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Turning Andy Warhol’s a: A Novel Into Poems

By Harriet Staff

Warhol, A

Looks like someone’s making poetry out of Andy Warhol’s a: A Novel, which is not so much a novel in the first place as it is a “nearly word-for-word transcription of tapes recorded by Warhol and Ondine over a two-year period in 1965-1967.” Novelist Liz Worth of Toronto is rewriting the book:

For anyone unfamiliar with Warhol’s “novel,” the book is over 450 pages of transcribed conversations taped in and around Warhol’s Factory in 1960s Manhattan.

When it was published, the book was called “pornography” by the New York Times Book Review. I trooped through it when I was going through a major Warhol phase but found it jagged, as transcriptions tend to be. But between all the amphetamine-fuelled conversation and incoherent, disrupted dialogue, there are some strikingly beautiful lines and haunting statements.

When I first read it, I found myself picking some of them of them out and turning them into poems, using only lines taken from a specific page.

Because the phrasing tends to be stilted, the lines I was working with took on unexpected rhythms, and the dark, seedy aspects of Warhol’s Factory scene tended to come the surface more than anything.

Worth is doing this one page at a time. You can find Worth’s first rescribe here, with pages 2 and 3 at the new blog Rewriting Warhol. Heck, here’s the newest:

From the outside
there’s always trouble
so precious like
living higher than
every other day.

Amuse me up here,
in background
seventy-seventh cut especially weird,
like living a riot.

I lose lots of friends and
been robbed twice,
all of my amphetamine, time.
People aren’t equipped for my filth and
I can’t be deceptive.
I don’t know why.

Hey listen
I think we better go through everything amazing.
Why don’t we take a hit,
sweet subterfuge
walk way down there.
Upset doesn’t matter. Someone always loses something.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, July 19th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.