Thursday, 28 March 2013


I plan to ask my students to find poems, as in found poem, as in look through these books I picked from a scrap heap to find language that might work in a new context--on your page, say, made into lines, retitled. (Mine's called "Floor Care", from a janitorial services company adspam that sneaks through the fax machine at Luther.)
When I'd sorted sorting through the books, someone asked me what I was looking for. I wasn't sure how to answer. But as I flipped the books, lifting piles in boxes, I began to see that any sort of classifying--of aircraft, mangement technique, biology, human behaviour, anything else--begged to be lifted and set down as new language. Captions for charts, reference systems, ordering--same thing. Lutheran ministerial manuals, I noticed, didn't work. Or science fiction novels.
John Geiger's account of uncovering the freeze-dried body of John Torrington, circa 1837 (the body, not the account), will prove fruitful for whoever slits through it this afternoon, I hope.
I may tell my students the story of finding a poem in an issue of Propellor Maintenance. I can't remember where or why I'd be reading that magazine, but the poem was called "Maintenance"--I don't have a copy on me at the moment. (Readers interested--good morning to you, Aunt Murphy and Uncle Jean--may consult the thin Gerald Hill segment (which I prefer to the fat Gerald Hill segment), in the U of R Archives.) Sub-headings included "Waxing the Tips" and "Leading Edge". The poem ended with a hearty "good luck!", which all propellor maintainers seem to need. I loved that poem because my poetic was built-in.
I did attempt to re-capture the machine moment when, over a succression of cold mornings at St. Peter's Abbey, I sat in the front seat of my Olds, a '89 Delta 88, I'd owned for a week. It was field work--sitting in the Olds, looking around--but the immediate task was to thumb through the Manual to read about some system or other on this Olds, which in '89 would have been best in its class by far, its innovations unimagined by my former wheels, a rusted-out Datsun pick-up. To make more of this story I'd claim that my poetic showed up here too, in the manual, for me to write down. "Getting to Know Your Oldsmobile" said the manual. That's all I needed.
While I'm at it with these books, this afternoon: cut-ups.

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