Today’s prompt on the Found Poetry Review blog offers a choice of constraints from Montrealer Greg Santos. Here’s what he’s suggested, every one of them are worth trying:
- Dialogue with Ghost: Find an audio recording of a dead poet or musician. Play the recording. Start writing words that jump in your head, lines of your own. Write a 10-14 line poem using the words you jotted down, either in response to the original poem/song or a completely new piece.
- Reverse Poem: Find a draft of a poem you’ve already written. Rewrite your new poem backwards, writing the last stanza first and so on. The new order might reveal something new and exciting.
- Table of Contents Poem: Use the table of contents of any book to find each line for your found poem.
- Online Erasure Poem: Go to Wave Books’ Erasures website to find online source texts, with excerpts ranging from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to The Voyage Out by Virginia Wolf. The cool website lets you click on any word or punctuation mark to make it disappear. You can save, print, or email the newly sculpted text when you’re done.
Today I tried first the Reverse poem. Two shorter poems did not seem to change much nor for the better, but a longer poem was a little more interesting. I chose a found poem I had done last summer from a prose piece of Walt Whitman’s, On Seeing Niagara to Advantage. That poem is here, followed by the reverse version, with some further carving done to it.
On Seeing Niagara to Advantage
found in Walt Whitman
June 4, ’80.
Seizing the common sunshine,
the mystery of identity, there comes
some lucky five minutes of fortuitous concurrence,
circumstance bringing a brief flash of thought about two o’clock.
This afternoon gave me Niagara, superb severity of action, color,
majestic indescribable show. Slowly crossing the Suspension bridge,
not a full stop anywhere, and I out on the platform, the falls in plain view,
a mile distinct, and no roar, a murmur-river tumbling green and white,
the plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars, shadow tempering
immense materiality. Clear sky, a few white clouds silent.
Brief quiet, a remembrance always afterwards.
I lay away rare and blessed bits of hours,
—the wild sea-storm one winter,
—night-views on the field, after battles
—the peculiar sentiment of moonlight
—stars over Kansas
—a stiff breeze off Navesink.
That afternoon five minutes’ perfect absorption.
Niagara— the great majestic gem complete
in indispensable surround.
Carol A. Stephen
excerpt from Whitman, Walt, Specimen Days, 1882
And this is the poem I carved out today from the one above:
On Revisiting Niagara April 27, 2016
I lay away rare and blessed bits of hours
brief quiet, a remembrance.
Always afterwards, immense materiality,
clear sky, a few white clouds silent.
The plentiful umbrage, many bronze cedars,
shadow tempering a mile.
No roar, a murmur-river tumbling green and white,
not a full stop anywhere.
Crossing the bridge gave me Niagara,
A brief flash of thought about two o’clock.
Five minutes of identity
seizing the common sunshine.
Carol A. Stephen
But I wasn’t convinced it was “my” poem for today. The Ghosts prompt is tempting but no idea where to start so I went with the Erasure generator from Wave Books. I was disappointed that I could only print it in tiny print, and the site would not, for some reason, allow me to sign up so I could email or save. But I did manage to get an image of it. I found it a challenge as both times I tried the erasures I ended up putting back words that I thought I had erased, and erasing words I wanted to keep, so the image text is a bit different from my transcribed version, which is the “final” one. The text was taken from The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin.http://erasures.wavepoetry.com/sources.php
The nature of hills,
blunt, burned, squeezed out of chaos chrome and vermilion
plains full of intolerable sun narrow
valleys drowned in blue streaked with
ash drift and lava. After rains
in the hollows,
dry lakes. the
rains dark and bitter,
with efflorescence. A thin
crust along the marsh
has neither beauty nor freshness. broad wastes open to the
wind sand drifts in hummocks and
between them The sculpture of
water work, the quick storms
scar them In the
desert there are essays in miniature
the hot stink of Death
the air has a tang of frost. long heavy
winds and dust devils
whirling up into wide, pale sky no rain
when the earth cries for it
A land of lost rivers,
so little told of it.