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Surrealist Found Poem Challenge for Creativity Works

First, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in this brave and curious venture. Here’s our collaborative found poem made by putting together all the individual pieces.

The poems were absolutely lovely, and stood alone very nicely indeed (you can see them on the wakelet at the bottom of this post). This also means that it was difficult / impossible to try to put them together in ways that didn’t dilute the intriguing possibilities of the originals. 

Particular kudos to Amanda for presenting a perfect line of iambic tetrameter. In non-technical terms that means four beats in the line, the stress (beat). Her poem reads: fast come that dead and somber fall (beats in bold).

Also kudos to everyone for the amazing visuals! They were all beautiful, but I particularly loved the torn out words from lighthouse creative therapy. The fonts and assemblage gave the found poem a kind of vintage/reflective feel.

I’m going to present three versions of collaborative poetry from our informal collective of #CreativeSummer20. You can read them below. One uses all our lines, but the others have more editing. I’ve added punctuation to two but left one closer in spirit to the original cut out words, using lower caps and spacing to suggest where pause-points might be.

Let me know which ones you prefer, and do come up with your own, too and if you post to twitter with the hashtag I’ll share here.

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This is not a haiku

Titles are tough. At their best they can clue a reader in to otherwise ambiguous meanings, or subtly shift a reading. At their worst, they can be off putting, overly prosaic, pretentious or so weird they don’t work with the poem.

And with visual poems there’s the added bonus of having to juggle the sense-making in the picture with the sense-making in the words.

Luckily, there are random title-generators out there to save us. Ruggenberg’s title generator offered me ‘Lonely flames’ as one choice for this one, which makes me worry about cliche in the found words. Title-O-Matic suggested ‘Shine Radiant’. All of which makes me think we’re living in a huge poetry meme dictated by abstractions.

Poetic Name Generator suggested my name is Haiku, but it took a lot of questions, suggesting I’d nearly broken their algorithm. But this isn’t a Haiku.

Current Reading – Deep Time: Volume I

I’ve just finished reading Deep Time, Volume I from Black Bough Poetry. I’m really enjoying the way the anthology presents different responses and perspectives in dialogue with Robert Macfarlane’s book, Underland.

Each poem in the collection was crafted as a response to the ideas, places or writing presented by Macfarlane as he documented a reflective journey through and of the Earth in a unique refractive travelogue that bends time and space.

Responding to a contemporary complex text is an interesting callout in itself (kudos to editor Matthew M. C. Smith), and the poetry doesn’t disappoint. The mixture of voices create a kind of poetic conversation; diverse, in style and content. This leads to surprising discoveries and juxtapositions as we read through the volume, making this an enriching and thought-provoking – letting the reader find their own particular paths to travel.

Stylistically, the poems range from short, word-rich imagist poems through to concrete poetry; they read as separate explorations, realising different reflections and representations that range from a sense of immersion and materiality to more spiritual reflections, some author-centric, some with a focus on a sensory understanding of Earth, centring the material rather than the human.

The accompanying illustrations by Rebecca Wainwright work sensitively with the poetry; this is a gentle, thought-provoking rather than a strident book. Both poetry and images take us underground as readers, into a different space, where the diversity of thoughts, images and reflections work to portray a multi-layered, fascinating world. There’s little self-conscious artifice in these responses, but instead, a deep sincerity.

Although there’s lots of great poetry in there, stand-outs at my first read were Robert Minnhinnick’s short, sonically charged ‘Hailstones’ and Jack Bedell’s three ‘Kate Mulvaney’ poems, which present a picture of gentle pragmatic witchiness grounded in specificity and detail.

A perfect book to read on a rainy Summer afternoon with a coffee and a biscuit.

Black Bough have released a series of soundscapes and readings to accompany the book.

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Poetry in a hybrid space

The Hall of Small Requests is part-found, part-formal; poetry in a hybrid space, working with surrealist methods to dictate a kind of form. These led to a physical collage, then a prose-poem made from found text, and then to a sestina.

I think there’s something about working in a hybrid space between digital/physical which might be interesting to explore further here, also working with formal patterns but using chance-led words to dictate key parts of the formal element. A kind of blurring between these boundaries.

On another note, I’m really looking forward to volunteering as part of Creativity Works Summer Creative Wellbeing Challenge.

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Found poetry methods

The work of Brenda Hillman is extraordinarily rich. Hillman uses surrealist methods, including particular words as anchor points/formal points. I love the sense and intellect in her work. Reading her poetry led me to also revisit the poetry of Benjamin Peret & Andre Breton. Onwards!

And, somewhere in between all of them, the towering figure of Apollinaire. Calligrammes is extraordinary.

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One of my favourite books is ‘Why Fonts Matter’ by Sarah Hyndman. She writes of the font, ‘Didot’:

“You come across as poised and thoughtful and this someitmes gives you an air of importance. However, this outward appearance of confidence hides your more reserved personality.”

photoshop collage of blackbird and cherry with a backdrop of a stripped tree, caption 'claws stalk the cherry tree'
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Far Stars

“There is not just one reality. There is only one’s own perspective, which can be very different depending on who you are…a compromise among many ways of seeing. Hence, realistic drawing is more like the smallest common denominator than any actual reality”

(Scheinberger, F. Dare to sketch: A guide to drawing on the go)

Another collage poem made in response to the brief at Singapore Unbound. Like this one, it’s using found text from secondhand books and surrealist methods to see if colonial-age narratives can be re-made in a different way.