Erasing Infinite (October 2013 – present)
“Our attachments are our temple, what we worship, no? What we give ourselves to, what we invest with faith.’ Are we not all of us fanatics? I say only what you of the U.S.A. only pretend you do not know. Attachments are of great seriousness. Choose your attachments carefully. Choose your temple of fanaticism with great care.” — David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
Erasure poetry is at once a metaphor for death and a mechanism for dealing with it. We are all eventually erased, whether at the hands of time, illness or accident — opportunities for addition and revision over. What we leave in our stead, however, is never a complete absence. To cope with the loss, friends, family and colleagues each weave new stories from memories and mementos – stories that say not who we were, but who we were to them, stories that hold in spite of the gaps.
This appropriation plays out literally in the act of erasing a text. We start with what another has left behind, poring over their turns of phrase, character structure and plots, excising pieces we remember and respond to. In crafting our own stories from these remnants, we simultaneously revel in abundance and find ourselves wanting more.
I first tackled David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in summer 2009, almost a year following his death. It’s strange experience, realizing you’ve finally discovered an author who can accurately translate into fiction (in Wallace’s words) “what it is to be a fucking human being” and knowing that he’ll never write again. I can only describe it as slow onset mourning – an absence I’d struggle to respond to for four years.
Erasing Infinite — a project in which I create erasure poetry from each page of Wallace’s 1079-page work — is my effort to make something out of this absence.
Follow my progress at http://www.erasinginfinite.com/.
On the Subject of the Migration of Seeds (July 2014 – present)
On the Subject of the Migration of Seeds is a collaborative project with Found Poetry Review Book Reviews Editor Douglas Luman in which we find poetry in the extensive letter exchanges of Charles Darwin and Joseph Dalton Hooker, working year by year through the collection. Iterations of the project’s outcomes may be released publicly in future years.
Oulipost (April 2014)
“What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we go downstairs, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed on order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why? Describe your street. Describe another. Compare.” — Georges Perec
Members of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle — or “workshop of potential literature”) have been famously described by one of their core members as,“Rats who build the labyrinth from which they will try to escape.”
Oulipo writing exercises involve writing one’s way through constraints of varying complexity, while simultaneously providing a path to freedom from the restrictions and challenges one faces in everyday writing practices. Oulipo exercises force one to get outside of one’s comfort zone, encourage one to embrace experimentation, and require one to delight in wordplay (and, at times, nonsense).
In April 2014, I joined nearly 80 poets for Oulipost, a Found Poetry Review National Poetry Month initiative that tasked participants with creating Oulipo-inspired work sourced from local newspapers (in my case, The Washington Post). Each day brought a different prompt, with the project resulting in the creation of 30 poems by month’s end.
The Found Poetry Review (2011 – present)
The Found Poetry Review is a biannual print journal celebrating the poetry in the existing and the everyday. Since 2011, FPR editors have collaborated to publish six issues and more than 125 poets. Each issue contains poem sourced from a motley assemblage of materials, including newspaper articles, instruction booklets, dictionaries, product packaging, biographies, Craigslist posts, speeches, other poems and many other text-based sources. We conduct a National Poetry Month project each year, as well as publish 1-2 special online issues. Our latest projects are detailed below:
- June 2014 – LÁ BLOOM: In recognition of Bloomsday 2014, The Found Poetry Review will publish a special edition of erasure, cut-up and other found poetry sourced from James Joyce’s Ulysses. The edition will be published online on Bloomsday (Lá Bloom) — June 16, 2014 — the 110th anniversary of Leopold Bloom’s walk through Dublin. More at http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/call-for-submissions-found-poetry-from-ulysses/.
- April 2014 – OULIPOST: Oulipost was the Found Poetry Review’s 2014 National Poetry Month project. Over the course of April, approximately 80 poets applied constrained writing techniques sourced from the Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle — or “workshop of potential literature”) group to text sourced from their daily local newspaper, posting the results on their own website or blog. More at http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/oulipost/.
- September 2013 – W/ R/ T DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: September 12, 2013, marked the fifth anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s passing. The Found Poetry Review remembered his life and contributions with a special online edition of our journal. More at http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/wrt-david-foster-wallace/.
- April 2013 – PULITZER REMIX: For National Poetry Month 2013, 85 poets from seven countries joined together to create found poetry from the 85 (now 86) Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction. They posted one poem per day on this site, creating more than 2,500 poems during the month of April. The resulting poems garnered more than 12,200 comments and nearly 180,000 page views. More at http://www.pulitzerremix.com/.
- April 2012 – THE FOUND POETRY PROJECT: For National Poetry Month 2012, the Found Poetry Review launched a successful Kickstarter project to fund the Found Poetry Project. The initiative created and distributed 250 found poetry kits in communities across the United States during April, prompting kit finders to create a poem and upload their results on the project website. More at http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/the-found-poetry-project/.