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This list is adapted from the "Experiments" list. I have selected a set of interactive writing exercises that extend the reading/listening to the poems. It advocates an active practice of "deformative criticism".
1. Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem and translate it "English
to English" by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line
for line, or "free" translation as response
to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another
literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang
or vernacular. Do several differnt types of homolinguistic translations
of a single source poem. Homolinguistic
translation: Take a poem (someone else's, then your own) and
translate it "English to English" by substituting word
for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or "free" translation
as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem
into another literary style or a different diction, for example
into a slang or vernacular. Do several differnt types of homolinguistic
transation of a single source poem. Chaining:
try this with a group, sending the poem on for "translation" from
person to another until you get back to the first author.
2. Dialect & Idiolect:
Translate or compose a pom or other work into a different dialect
or idiolect, your own or other. Dialect can include subculture
lingo, slang, text messaging shothand, etc. For example, Steve
McCaffery's translation of the Communist Manifesto in West Riding
of Yorkshire dialect (at PennSound): audio, text. See
Kageyam's translation of Pound's "The Return" into pidgin
(Hawaiian Creole English). Use the dialect
translate a text into one of several "dialects," then
use the results to make a poem.
5. Try a variant of these four translation exercises using the "Babelfish" and Google Translatateengines or the "Telephone" engine (here's another)–– or other web-based translations engines, such as Free Translation.com and Logopoeia's Shortwave Radio Engine.You can use Google tr. in telephone fashion: tr. from one language to another to another and back to original language. See also Translation Party and Bad Translator.
6. Acrostic chance: Pick a book at random 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. (Cf.: Jackson Mac Low's Stanzas for Iris Lezak.) 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. Or try the mesostic engine.
7. Tzara's hat: Cut up the poem into individual words (alternative: phrase, line) and put them in a hat. Reassemble the poem according to the order in which you pick the words from the hat. Can be done in a group. Cf: site tha offer true ranomization: random.org
8. 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 engine 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.
9. General cut-ups: Write a poem composed entirely of phrases lifted from the poems you are reading. Use cut-up engines listed above.
11. Serial sentences: Select one sentence each from different source texts. Add sentences of your own composition. Combine into one paragraph, reordering to produce different results.
12. Substitution (1): "Mad libs." Take the 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.
13. Substitution (2): "7 up or down." Take a poem or other
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. (Cf.: Lee Ann Brown's "Pledge" & Michael Magee's "Pledge" (go to p.37 of pdf of Morning Constitutional) or Clark Coolidge and Larry Fagin, On the Pumice of Morons.) If
you find this too pre-determined, remember that that may be the value,
your lack of control. However, a "liberal" alternative: pick
any one of the 7 words up or down.
14. Substitution (3): Find and replace. Systematically replace one word in the source poem 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.
16. Recombination (1): Take a poem and cut it somewhere in the middle, then recombine with the beginning part following the ending part.
17. Recomination (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. (Cf. Ron Silliman's Ketjak)
18. Transcribe a poem from a recording without consulting the "original" written text. Try to create appropriate line breaks and layout. Try several different formats.
19. Memorize a poem.
20. Convert the poem into prose.
21. Provide line breaks for a prose poem.
22. Relineate the poem: change every line and stanza break.
24. Take a nonmetrical poem and convert it into a regular meter. Add rhymes. Take a metrical poem and convert it to a nonmetrical form.
25. Imitation: Write a new poem in the style of a particular poet or poem. Try to make it as close to a forgery of an "unknown" poem of the author as possible.
26. Erasure (2): eliminate all object references in the poem.27. Eliminate all personal pronouns or self-reference in a poem.
28. Backwards: Reverse or alter the line sequence of the poem. Next, reverse the word order. Rather than reverse, scramble.
29. Defacement: Alter a "good" poem so as to make it as bad as possible.
30. Negation/Opposites: Negate every phrase or sentence in the poem or in some way substitute opposite words for selected words in the source text: "I went to the beach" becomes "I went to the office"; "I got up" becomes "She sat down"; "I will" become "I will not"; etc. As an alternative, take a poem and change what it says line for line or phrase for phrase; not opposite, just different.
31. Erasure (3):Cross out most of the words of the poem, retype what remains. Now, analyze.
32. Create a set images to accompany the poem, either stanza for stanza or line for line.
33. Typography: Set the poem in several different fonts. Alter the visual layout. Try color. Create a hypertext version, using color, font, background, and image.
34. Elimination: Cut out the second half of sentences or lines.
35. He Do the Police in Voices: Dialect & Idiolect: Translate the target poem into a different dialect or idiolect, your own or other. Dialect can include subculture lingo, slang, text messaging shothand, etc. For example, Steve McCaffery's translation of the Communist Manifesto in West Riding of Yorkshire dialect (at PennSound): audio, text. See also Nathan Kageyam's translation of Pound's "The Return" into pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English). Use the dialect engine to translate the poem into one or several "dialects". Or do this just by the accent you give in reading the work out loud.
36. Deformation: Use the "Meaning Eater" engine to deform the text of a poem. Use a sound editor to scramble, resound a sound file of a poem.
38. Make an index from the target text (especially a full-lengh collection or collected poems).
39. Take phrases from the source poem and embed within a narrative of your own construction. (See Alan Ramón Clinton's Bob Perelman.)
40. Collaboration: Do any of these experiements in a group.
41. 5. No wave. Retype the target work, without making any changes. Proofread for accuracy. Reflect on the process.
Memorize the poem and recite it through the day and into the night.
Type or handwrite the poem.
This list is adapted from the full list of Experiments.
Compiled by Charles Bernstein. (C) 2006 by Poets' Ludicrously Aimless Yearning (PLAY). Dispense only as appropriate and under the supervision of an attending reader. Individual experiments are not liable for injury or failure resulting from improper use of appliance. Any profits accrued as a direct or indirect result of the use of these formulas shall be redistributed to the language at large. Management assumes no responsibility for damages that may result consequent to the use of this material in educational institutions or individual writing project.