English 111 / Comp Lit 115
Experimental Writing Seminar: Constraints & Collaborations
office hours by appointment
Mondays at 6
Penn Book Center is no longer handling coursebooks, I recommend you buy all books through them. Some of these they will have in stock.
Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style
Peter Gizzi, In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011
James Sherry, Entangled Bank (buy directly from press or Penn Book Center or Amazon
The first thing to do is subscribe to the course Discussion list (via Google groups): wreading.
•email to list: re-wreading -- @ -- sas.upenn.edu
Beginning of syllabus
This is an introductory assignment to be done
before the first class and submitted by the weekend before our first meeting: DUE Sunday Sept 10, after your sub to the list..
Reading: Lee Ann Brown, "Pledge," Michael
Magee, "Pledge" from Morning Constitutional (go to p.37 of pdf of book)
Kenneth Goldsmith, "Head
Citations" (see also Marmoset)
Bernadette Mayer, "Before
Jennifer Scappatone/H.D "Sea Poppies"/"Vase Poppies"
§Substitution (1): "Mad libs." Take a poem (or other source text) and put blanks in place of three or four words in each line, noting the part of speech under each blank. Fill
in the blanks being sure not to recall the original context.
§ Substitution (2): "7 up or down." Take
a poem or other, possibly well-known, text and substitute another
word for every noun, adjective, adverb, and verb; determine the
substitute word by looking up the index word in the dictionary
and going 7 up or down, or one more, until you get a syntactically
suitable replacement. N+7 web engine.
§ Substitution (3): Find and replace. Systematically
replace one word in a source text with another word or string
of words. Perform this operation serially with the same
source text, increasing
the number of words in the replace string.
2. (Sept. 18) Exercises in Style
Reading: Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau
In 1947, Raymond Queneau, a founding member of OuLiPo
(Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or "Workshop
of Potential Literature") published Exercises de Style,
99 variations on the "same" story. Each of these 99 approaches
could take a place of honor in this list but best to turn to
that work for the enumeration and explanation. For present purposes
(if purposes doesn't strike an overly teleological chord),
suffice it to say that an initial incident, mood, core proposition,
description, idea, or indeed, story, might be run through the
present list of experiments, though to what end only the Shadow
knows, and maybe not even the Shadow.
•Extentions (optional): Caroline Bergvall's poem setting of mutliple translations of the opening of Dante's Divine Comedy, from PennSound.
§ Homolinguistic translation: Take
a poem (someone else's or your own) and translate/rewrite/revise
it by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for
line, or "free" translation as response to each phrase
or sentence. Or do several versions of the "same" poem.
Or: translate the poem into another, or several other, literary
§ We will also do this
as a chain: via
the list ... The "translation" will
go from person to another until you get back to the first author.
As a general rule, each new version must change at least one-third
of the words or the equivalent. We can take advantage of the long break before second class to do this.
Provide a commentary on your work: what was the experience of doing the exercise?, what do you like best about the results?, do you like the original or your derivative product "better"? what does "better" mean to you? Also provide a short commentary of the Queneau reading: a notebook-like response to reading the work. What is your sense of the meaning/difference of variatons? How does it related to translations?
(1): Write a poem and cut it somewhere in the middle, then recombine
with the beginning part following the ending part.
§ Recombination (2) -- Doubling: Starting
with one sentence, write a series of paragraphs each doubling
the number of sentences in the previous paragraph and including
all the words used previously.
Further reading: Queneau's One
Hundred Thousand Billion Poems
•••provide a commentary on your work and the reading & respond to the work of at least one other member of the class****
3. (Sept. 25) Homophonic & Dialect
Homophonic reading: Louis
and Celia Zukofsky's Catullus & two
examples of mine: from
Basque and from
reading/listening: Steve McCaffery's translation of the Communist
Manifesto into West Riding of Yorkshire dialect: audio, text
Foin Lass" [resricted to Penn only!] [you can find Zukofksy -- and me too -- reading this on the Zukofsky PennSound page).
Here are two more complex translation experiments with Chinese: Jonathan's Stalling's Yinglishi and Yunte Huang's SHI.
provide a commentary on your work; try several of these done on different days. provide a commentary on the set of readings:
translation: Take a poem in a foreign language that you can pronounce
but not necessarily understand and translate the sound of the
poem into English (i.e., French "blanc" to blank or "toute" to
§Try a variant of these translation exercises
using the "Babelfish" and Google Translate engines or the "Telephone" engine –– or other web-based
translations engines, such as Translation.com and Logopoeia's
Shortwave Radio Engine.You can use Google tr. in telephone fashion: tr. from one lanague to another to another and back to original language. See also Translation Party and Bad Translator.
§Translate or compose a poem or other work into a different dialect, your own or other. Dialect can include subculture lingo, slang, text messaging shothand, etc.
§Use the dialect engine
Homer at Eclipse: Men
in Aida -- part
one and part
Ron Silliman on homophonic translation (his own, Melnick's,
and Chris Tysh's)
Kageyam's translation of Pound's "The Return" into pidgin
(Hawaiian Creole English).
§ bpNichol, Translating
as Tugged Vat, Your Love.
•••provide a commentary on your work & respond to the work of at least one other member of the class****
4. (Oct. 2)
Peter Gizzi class visit
WE MEET AT KELLY WRITERS HOUSE AT 6:30pm
Note we start 1/2 hour late and class will end 9:20. We will stay on in the Arts Cafe to meet with Gizzi after his reading and reception.
Reading: assinged book: In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011
§Erasure: Take a poem of your own or someone
else's and crossout most of the words on each poem, retype what
remains as your poem. (Cf.: Ronald Johnson's RADI OS from
Milton.) See Wave Books erasure pages. See Deletionist app.
For this week: try the erasure on one of Gizzi's poems
§ Translate a Gizzi poem into the non-English language you know best.
§ Write a poem in imitation of one of Gizzi's. You can pick up on theme, moode, form, rewrite from your own point of view, or try one of the homolinguistic translation or substitution excercises of week one.
•••provide a commentary on your work and also on Gizzi's book***
5. (Oct. 9) Chance Operation & the Aleatoric
Assassins" from Stanzas for Iris Lezak (string word
is the poem title)
*3d Biblical Poem (1955) and brief account here
*Selection from Representative Works, plus "Word en Ends from Ez"
nd Ends from Ez (string word: Ezra Pound)
Burroughs on cut-ups & Brion
Gysin on cut-ups
Further/optional reading: Burroughs/Gysin "Minutes to Go"
pdf of full Third Mind; more Burroughs; The Ticket That Exploded
provide a commentary on your work and on the reading
do a few:
§ Acrostic chance: Pick a book
and use title as acrostic key phrase. For each letter of
key phrase go to page number in book that corresponds (a=1, z=26)
and copy as first line of poem from the first word that begins
with that letter to end of line or sentence. Continue through
all key letters, leaving stanza breaks to mark each new key word. Variations
include using author's name as code for reading through her or
his work, using your own or friend's name, picking different
kinds of books for this process, devising alternative acrostic
procedures.Or use the web Mac
Low diastic engine.
§ Tzara's hat: Everyone in a group
writes down a word (alternative: phrase, line) and puts it in
a hat. Poem is made according to the order in which it
is randomly pulled from hat. (Solo: pick a series of words
or lines from books, newspapers, magazines to put in the hat.) "Language
Is a Virus" has an engine that makes poems from your
selected vocabulary list, a cross between "Tzara's Hat" and "Mad
Cf: site tha offer true ranomization: random.org
§ Burroughs's fold-in: Take two
different pages from a newspaper or magazine article, or a book,
and cut the pages in half vertically. Paste the mismatched
pages together. (Cf.: William Burroughs’s The
Third Mind.) Use the computer Lazarus
cut-up engire to perform a similar task automatically; also
engines at "Language
Is a Virus:" Cut
Up Machine, Slice-n-Dice, Exquisite
Cadavulator, & God's
Rude Wireless. And: Ron
Starr's travesty engine (no longer online)
§General cut-ups: Write a poem composed entirely
of phrases lifted from other sources. Use one source for
a poem and then many; try different types of sources: literary,
historical, magazines, advertisements, manuals, dictionaries,
instructions, travelogues, etc. See cut-up engines listed
•••provide a commentary on your work & the reading and respond to the work of at least one other member of the class****
6. (Oct. 16) Without Rules,
(K)not!, or Is Free Writing Free?
Kerouac on spontaneous bop prosody
Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters - Excerpt
Weiner, Clairvoyant Journal: text
begins here & read with audio
MP3 (26:48): first couple of pages is fine.
Clark Coolidge, from American
provide a commentary on your work and on the reading
§Write a poem in which you try to transcribe as accurately
as you can your thoughts while you are writing. Don't edit
anything out. Write as fast as you can without planning what
you are going to say. (Try this by handwriting if possible.) For the class: do this three times in the course of one week or do all three experiments listed here.
§ Autopilot: Trying as hard as you can not to think
or consider what you are writing, write as much as you can as
fast you can without any editing or concern for syntax, grammar,
narrative, or logic. Try to keep this going for as long as possible:
one hour, two hours, three hours: don't look back don't look
§ Dream work: Write down your dreams as the
first thing you do every morning for 30 days. Apply translation
and aleatoric processes to this material. Double the length
of each dream. Weave them together into one poem, adding or changing
or reordering material. Negate or reverse all statements
("I went down the hill to "I went up the hill," "I
didn't" to "I did"). Borrow a friend's dreams
and apply these techniques to them.
§Write a poem just when you are on the verge of falling
asleep. Write a line a day as you are falling asleep or
•••provide a commentary on your work & the reading and respond to the work of at least one other member of the class****
7. (Oct. 23) James Sherry Visit and reading
WE MEET AT KELLY WRITERS HOUSE AT 6:00pm. We will continuewith Sherry as a class visitor after the reading and recepton.
Flarf / Conceptual Poetry / Web-Generated Poems / Found Poems
K. Silem Mohammad, Deer
Head Nation. In Deer Head Nation, Mohammad uses
the Google search page result as his basic text, editing from
there: "You punch a keyword or keywords or phrase
into Google and work directly with the result text that gets
thrown up. I paste the text into Word and just start stripping
stuff away until what's left is interesting to me, then
I start meticulously chipping away at and fussing with that."
FLARF: A recent extension of this approach, which is developing
independently, is called "flarf." Michael Magree explains,
in this Experiments List exclusive report, "The
Flarf Files." See also: a
negative view of Flarf & Jacket's Flarf
see also: Claudius App splash sheet
§ Google Poem: construct a poem using Leevi Lehto's engine (use the patterns feature).].
§ Try also: The
the source for Apostrophe: The Book by Bill Kennedy and
§ Google poem, based on M.
Silem Mohammad's Deer Head Nation : use Google search
results as the source material for a poem: erase as much as you
like, but don't add anything. Many variations possible.
Write a collage made up of full-lines of selected source poems. (Or see Kate Fagin's short form centos.)
§ "Pits": Write the worst possible
poem you can imagine
§ Use the "Meaning
Eater" engine to deform the text of a poem.
§ Data Mining (variation of some of the above): see
eg ***do several of these; provide a commentary on your work and the reading plus a comment on at least one other classmate's post***
8. (Oct. 30) Attentions
Assignments these week are more than for the other weeks, but do try everything.
Beckett & "Hay(na)Ku"
Extenstions (optional): Robert
Zukofksy, Robert Grenier's Sentences,
Willaim Carlos Williams, Charles
Reznikoff. Ted Greenwald
Saroyan's Aram Saroyan
a poem consisting of one-word lines; write a poem consisting
of two-word lines; write a poem consisting of three-word lines.
§Try out Hay(na)ku or Haiku
§Try some variant short-line form.
Write down everything you hear for one hour: it is important to do this for the full time period.
§Write a poem consisting entirely of overheard
§Talk poem: record yourself talking a poem and transcribe. (See David Antin.)
9. (Nov. 6) Memory, Novel Forms
do as many of these as possible, minimum 5 or 6 forms.
§Brainard's Memory: Write a poem all of whose
lines start "I remember ..." (Reading: Joe Brainard's I
Remember & audio
Write a poem in which all the events occur simultaneously.
§ Diachronicity: Write a poem in which all the events
occur in different places and at different times.
§Write an autobiographical poem without using any
§Write a poem about a single object. (Reading: Ponge's Object)
§Write a poem made up entirely of excuses. (Or: apologies.)
§Write a poem in the form of a resume.
§Write a poem in the form of a index (cf., Paul Violi).
a poem in the form a table of contents
§Write a poem in the form an advertisement for an
imaginary or real product. (See Nicolàs
§Write a poem in the form an instruction manual
§Write a poem in the form a travel guide
§Write a poem in the form a quiz or examination,
§Write a poem in the form of a baseball lineup; cf:
Charles North: Wittgenstein lf, Heidegger 2b, Aristotle
1b, Kant rf, Hegel cf, Hume ss, Sartre 3b, Plotinus c, Plato
•••provide a commentary on your work & the reading, plus comment on a classmate's post***
10. (Nov. 13) Digital & Visual
over the break: review the work of each of your classmates and post your one, two, or three favorite pieces. this will be used for each of you to make a final pdf pamphlet of your work.
A selection of digital and visual poems from
anthology (see reading list too) (start with Stefan's "Dreamlife," nichols, Chang's Dakota. Steve McLaughlin, Loss Pequento Glazier ("Cog" et al), & Jim Carpenter, Issue One)
§Pick several images from the internet or a magazine and make an arrangement with them; then use as a backdrop for a poem or text or juxtapose with the image and poem.
§ Graphic design 101.1: Take a poem, first another's
then your own, and set it ten differnet ways, using different
fonts and different page sizes. Make a web version of the poem.
§ Take a poem, first another's then your own, and
rearrange the line breaks or visual composition, while keeping
the same word order. Do this five times, some with freely composed
arrangements and some using some form of counting.
§ Visual poetry: write poems with strong visual or "concrete" elements — including
a combination of lexical and nonlexical (pictorial) elements. Play
with alphabets and typography, placement of words on the page,
§ Try a "digital" poem, or poem in programmable
media, or indeed one using links or HTML as a fundamental dimension,
please go ahead with that -- either for this week or next week..
For those without the technical skills to do this, or the software,
you might try to do a blueprint or sketch of such a digital work,
either entirely new or, perhaps, a hypertext version (or setting)
of a poem you have already written.
***provide a commentary on your work & the reading plus comment on a classmate's post***
provide a commentary on your work; repeart the experiment at least three separate times over the week
11 (Nov. 20) The Art of Constraint
Jabberwocky & variations
Bök, Eunoia: Coach House e-edition; recommended:
reading & " e" chapter
in flash from UBU.
Extensions (optional): Kenneth Goldsmith, “Fidget”
Christian Bök's lipogram Eunoia consists of a five sections each with words containing the same vowel (as in "O":
Yoko Ono). This is reminiscent of certain notorious Ouilipian
constrains, such as Perec's novel La Disparition , which
suppresses the letter "e" or the work of Queneau (such as Exercises in Style).
§Write a poem in the manner of Eunoia.
a poem made up entirely of neologisms or nonsense words or fragments
of words. (Cf.: Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky",
Inman's, Ocker, Platin and Uneven Devlelpment and
David Melnick's Pcoet: all via Eclipse). Use Neil Hennessy's JABBER:
The Jabberwocky Engine to generate lexicon. Also see The
International Dictionary of Neologisms.
§Write a poem consisting only of prepositions, then of prepositions and one other part of speech; then three parts of speech.
§ Write a series of eight-word lines consisting of one each of each part of speech.
§ Pick 20 words, either a word list you generate yourself or from source texts. Write three different poems using only these words.
§Alphabet poems: make up a poem of 26 words so that each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Write
another alphabet poem but scramble the letter order.
§ Alliteration (assonance): Write a
poem in which all the words in each line begin with the same
§ Group sonnet: 14 people each write one ten-word line (or alternate measure) on an index card. Order
§Write a "sound" poem
•••provide a commentary on your work, do as many as possible; perhaps one each day over the week.***
12. (Nov. 27) Davy Knittle will teach the class in my absence
Reading: Davy Knittle, Get On Like Houses. PDF will be emailed to you a week before the class.
Prepare two questions for Knittle; he will respond at beginning of the class.
13. (Dec. 4) Ekphrasis (translating the visual into the verbal)
Assignment: go to Barnes Foundation Museum or Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts (note PMA has free days and for Barnes you need a reservation).
Write a poem or several poems to accompany a painting or scupture. Take a picture of the work (or find on-line) and post with the image. Along with the poem, provide a full visual description of the work: everything you see, everything you noitce.
A good source of on-line images is the PennSlide
library and ArtStor (via library e-resources). Write a poem
to be read in a place.
•••provide a commentary on your work:
Start to work on your individual web page (or pdf/word) final presentations, with table of contents / title page; we link to this page from the class web site. Post links to the list of your propose title page / table of contents. We also need to do this for the oneoneone web site as well. Would any of you like to volunteer to design the title page and TOC for that?
For example, see web site created in 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
ersation. (See Kenneith Goldsmith's Soliloquy.)
•••provide commentary on your work plus comment on a classmate's post***
14. (Dec. 11) (Last Class)
Performance / Class Anthology / Chapbooks / Web site : Last Class
Make a chapbook or some other phyical object to give to everyone in
the class. Also, make a pdf pamplet of your work to link to class web site. We will fous on
performance. As part of working on your final project, bring
in something to perform, up to five minutes (new work or
older work, though new work always preferred). We will discuss
the performances (to be continued next week)