Workshop Walking, Processual, Spatial

This workshop has come out of attempting every Bernadette Mayer experiment. Mayer, whose counter-expressive poetic pre-dates recent conceptual writing by 40 years. Examples include “Pick a word or phrase at random, let mind play freely around it until a few ideas have come up, then seize on one and begin to write. Try this with a non- connotative word, like “so” etc.”

To me Mayer experiments seem to suggest a simple two stage process i.e. gathering material (input) and processual techniques/ editing towards a finished (or abandoned) piece. (transformation). I will also discuss some spatial elements you can introduce to your piece.

Part One; Gathering Material

1.1 Walking, Derivé, “Poem-ing” - Cerdded

Walking has a long pedigree as a poetic device – The Welsh etymology for poem for examples. Here we may take rhythm and representation of the spatial as endpoints for the work.

Activity: We will walk around the grounds and interior of Dartington House While doing this try and observe and record: • Any text visible • Overheard conversations – Including me! • Sights, sounds, colours, latin names, nouns • Feeling evoked in a particular place, thoughts evoked • Architecture

1.2 . Gathering Material From Source Texts

Activity: we will all spend 5 minutes at a station – each station will have an activity. From Mayer, Gysin, Burroughs, Tzara or elsewhere :

• Surrealist “cut-up” Pick a book, or several books at random let your mind play over the words and select at random or with purpose for the 5 minutes

• ‘Tzara Method’: Use scissors to cut out text and glue it down in a random order drawing the words from a hat

Burroughs / Gysin cut-up method: cut two pages into 8 pieces and rearrange – create a narrative piece from the combined squares using minor editing to aid sense.

• Overheard conversation – I will go into the corridor and read out loud from a book from various distances and you must transcribe what you hear.

• Translate a Text into English from a language you don’t understand or don’t fully understand.

Part 3.1: Transformation(s) Activity • “Systematically derange the language: write a work consisting only of prepositional phrases, or, add a gerund to every line of an already existing work.”

• Using phrases relating to one subject or idea, write about another,

• pushing metaphor and simile as far as you can. For example, use science terms to write about childhood or philosophic language to describe a shirt.

• Exercises in style: Write twenty-five or more different versions of one event. (or text) (Oulipo excercises) e.g Lipogram: “a composition from which the writer systematically omits a certain letter or certain letters of the alphabet.”

Or anything else you can think of

Transformation 2.2 . Introduction of Spatial Elements Activity: Perform one or more of these techniques on a piece of writing you have generated in an attempt to evoke its ‘genius loci’ sense of place or spatial elements:

Mayer/ Derivé “Structure a poem or prose writing according to city streets, miles, walks, drives. For example: Take a fourteen-block walk, writing one line per block to create a sonnet; choose a city street familiar to you, walk it, make notes and use them to create a work; take a long walk with a group of writers, observe, make notes and create works, then compare them; take along walk or drive-write one line or sentence per mile. Variations on this.”

Or

Open-Field

Use the page as punctuation Use the page to collage separate pieces of poetry next to eachother Use the page to record the course of a walk and The course of a train of thought:

pollinated legs
		pressed knees with
		thistle, trefoil, vetch
			  plantain indent grain
thunderfield under
		        skin
		sand			and being taken up
		
		is building			sediment
		blood				   clouds
		
		northwest			shadow
		over rock			wings
		fractured			weed

(Tarlo, 2006)

Or Richard Long (The Romantic Sublime) The Romantic Sublime may be characterised by an ‘excess of the signified’ i.e. pointing to a vast other. In practice this may be achieve by using very sparse language or describing a walk you have taken in simple terms:

AN EASTWARD WALK OF 121 MILES IN 3½ DAYS FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LOIRE TO THE FIRST CLOUD (Long, 1995) Or Prynne Julia Spahr, Dylan Thomas (The Post-Modern Sublime) The Post-Modern sublime is characterised by and excess of the signifier – i.e. language, a verbal excess that creates and overloading of the senses and creates the effect of making a piece of writing ‘an object.’: as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the spaces of the regions and the space of the nations and the space (Julia Spahr, 2005)

Resources Long, R., 1995. A Cloudless Walk. [Online] Available at: http://www.richardlong.org/Textworks/2011textworks/24.html Tarlo, H., 2006. Nab. St Leonards's on Sea: etruscan books. Spahr, J., 2005 This Connection of Everyone with Lungs: New California Poetry Mayer, B 1978 Experiments. [Online] http://www.writing.upenn.edu/library/Mayer-Bernadette_Experiments.html