Summer Intensive Writing Workshop 2007
Paul McGhee Division/Writing and Speech Program School of Continuing and Professional Studies

New York University
June 10 – 22, 2007

Charles Bernstein


Two key resources:
The Electronic Poetry Center

I can't be at the gathering on Sunday, June 10, but you can start right  in on the first assignment. Email me the results & this first assignment and I will bring in for computer projection on Monday. It's not necessary to make copies if you email me by Monday morning. But note, for this and all workshops: you must bring a copy of your own work to each session.

1. Monday, June 11, 2-5pm
Introduction / Substitution
Bernadette Mayer, "Before Sextet"
Lee Ann Brown, "Pledge," Michael Magee, "Pledge" from Morning Constitutional (go to p.37 of pdf of book)
Kenneth Goldsmith, "Head Citations"
§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. 
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. 
Note: start with the first and do all three  if time and if there's more  time go a second round.

ON Tuesday afternoon: special assignment:
§Attention: Write down everything you hear for one hour.
§Write a poem consisting entirely of overheard conversation.
(See Kenneith Goldsmith's Soliloquy.)
Send this to me by email.

2. Weds, June 12, 2-5pm
Homophonic & Dialect Translation
Homophonic reading: Louis and Celia Zukofsky's Catullus [password required: please check with me to get this password]
& two examples of mine: from Basque and from Portuguese.
Dialect reading/listening: Steve McCaffery's translation of the Communist Manifesto into West Riding of Yorkshire dialect: audio, text
Zukofsky,"A Foin Lass" [requires the password!]
Extenstions (optional): David Melnick's Homer at Eclipse: Men in Aida -- part one and part two; Ron Silliman on homophonic translation (his own, Melnick's, and Chris Tysh's)
Nathan Kageyam's translation of Pound's "The Return" into pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English).
§ Homophonic 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 toot).
§Try a variant of these translation exercises using the "Lost in Translation" "Babel" engine, or other web-based translations engines, such as Babelfish, Free and Logopoeia's Shortwave Radio Engine.
§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

3. Thurs, June 13, 2-5
Chance Operation & the Aleatoric
Reading: Jackson Mac Low
* "Insects Assassins" from Stanzas for Iris Lezak (string word is the poem title)
*from Words nd Ends from Ez (string word: Ezra Pound)
*William Burroughs on cut-ups & Brion Gysin on cut-ups
§ 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.  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 Libs."
§  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
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 just above.

4. Monday, June 18, 2-5pm
Without Rules, (K)not!, or Is Free Writing Free?
Jack Kerouac on spontaneous bop prosody
Bernadette Mayer, from Studying Hunger
The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters - Excerpt
Hannah Weiner, Clairvoyant Journal: text begins here & read with audio MP3 (26:48): first couple of pages is fine.  
Clark Coolidge, from American Ones
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.
§ 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 up.
§ 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 waking up.


for further reading/exploration
Visual Poetry
Digital Poetry


Workshp 5-- on  Tuesday June 19 -- is across genres
The Art of Contraint
I provide this list for your information, since you will be in a different workshop for this week.
Flarf / Web-Generated Poems / Found Poems / Appropriation
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 fearture
§ Google Poem: construct a poem using Leevi Lehto's engine (use the patterns feature).
§ Try also: The Apostrophe Engine, the source for Apostrophe: The Book by Bill Kennedy and Darren Wershler-Henry.
§ 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.
§ Cento: Write a collage made up of full-lines of selected source poems.
§ "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 Karri Kokko's Shadow Finlandia: An Extract ( tr. Lehto): a collage of depressive or otherwise dark or gloomy fragments in Finnish blogs.

6. Thurs, June 21, 2-5pm
On Wednesday June 20, in the afternoon, go to the Grey Art Gallery on the NYU campus. Hours: Tuesdays/Thursdays/Fridays: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
OPEN LATE Wednesdays: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Ekphrasis (translating the verbal into visual)
NOTE: the class will walk over the gallery to present the work in situ. But we will meet in the usual semiar room at Ireland House.

Select a work in the show and write a poem about or in relation to it. You are free to approach this assignment as you like, but let me make this initial suggestion: Write down everything you see in the work, a complete description. This can be in prose.

Writing Experiments
additional experiments