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Poetry Is For Everyone

DiaryPosted by Jessica Jordan-Wrench Mon, August 18, 2014 09:12AM
I (Jess) have been spending the summer working on the Art Beat Project at Turner Contemporary. I have been working with 13-19 year olds, across a range of disciplines, alongside a sculptor, a dancer and an electronic musician.

We have all been blown away by the work the young people have created, bravely rising to any challenge we present them with and running with it (Us: "Want to use electronic circuits to make an orchestra out of fruit?" Them: "Sure!", Us: "Want to devise a dance piece around a dictaphone recording you just made of your improvised poetry?" Them: "Absolutely!").

Personally, I was particularly taken with their work on the "The Cut-Up Method". So much so, in-fact, that we are planning on using the technique in our new piece, currently referred to as "Exit, Pursued By A Bear".

The technique was founded by Dadists, popularised by William Burroughs and has been adopted my numerous artists since … David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Thom Yorke... It resonates nicely with our love of framing accidents, shining a spot-light on mistakes (see "Beware! Falling Ox").

Here's a little explanation of the technique and a poem; Nirvana splintered and pressed with a recipe for Onion Tart. (Bukowski with a speech by Winston Churchill was another favourite.)

"Text is cut up and re-arranged. The cut up method brings to writers the collage which has been used by painters for fifty years. And used by the moving and still camera. In fact all street shots from movie or still cameras are by the unpredictable factors of passers by and juxtaposition cut ups. And photographers will tell you that often their best shots are accidents . . . writers will tell you the same. The best writing seems to be done almost by accident but writers until the cut up method was made explicit-- (all writing is in fact cut ups. I will return to this point)--had no way to produce the accident of spontaneity. You can not will spontaneity. But you can introduce the unpredictable spontaneous factor with a pair of scissors. The method is simple. Here is one way to do it. Take a page. Like this page. Now cut down the middle and cross the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 ... one two three four. Now rearrange the sections placing section four with section one and section two with section three. And you have a new page. Sometimes it says much the same thing. Sometimes something quite different--(cutting up political speeches is an interesting exercise)--in any case you will find that it says something and something quite definite. Take any poet or writer you fancy. Heresay, or poems you have read over many times. The words have lost meaning and life through years of repetition. Now take the poem and type out selected passages. Fill a page with excerpts. Now cut the page. You have a new poem. As many poems as you like. As many Shakespeare Rimbaud poems as you like. Tristan Tzara said: "Poetry for everyone." And Andre Breton called him a cop and expelled him from the movement. Say it again: "Poetry is for everyone.""

William Burroughs

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