Wednesday, April 25, 2012

chance operations

 almost swerved into mcdonald's for a double cheeseburger, but resisted, came home, and made this instead

today i had lunch with a wonderful composer.   we talked about chance, randomization, happenstance, choice, improvisation and all that.

you know.

the stuff composers think about all the time.

my composer said:

the mind craves

both order & chaos

& i think he's right.  we're only comfortable with chaos for so long.

we're only comfortable with order for so long.

we need both.

here's my book balloon poetry prompt for today, inspired by the composer.  in the spirit of loving the order and the chaos equally well:

Poetry Prompt #4—Aleatory
A theme has seemed to emerge this month (thank you so much, Janet, and Book Balloon, for having me!) as I thought about practices that encourage innovation and progress in poetics:  that of lessening the over-determination of the poet.  It seems, at least in my own practice, that the more I focus on a specific outcome, the less successful my work, my life, and even my own heart feels.

This is not to say that there are not good times, places, and reasons to learn technique, to study hard, and to put your self through some rigorous training.  But there’s also a time and place to admit that words are much more powerful than the poets who use them, and we’d best step aside and let them do their work in the world.

With this in mind, I turned to composer John Cage & his practice of using the I Ching and chance operations to create new compositions.  Although Cage’s method of randomization was complex and ever-changing, we can simplify it and use chance to tap into the power of association, random happenings, and the smells, sounds, and smoke rings that emerge when words stand next to each other, no matter what the author’s intent.

This prompt has two phases:

Phase 1:

Roll a pair of dice.  Write down the number you roll and then compose a line inspired by that number. 

Your line must start with that number. 

If so inspired, you may continue and create a couplet, tercet, or a quartet.  (You may decide to continue working in couplets, tercets, etc., or you may decide to change the number of lines with each roll of the dice.)

Repeat for a total of ten rolls.

Phase 2:
Despite your intention to not have intention, themes may have begun to emerge,  and you may have begun controlling your text in all the devious ways we’ve been trained in, so phase two will help you to loosen your grip on the need to control again:

Roll the dice.  When you roll a number corresponding with a number that begins one of your lines, that line or group of lines becomes the beginning of your poem.

If you have more than one line beginning with that number, choose the group least likely to make a “good” beginning to a poem.

Your subsequent rolls will determine the order of the subsequent lines.  Each time a number corresponding with a group of lines comes up, that group will be next in the order of the poem.

Again, if you have more than one line beginning with the same number, choose the lines that seem the most out of order to go next.

Repeat until your poem has found its own order.

legwear: my favorite olio yoga pants

inspiration: randomness & vegetables

looking forward: to the tasty dishes my girls always bring to bookclub

1 comment:

  1. You are going out for a book club?? Take me! That said, I love random ways of generating text. And my writing is always best when I step aside for the language. I like Gass's words which are somewhat related: look to the words you have for the words to come.