world.
The Hermit’s Return
I stopped blogging almost 7 years ago on June 21, 2009. I don’t recall the reasons, perhaps it was just the time demands of graduate school or the mental and emotional exhaustion that tend to accompany those studies. For whatever reason, I wrote a post about my late father on Father’s Day, marking the silence and his absence, then did not return.
It’s true, I’ve been busy. Writing and defending the dissertation, completing the second book of poetry and finding it a home, searching for a teaching position in the post-Ph.D. world, and in general, trying to make sense of the world and its unexpected twists and turns. I’m grateful for my successes and thankful to have the opportunity to try again when I’m not. I think in some respects I stopped blogging simply because I didn’t have the energy to keep going. I think at the time I was also more enamored with Facebook and other more immediate forms of social interaction. There were a lot of reasons. Now things have come full circle. I’m ready to return to a quieter space where I have more room and time to unfold my thoughts. So here I am, back in the poetry blog-o-sphere, doing my thing.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be writing on a wide variety of topics. I’m working on a post about the absent recluse figure in classical Chinese poetry (somewhat appropriate given my own long absence), as well as some more practical posts about starting new writing projects, navigating the uncharted terrain of launching a second book, and my efforts to create useful online literary resources.