Writing Exercise: Erasure, Interference, Noise, Distraction

Last exercise for my advanced creative non-fiction workshop. We’ve been reading Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantánamo Diary – riddled with redaction marks a government that couldn’t find him guilty of a damn thing, yet could not for 14 years see him to be innocent, saw fit to strike his voice through w/.

An ex on the eloquence of silence; on wrenching eloquence out of silencing.


First, to remind you of the assignment for your fourth and final essay, it’s

a text that incorporates erasure, interference, noise, or distraction. You can put a text of your own (it must be written for this course) under erasure like this or like this: ████. You can take another’s text and put it under erasure to elicit new meanings from it. You can do an audio essay and overlay a second track that makes your voice difficult or impossible to hear at key junctures. You can compose a hypertext that instead of offering a linear reading becomes a garden of forking paths. The possibilities are myriad. Crucial though is that your essay draw erasure, distortion, noise, or distraction into its formal body. In this way it becomes a study of how we make meaning at all.

For this exercise, make a first experiment towards that essay. No more than one page – if it’s on paper at all. I can’t imagine all the possibilities for you here. I can only say, I’m looking for language, written or spoken, that gets interfered with somehow, visually or aurally, in a way that sheds light on how we go about making meaning. (The redaction marks in Slahi’s book, included the way they are, do that, yes? How does Slahi insist on what he means, his humanity, when he’s shut up – imprisoned, silenced? He cracks jokes. He answers absurdity with absurdity. He writes, and gets his writing out there, replete with the redaction bars that speak his silencing.)

Learn too from examples posted – Johnson, Phillips, Bervin, Foer, Strickland, Wave Books. Ask yourself too, what’s missing from these examples that I wish were here? What could you add to this assemblage of interferences?

You could go entirely paperly, erase and/or illuminate a text, your own or another’s. If you erase someone else’s text, be sure to credit the source, and sure your work upon it’s transformative. You need not confine yourself to negation; consider illumination, á là Phillips; hands-on cutting or tearing, á là Foer; other ways of turning gap and omission into a sort of presence.

You need not pin yourself to paper either. I’m open to audio essays, hypertext essays, multimedia enterprises. Interference, noise, distraction can take the form – as we said today – of static, crowd noise, a robotic voice intoning “redacted,” many many things. (The MTA’s “mind the gap” comes to mind.) Our roundtables next week will be a chance to think through options.

I’d like to take these in Thursday, but if you are working off the page, and would like till next Tuesday to make that happen, I can give you till then.


I’m curious what they’ll come up with. It’s been a curious class, invented one week, enacted the next. Improvisatory. Creating a world one step ahead of what you see. I don’t mean I am, we are.

Envelope poems

Yeah been weeks. And nothing now much to say of my own. Goes that way. But saw this on my friend Barbara Nickel’s blog and wanted to share. She’s been perusing Bervin & Werner’s compilation of Dickinson’s envelope poems, and a lovely blog post’s the fruit borne –

The Yarrow Graces – magnolia, forsythia, peach, even the bleeding heart – have been serviced lately. Town abloom on the first day of Poetry Month; thank you Emily Dickinson for getting it right – spring always seems – at least in this part of the world, not on the prairies where I grew up – somehow too gorgeous, masking the inevitable sting; the other day a violist died.

Read the all of it here, with vis poem, rejection slip made projective,

Barb's arrow

and regrets into egress.


Not much to say, except, don’t eat foraged morels and drink wine, or not much anyway. Lost a coupla days there. Viz. Probably should have sautéed them longer, too. But hells they was tasty.

 

Death’s a dog w/ dragonbreath

Okay, still working away at erasures and illuminations of that minor poem in The Exeter Book, and I think I nailed something, check these moves out, yo.

90V SI 5
Click on me & sibs for bigs.

Source text for this one, you’ve seen before (along w/ a short account of how these images get made):

 5.

Moving among the company,
everywhere always, house throughout,
greeting her lord, she pours his cup first;
in greatness gives and keeps counsel,
they make a house, two
of one mind.

Next up (I thought for a while, these could fall in any order, but they seem to want the order of their first making):

90V SI 6

You’ve seen that one before too, as well as this one:

90V SI 7

Haven’t posted this one yet tho –

90V SI 8

– for whom the source text is:

8.

When the time’s right,

he comes home whole—unless
the wave swell bears him elsewhere;
sea has him in hand, desire’s terror’s pleasure.

(I’m sure that last line’s a mistranslation – the Old English, very obscure, the translator, me, very shaky.) And one more also new to the blog –

90V SI 9

Source text for this one is:

9.

A man his goods, king in castle,
they both sell you crap.
                                                Summer comes,
you take to the home woods and waters offer
and find food, before you’re too weak to.

You can sit in the sun and still starve to death.

To get the streakies I photocopied the drawing on the lightest setting through four layers of cellophane.

I owe the move to one Marlise, a student in my vis po course this spring, whose portfolio made me cry and the whole of which I mean to post soon.

Till then, wishing you joys in your labours.

Shadow w/o the slick

Okay, trying to get that shadow effect, without the slicky quality. Good people (or bad people, I like bad people, too) tell what you think.

SI 6 (90V)
Clicks!

The diff? Paled it with the photocopier, instead of by MSWord’s “wash out” filter. More imprecision, gets more imperfection, gets more texture. Mistah Plato, he dead.

Why the poem’s so affirming, the main face so scary, I dunno. Am not in charge of the contradictions. Source text, for those to whom such matters:

6.

Ship is nailed, shield bound
in staves of light linden wood –
her love comes to the Frisian
wife, keel draws near,
breadwinner home
                                        she cries
out to him
                       rinses the sea
from his shirt, finds him clean clothes,
offers on land what his love asks of her.

Have not, as yet, taken up Theresa’s totally solid suggestion to free the shadow man (or free the shadow, man?) and am curious as to my resistance. Am I yet beholden to M. Plateau after all?

But there’s something persistent in this project about doublings. All the characters are made, e.g., by filling in the gap between a letterform and an imperfect iteration of it. And something compels me about one of these glyphs, broadcast large and pale, being the landscape the mind that thought it gets to wander a while.

Maybe the shadow ain’t ready to be quite that free just yet. Interesting. As I believe Wile E. Coyote said to the air rushing up below him.

Here and far / off

Another made by the erasure & illumination practice I been telling you about.

Click on me, and again, for some close-up time.
Click on me, and again, for some close-up time.

The source text for this one (that same minor poem late in the Exeter Book):

              7.

She’ll stay true to him.
He’ll keep her name clean.

Many are steadfast,
                                           some curious
and one too free with a stranger.

Far off, he thinks of her, hopes
where he cannot compel.

The relation of source to the poem I get to – always mysterious to me. (Just as is, the relation of those two, to the image that arrives, just as much.) But I suppose I, or someone in here, wanted to get under the surface of the sexual jealousy story, ask, what makes this he and this she tick, as they surely do.

If I’ve a worry with this one, it’s that I’ve used a filter to wash out the image so I can post it, big, to the background. A sort of move I’ve mostly foresworn. I don’t want no clipart looks here, and no Photoshop tricksies. I try to get my pretty effects from low tech – Sharpies, tree leaves. When I use high tech for effects I go for fails and distortions – scanner noise, leaf stem blur.

But I just so love how the image, blown that large, makes a surreal hillscape, and it’s gotta be grey. Left black it’s too chunky and too foreground.

Have I sold out? Thoughts, any?


And just a note to self. If I do end up feeling okay about the enlarged and greyed out forms – they have real potential for the animations. Surreal backgrounds and vertiginous shifts of scale.

Privacy? What privacy?

Hey folks, coupla more student blog posts for ya, and here’s one. Angles on through round and under, as in cutting, patriarchy, by sound image erasure and general largeheartedness.

(The posted videos aren’t coming through, so go to the blog itself, here, do.)

The Personal is Political

Gloria- Patti Smith

We live in an age where, for women, everything is public. As a woman I live in a society where I am a subordinate class. Men hold a majority of the power, and as women we can either except that, or say: “Oh, hell no!”

Bury Our Friends- ‪Sleater-Kinney

This is an erasure pome from a history book. I feel like it goes with this idea, but I’m not entirely sure exactly how yet. What do you think?

Public

The first was statues.

________

For every piece

of public art, at one point,

has predicted a Plaza of Memories.

________

The Plaza’s final attraction

was donated by

a publishers editorial fury.

________

It was a title against

those who thwarted.

________

It was necessary

as a “real estate man.”

________

The aura of power

decides what’s best.

________

One by one, all these

breaks came though,

tottering…

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Overdraft

First of three sections of Overject, very roughed out, on my dining room table.
Overject draftFifty pages give or take. This baby’s going to be a monster. Next is to feed it some foliage. The little leaf impresses you can see there are oceanspray red osier dogwood and vine maple from my back garden. Quaking aspen to come (for some scary bits).