Charles Bernstein
Creative Reading Lab
English 1732/1733 (M.A. Program)
Spring 1998: City College of New York (CUNY)

Assigned Books
From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990, ed. Doulgas Messerli
Chain 4
Doubled Flowering by Akira Yasusada

1. Feb. 2 Introduction

2. Feb. 9 Diary/Free Writing & Extensions
See Ann Lauterbach "First Word" in X (X=Xerox handout)
See Thomas Lux exercise in X

"Walking on Colors": Walk a city block or a country mile paying attention as much as possible to one color; list allt he things found in this one color; write about it.

Reading (all page refs. to Messerli anthology):
Mayer (689), Weiner (543) , Irby (256), Guest, Schuyler, O'Hara (353-394), Berrigan (428), Eigner (197), Weiners (219), nichol (308), Ward (511), Greenwald (620), Piombino (637), Ginsberg (185)

Links: Weiner and Eigner@EPC, see also Weiner & Guest LINEbreak interview

NO CLASS Feb. 16

3. Feb. 23 Imitations
Exercise: Write several poems in the style of a selected poem or poet. Try to make some as close to the original as possible, and others in the mode of, "after". Pick a poet you like and also one you dislike. Messerli anthology recommend as source: read in, around and through. Try quick imitations of newly encountered poets or those in reading set:
Reading: Neidecker (51), Oppen (100), Olson (113), Spicer (172), Ashbery (395), Padgett (441), Thomas (472), Creeley (523), Palmer (664), Armantrout (722), Davies (803), Baraka (917)
Links: Creeley@EPC

4. March 2 Fakes
Reading: Doubled Flowering by Akira Yasusada
Writing: Create your own fake
Further Reading:
Ossian, tr. James McPhearson
The Ern Malley Affair by Michael Heyward

5. March 9 Invented structures
Exercises: see general list of experiments at end of syllabus
X: Mac Low, "Make Your Own System"
Chain 4
Cage, Mac Low (827-861), Johnson (239) Coolidge, Hejinian, Grenier (567-619), Retallack (933)
Links: Mac Low, Hejinian @ EPC (note esp. LINEbreak shows)

6. March 16 Prose
Exercise: Serial sentences: Select one sentence each from a variety of different books or other sources. Add sentences of your own composition. Combine into one paragraph, reordering to produce the most interesting results.
Antin (890), Duncan (158), Waldrop (245), Shurin (320), Dewdney (341), Sherry (704), Silliman (713), Perelman (732), Brossard (959), Child (1082), Harryman (1107)
See Prose and Its Malcontents syllabi (at EPC) for full reading list
Silliman@EPC (esp. LINEbreak show)

7. March 23 Hypertext Practice and Theory
PMC Hypertext Issue (7:3 1997): Michael Joyce (Twelve Blue), Diana Reed Slattery, John Cayley, Andrew Herman, Kirschenbaum/Drucker, Glazier
Bernstein, "An Mosaic for Convergence"
John Cayley, "Indra's Net"
"Pressing the Reveal Codes Key"
Chris Funkhouser, Poetry Webs
see also his essay at NYC96
Nancy Kaplan, "E-Literacies: Politexts, Hypertexts…"
"Weavers of Webs: A Portrait of Young Women on the Nets"
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, "Machine Visions: Towards a Poetics of Artificial Intelligence" & his home page
Jim Rosenberg's home page
EBR 6 Image+Narrative, esp. Tomasula
EBR 5 Electro(poetics) Issue
Jim Andrews VizPo site
Caroline Guyer's home page
Michael Joyce's home page
Christopher Keep, "The Electronic Labyrinth"
Komninos's cyberpoetry site
Stuart Moulthrop, "Hegiarscope"
Other Moulthrop &
"You Say You Want A Revolution: Hypertext and the Laws of Media"
Gregory Ulmer, response to Joyce's Twelve Blue

8. March 30 Close Listening / Performance
Assignment: go to 10 poetry readings over the course of the semester and write a report contrasting the readings from the point of view of the poet's performance. Keep notes on the ambiance of the readings, the styles of the people attending, and other "peripheral" factors.
Web: listen to sound resources available via the sound pages (and listed links) at EPC
For class: prepare a performance of a poem of your own in three different styles and prepare a performance of one poem of someone else. Rehearse: read out loud, use a tape recorder, listen.
Reading: Wellman (972), Benson (1071), Templeton (1107)
Recommended: Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word, ed. Bernstein, due out this May from Oxford University Press

9. April 6 Visual poems
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, etc.
Collaboration: Write poems with one or more other people, alternating lines (chaining or renga), writing simultaneously and collaging, rewriting, editing, supplementing the previous version. This can be done in person, via e­mail, or through "snail" mail.
See my syllabi Textual Conditions@EPC
Tom Phillips web site
Kenny Goldsmith Ubuweb site
Drucker interview
Grumman's Taxonomy
Further Reading:
Johanna Drucker, The Visible Word: Experimental Typography & Modern Art, 1909-1923
Willard Bohn, The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry
Henry Sayre, Robert Frank, eds. The Line in Postmodern Poetry
Gerald Janecek ¸The Look of Russian Literature
Dick Higgins, Pattern Poems
Emmet Williams, ed.. Anthology of Concrete Poetry
Milton Kolonsky, ed. Talking Pictures


10. April 20 Homophonic Translation & Beyond:
See my account of exercise in Xerox.

Backwards: Reverse or alter the line sequence of a poem of your own or someone else's. Reverse the word order. Rather than reverse, scramble.
X: Zukofsky's Catullus, description of exercise
Kelly in Chain
Further reading:
David Melnick, Men in Aida
bpNichol and Steve McCaffery, Kids of the Book Machine
For a full syllabus on this topic see Translation syllabus@EPC
Listen to McCaffery's translation of Marx, excerpted at his LINEbreak program page

11. April 27 Ideolect/Dialect & between
Compose using nonlexical units, dialect, ideolect, vernacular
Transcription: Tape a phone or live conversation between yourself and a friend. Make a poem composed entirely of transcribed parts.
Zukofsky (84), S. howe (275), Dewdney (341), Inman, McCaffery, Scalapino, Andrews (997-1071), Darragh (1088)
Bernstein, "Poetics of the Americas" via EPC
Links: McCaffery & Andrews on LINEbreak

12. May 4 Poetics
Writing: write an ars poetica or other short work of poetics
Reading: Chloroform
Blaser (163), Perelman (732)
X: Stein, Seaton, Creeley, Davies
The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, ed. Andrews/Bernstein

13. May 11 The Art of the Book and Magazine
Go to "A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing 1960-1980" at the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, 42nd Steet and Fifth Avenue.
Bring in example of a book, invent a book structure for your work.

14. May 18 Last Class

Further Experiments:
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.

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.)

Burroughss fold­in: 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.)

Write a poem and cut it somewhere in the middle, then recombine with the beginning part following the ending part.

General cut­ups: 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.

Cento: Write a collage made up of full­lines of selected source poems.

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 well­known, 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.: Clark Coolidge and Larry Fagin, On the Pumice of Morons.)

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

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 letter.

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)

Write a poem consisting entirely of things you'd like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc.

Write a poem consisting entirely of overheard conversation.

Nonliterary forms: Write a poem in the form of an index, a table of contents, a resume, an advertisement for an imaginary or real product, an instruction manual, a travel guide, a quiz or examination, etc.

Write a poem without mentioning any objects.

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.)

Write a series of ten poems going from one to ten words in each poem. Reorder.

Write a poem composed entirely of questions.

Write a poem made up entirely of directions.

Write a poem consisting only of opening lines (improvise your own lines, then use source texts).

Write a poem consisting only of prepositions, then of prepositions and one other part of speech.

Write a series of eight­word lines consisting of one each of each part of speech.

Write a poem consisting of one­word lines; write a poem consisting of two­word lines; write a poem consisting of three­word lines.

Synchronicity: 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.

Counting: Write poems that conform to various numeric patterns for number of words in a line or sentence, number of lines in a stanza or paragraph, number of stanzas or paragraphs in a work. Alternately, count letters or syllables. Use complex numeric series or simpler fixed-number patterns.

[Removed for further study]

List poem 1: Write a poem consisting of favorite words or phrases collected over a period of time; pick your favorite words from a particular book.

List poem 2: write a poem consisting entirely of a list of "things", either homogenous or heterogeneous (common lists include shopping lists, things to do, lists of flowers or rocks, lists of colors, inventory lists, lists of events, lists of names, ...).

Chronology: Make up a list of dates with associated events, real or imagined.

Canceling: Write a series of lines or rhymes such that every other one cancels the one before ("I come before you / to stand behind you").

Write a series of stanzas or poems while listening to music; change type of music for each stanza or poem.

Elimination: Cut out the second half of sentences.

Excuses list: Write a poem made up entirely of excuses.