Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mary Remix

Painting "Lake Rosa" and erasure
poem from page 152 of The Hours
During April 2013, I was one of 85 poets writing a found poem a day, each from one the 85 Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction for Pulitzer Remix, a National Poetry Month initiative sponsored by the Found Poetry Review. To order the book of my thirty poems, click here.  

One of my fellow poets, Vicki Hudson, asked us to write about our experience:

Why did you decide to take part in Pulitzer Remix? When Jenni Baker invited me, I couldn't imagine saying no; it was such a fantastic idea.

What surprised you about the experience? The Facebook conversations and support, the building on each others' ideas, comments about my postings. I relate to a character in a book whose name escapes me: "I guess I'm a loner who doesn't like to be alone." I'd envisioned a solitary effort, so the group experience was glorious.

How did this experience impact your writing? I see things differently. This is in part from reading all the poems each day, many different styles of writing and references to all the Pulitzer Prize-winning books affected me at a subliminal level... I feel broken open.

What part did form play in your creative approach, if any? Because my source book, The Hours, weaves in and out of four key characters' lives, I thought I would start with pantoums, even though I'd only written two pantoums in my life. Then I started reading about found poetry, saw various efforts, and came up with the idea of superimposing erasure poems  over a work of art.

What was your process for selecting text? For the pantoums (15 of the 30), I'd choose roughly 8 pages (1/30th of the book), glance through with "soft" eyes, looking for potent phrases and writing them in my notebook, then rearranging them until the phrases worked all the way through the pantoum. I wanted to convey the drama of a character -- three pantoums for each of the four main characters and three that include lines from the others as well as conveying a sense of the book as a whole ("art, dark glitter of madness"). For example, the April 2 pantoum, "toward the river," was drawn from the prologue, which is a fictional depiction of Virginia Woolf's suicide. 

For the erasure poems superimposed over art, I wanted something different from the novel and flipped through pages, relying mostly on intuition, glancing at a page and, if something unusual caught my eye, I'd scan the page for other words to support that idea. Early morning or late at night were best for these. If I laughed out loud, I knew I was on to something. For example, with the April 21 poem "shudder" I first saw words on several lines that became "out of the part still fur" and then saw "shudder at the awful taste of water." I couldn't find enough to carry the "fur" phrase so eventually dropped it and began the poem with "shudder..." 

What was the experience like, being part of a greater project with 84 other poets? I've covered this mostly in #2 above. I will add, however, that the first week my feet started swelling -- the only other time that's ever happened to me was on a long flight, so you can picture me crouched over my computer reading everyone's poems for hours without moving. I gradually developed a routine of taking breaks to walk on the treadmill, do some yoga, or cuddle with my cat. Because I work by phone, at my desk and computer, it became doubly necessary to move periodically. There was every danger of finding me frozen in place at the end of 30 days, a dessicated relic of a woman.

How will, if at all, this experience impact your continued work as a Poet? This has heightened my respect for found poetry in its many guises, so I know I'll write more found poems; I'm also planning an art exhibit that includes the poems I've superimposed over my own art and I'm talking to other artists about combining painting and poetry.

Anything you want to add? I'm also intrigued with ekphrasia, and have a shared project with photojournalist Joel Preston Smith, inviting poems in response to his 2003 Iraq photos.

No comments: