words overheard
August 12, 2011

This poem is composed entirely of snippets of conversation I overheard while sitting in a coffee shop.  Parts of it make sense, parts of it are more like a dialogue, parts of it seem incoherent, so make of it what you will.  I’ve done a little formatting, but I haven’t changed the actual wording at all.  Interestingly, I am still listening to the conversation going on at the table behind me, and I am quickly becoming convinced that everyday conversation is the most interesting source of found poetry…

Conversational Fragments

What did it cause her?
All kinds of distress
but money to her is nothing.
She is not afraid of her shadow.
She is not afraid of other people’s shadows.
What’s real and what’s not?
Does it go into the bloodstream?
(the radioactive isotope
from a distance)
Who’s being mean to who?
You’re not at liberty to say
there is meanness going on.
We can’t put two and two together;
we can’t even get our own lives together.
Solving for x
and you have 14 variables.
I like these they come from Canada –
they’re good with vodka and grapefruit juice.
He doesn’t need to do it with his wits.
I think that’s kind of a giggle.
He’s my guru,
sometimes he thinks he’s also my economist.
He doesn’t have worldly experience.
He used to teach things.
He went to Madison, the bastard child of Rutgers.
Just go over there and hold your nose and drop some money.
Someone will hold their feet to the fire.
In the cities there is a different rust.
I get more for my money.
(You get more milk.)
I don’t care I just get more.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff,
you stopped something that was interesting.
(You didn’t have an older sister who was listening.)
My 8th grade girlfriend dumped me in the summer
for a football player.
That guy was a knob.
She was knocked up in a month.
She was like half japanese and half french.
She was very mature.
She was so far beyond me.
It was instinctual.
She was soft
and smelled good
and warm.
(She sounds like a live human being.)
I was a loser.
(Your self esteem had been clipped.)
Don’t these people know who I am?
My mom didn’t say no.
Anyway enough of that,
as a junior I was an established commodity.
(By then you were tall.)
Tall does something.
I was more visible.
(Were you smart?)
Of course!
I was off the charts.
(Did you act dumb sometimes just to get something you wanted?)
No.
You’re not 15 years old.

lost poetry
June 16, 2011

As readers of my blog might have noticed, the month of June seems for me to be about finding.  I have found two poems serendipitously placed in my path by chance (if you believe in chance or serendipity or those sorts of things that go against all conceptions of Fate and inevitability), and I have found numerous objects, those not so much by chance as by my desire to just go out and find something.  The end of the academic year at Carleton is heralded by the appearance of discarded, unwanted belongings in all the dorm lounges and recycling bins, and for the intrepid and poetic explorer, there is much finding to be done. Things I have found/taken/creatively re-appropriated include a magnifying glass on a stand, brand new articles of clothing (price tags still attached), an unopened box of pasta, a pencil case, gold wire-frame glasses without lenses (of the hipster variety), and a shocking amount of candy (which I did not creatively re-appropriate so much as simply consume).

But for all the finding and taking-up of things that I have been engaging in, I have also done my share of letting go.  I sold books that I had been holding onto with the ridiculous belief that I would revisit them in my free time; I contributed to the piles of unwanted items in the first floor lounge of my building, getting rid of – among other things – a bath robe I had never used during my entire three years at Carleton; I left a large tin of anchovies on the table of my floor’s lounge, something that I had originally purloined from a dining hall display table but never opened.

And finally (I assure you that this post is indeed primarily about poetry), I left a poem.  I am not sure if there is already a widely-used term to describe a poem that is the opposite of a found poem, but for now, I’ll call it “lost.”  The idea behind this, for me, is that while with found poetry, the poet is seeking out the poem, with lost poetry, the poet lets the work go.  In a way, all poetry is lost.  The poet, having written a piece, desires to share it and in doing so, gives the poem up to the reader.  Once the poem is released, it cannot be taken back; it is lost to the world and to the reader’s interpretation.  But the poetry that I have in mind when I use the term “lost poetry” refers to those poems that are let go that will perhaps never be found.  The poem that I found scribbled on a slip of paper and dropped in a stairwell was truly lost, in that if I had never picked it up, it could have gone unread forever and eventually been crumpled in the corner to become a victim of a custodian’s dustpan.  Lost poetry is not presented to the reader in the same way that a poem on a blog or in a journal is because it is never known if the reader is there and it is equally unknown if the reader will understand the poem as poetry.  Lost poetry is written, but its publication is more of a giving up or a letting go – a release of poetry into the world in which the poet knowingly leaves much to chance.

You are perhaps wondering about the poem I lost, and unless you were wandering around downtown Northfield, MN on June 4th around dinnertime, it is unlikely that you could have found it.  Anna (whose blog you should read and whose interest in psychogeography initiated and influenced this poem) and I found two pieces of sidewalk chalk, and what ensued could be called, “If you give two twenty-year-old intellectuals a blank page,” or in this case, chalk and sidewalks on a sunny day.

We purposefully wandered (is that a contradiction in terms? I don’t think so), starting our wandering by writing a word on the sidewalk accompanied by an arrow pointing in the direction of the next word.  We took turns writing words, and eventually, after many more words and arrows, we made it back to our starting point.  The poem that we ended up with was this:

rare
beginnings
here and now
ought
it?
hold
without
making
belief
a means of
continuance
now
think of this:
punctuated equilibrium
fails, but
try
wait
exhale
float
points
encountering
all sorts of bubbles
(uh oh! don’t be misled! or do…)
burst
reversals
lead you back
and bind nutshells with
with borderlines
which
ends
too

By now, all these words have disappeared from the sidewalk, and I have no idea if anyone stopped and decided to follow an arrow in the short time the poem lasted.  I suppose for this poem to remain truly lost, I would have refrained from posting it here and from taking photos of each word to document the poem’s existence on the sidewalk.  If I had just let it go, it is likely that Anna and I would have been the only ones to read it, and maybe as its authors, it would have had meaning only for us.  I guess what I can conclude is that I’m much better at finding things than I am at letting myself lose them.

found objects
June 14, 2011

I found this magnifying glass stand in a cardboard box full of someone’s discarded drawings, and I will be sure to make this finding into a poem at some point.  For now, though, it is just potential poetry in the window of my kitchen.

found poem
June 4, 2011

While walking up the main stairwell of my dorm, I found a slip of lined paper on the floor.  The poem below was what was written on it.  Normally, found poetry consists of lines lifted from another piece of writing, be it a news article or a novel.  This particular piece of found poetry, though, is somewhat unique in that I quite literally found it, fully formed, lying in my path.  I’m sharing it exactly as it was written on the slip of paper (except for the title, which I felt was appropriate, given the circumstances).  Eventually, I hope to take these few lines and make my own poem out of them.  Pairing the original found poem with my response to and expansion of it could be an interesting way of illustrating the dialogical nature of my poetry.  Often, the work that I’m drawing on to influence my writing is too expansive to post here (The Brothers Karamazov, for example), but I always try to acknowledge, at least in each post’s tags, the thinkers and works in which I’m poetically, philosophically, and existentially rooting myself.  That being said, enjoy this little snippet of someone else’s poetry.

found

barefoot bluegrass tumbleweed
smokeswirl hurl curl wrap rub
grass poking peeking through my shirt
tickling toes woes hoes sat at moes
echoed drum beats whispering from the past
wind that sounds like waterfalls
Playing like fiddles Pelvis against ground