April 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

i am going to try this technique this month for april poetry month…anyone with me?

Try the “Cut Up” Technique to Free Your Writing

The following advice was shared by Thomas E. Kennedy as part of Glimmer Train’s recent bulletin (click here for full bulletin).

Working in Paris in the late 1950s, Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs developed the so-called “cut-up” technique to try to get deeper into the unreasonable heart of a material and to free themselves of the authoritarian demand of making sense.

For those who may not be familiar with this technique, here’s how it works: You take one or more texts—either of your own or someone else’s or both, even documents can be used, ad copy, newspapers, anything; you take a pair of scissors and cut the page or pages once vertically and once horizontally so you have four rectangles of paper — or 8 or 12 or 16 or according to how many pages you’ve stacked together and cut. Now shuffle the rectangles so that scraps of different sentences come together. Don’t feel compelled to be slavish about fitting the physical pieces of paper evenly together, but move them, up and down until pleasingly mad patterns of words begin to appear—or perhaps even not so mad, perhaps making some unorthodox sense, achieving the logic of illogic, the sense of nonsense. Work quickly, don’t think but use your intuition to choose the combinations, follow your gut feeling, and feel free to select the best of the sentences and draw them together from here and there as you please, as you might collect shells on the beach, guided by your eye rather than your mind, guided by the irrational beauty or striking shape or glitter or whatever, by a logic other than the linear.

Out of all this select enough material to fill a half to a full page, not more (for the purposes of this exercise)—tweak and sculpt it a bit if you like, introduce other elements if you like, a word or a phrase that has been jangling around in your head all day, or a couple of words that randomly catch your eye from a newspaper headline, from an ad on back of The New Yorker, a phrase from a song that happens to be playing on the radio (random selection—or at least seemingly random selection—is important to this process), whatever, squeeze them in, cut, reshape, dropping words, co-opting others, but always working with intuition, never with the conscious controlling manipulating part of your mind. The objective is liberation from the flat pseudo-sense of surface to a deeper sensibility, forged of its own ruleless insistence.


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