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manifest press

My writerly friends and I have gotten into the habit of doing exquisite corpses whenever we’re hanging out. for those unfamiliar, an “exquisite corpse” is a Dada group exercise that involves passing a piece of paper around a circle and having each person add to it having only seen a small portion of what the previous person contributed. I have done this with drawing, writing, and some combination therein, but the ones that we have been doing, obviously, have been written. I’ve posted a few of them on my tumblr, but the one we wrote yesterday made me feel like it warranted some more thoughts about the process of it and what’s emerged in our shared language/aesthetic.

The people that I’ve been writing these with have all spent a lot of time together, both socially and in a writerly context. In particular, the three of us that wrote the piece I’m posting here spent practically every single day last school year hanging out in the English graduate lounge/on the lawn outside Mills hall talking shit/shop and reading each others’/our favorite work aloud. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the benefits and limitations of a shared language. How rich communication can be if a group could create a collective way of thinking/expressing! By the same token, how might an insular community create an insular language that communicates outside of itself?

POSSIBLE ATTEMPTS:
*write using only readily available printed matter (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
*”translate” popular media
*”automatic writing”
*erasure/appropriation of existing books
*NOT THINKING OF YOURSELF AS SOMEHOW ABOVE CERTAIN KINDS OF LANGUAGE

An acquaintance of mine criticized my use of the word “buddy” today. In my last class at Evergreen a classmate of mine proposed that we create a standard English dictionary (the French have this) that dictates an “official” language usage for the entire country. I don’t understand the idea that some words are not suitable for my use, or that certain dialects are somehow better than others, of course there are exceptions, ie. racial/social slurs, but language for me is compelled by its color, its variance and its ever eluding nuance.

Why would I want to know what every possible shift in language meant without working at it?

At that moment language would lose its wonder.

Anyway, I think that it’s been a really great exercise for us all to do this together, it’s allowing us to listen to each others’ poetry in a way that crawls inside its bends and rhythms. The line/stanza breaks and title are mine, in the original piece the lines went all the way to the margins; I just transcribed it in a large block then imposed my own rhythm upon it. I would like to get my two friends to make their own versions of this, see how they intersect…

 

TO MAKE THIS MORE

When the lamp is on behind your head you look different,
green and bundled, and then one wonders:
where does the word “Caucasian” come from
she said with a cock of her head.
I like that shirt you are wearing – you
must have a thing for paisley.

Is it street charm, or something else
I cannot decipher, obscured by a bright light
bathed in impossible sentences.
This is when you wrap yourself around something that
cannot interlock, but then are locked
inwards toward. And the key?

Open your mouth
and let the grass grow out of it,
let the dirt fall a naked crawl
and of course impending doom in the greenery
of your hesitant smile, your hesitant
smell, your hesitant eyes
every spell.

And you wait patiently, although filled
with anxiety, like a miniature object
on a miniature shelf, and here we are
dispersed like objects in a simple choreographed room.

What happened to me is that I was chilled.
Then out of the barn door into
the misty afternoon and something
has dried up or become euphoric
or still in this after the blast,
a knife of water besieging me,
punished like a rioter,
throwing caution to the wind,
throwing yourself on the pyre.

Is there a precipice somewhere
to make this more abstract?
Though of course everything is an abstraction,
and we can’t change that.

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