Why branching out is a good idea

I’m participating in the University of Iowa’s online class in poetry. the current lesson is on using the words of others. I don’t mean how and why not to plagiarize (though don’t get me started on that!). Rather the focus is on enriching one’s own wiring by becoming part of a larger “intertextualization” of literature (see Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor for a better explanation that I might give on “intertextualization.”

The “found” poem is not new. But Mary Reuffle and others are bringing new life to doing something with others’ words. I am in favor of this practice and have been doing so with language (insertion) and also with erasure (redaction). I have also been mucking about with variations on the glosa form which uses whole lines/quatrains to riff off in totally new poems. The rhyming part of glosa writing is interesting and I like to vary WHERE the rhymes occur in the poem (not necessarily at the terminus of lines.

Now comes this idea of removal and repurposing words to form (perhaps) an opposing POV in an original work you are doing, on some idea that has been looking for a way to be expressed in a poem.

The class assignment from Iowa was this:

Find a 2010 BP oil press release and choose words from it to express something new. I was intrigued by this and came up with the following draft (every word is taken IN ORDER from the press release of 20 April 2010):

BP that


Rig: Deep

water horizon occurred

rig the incident

approximately rig 41 miles

Block 252 Emergency
and search
rig personnel

unaccounted hometowns withheld

Please visit.

What came about is an attitude that belies the propaganda in the press release, and what appears at the end is a sardonic (almost creepy) tone. Although NONE of the words came from me directly, the ideas and tone and message most certainly are. In just this short piece, “rig” comes up 5 times. Seems to me that the varied meanings implied are very much in control of the hidden message in the message of the release once they are isolated with other terms. I LOVE this serendipity.


2 thoughts on “Why branching out is a good idea

  1. I’m continuing to enjoy this course as well. The erasure was a challenging assignment! I was impressed with the great variety of results that came out of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s