This is a 2-part (or multi-part, considering the amount of territory to cover) discussion about interior monologues and found-text as resource. Posed as a series of questions to writers whose work is rooted in the rearranging of found (web-specific) content. I'm interested in the value of ownership, where does the world you're in settle into your various receptors?What happens to the writing that gets translated through the body's metaphysical acceptance of the external? How much do you get in the way of what you find? As identity, life-magnifier or word-alchemist. And is that a springboard for something that might be called "inspiration" or "thievery?"

The writers quoted (thank you all): Stagger Leeds, Nada Gordon, Chris Funkhouser, Maria Damon, Brandon Brown, Drew Gardner, Gary Sullivan, Jordan Davis, Rodney Koeneke, Rod Smith, Katy Degentish, Stan Apps, Michael Magee, Sharon Mesmer.

I know it is probably totally cliche by now, but can't also help remembering Brion Gysin in this regard, "no poets
               don't own words...poets own words,
                                                    don't words own,
                                      poets don't." The poets are supposed to liberate the words - not to chain them in phrases. Who told poets they were supposed to think? Poets are meant to sing and to make words sing. Poets have no words "of their very own." Writers don't own their words. Since when do words belong to anybody...etc.

So by now "owning" is kind of a goofy concept, yet people still try (thinking of recent Zukofsky silly bizness). While in the end what's important is what we do with all those words we don't own...

What I think is often really fun about using source texts to create something else is the teasing out of a more "telling" representation of what the voice "thinks" it's saying. Or watching voices argue against each other from within the same "interior" space. There is an analogy with schizophrenia here in some cases.

When deployed effectively, I think this process can bring out an interesting dissonance between the syntactical "structure" and the humanized "content" of the texts.

I didn't even think about voices talking to each other, the schizophrenic intermingling of texts as an interior space reformed as a collage of the many spaces. The psychological release of self that happens when surrendering the author's voice to the world's voice, to what's found. I can see how that would piss off traditional poetry folk.

I addressed this a little in my conceptual panel presentation.

The most recent cannibalism lecture addresses this.

I think people assume wrongly that the act of appropriation is making fun of what it appropriates, rather than surrendering to it, in a way.

And I guess I'm wondering if a facility with appropriation is what opens the mind? So that the act of writing becomes a fluid process of uncovering detritus from the loads of ridiculous content available in the cyber world. Compared to the content available looking out the window. Which kind of ridiculous speaks to you?

And then using that borrowed observation to turn its own table by revealing life's profundity...within say...a website about baseball yogurt, which I never would have found by looking out the window—perception being an engine for all things fluid. My window is my screen, my screen is my window...i.e. taking the thing itself and making it the thing it was before it ever became the thing it is. Would that sort of involution make the alchemical-real the surface-real?

Really great questions and interesting thread already (for the record, I heart the worm-eaten intestines of Hustler’s advertisers, am currently in media coitus with a pack of rabid otters, and smoking aluminum.) Just as a little chime, the universe of the question feels a little different to me if we’re talking about the specific kind of appropriation that is translation.

What I’ve been proposing is an understanding of translation in which the translator’s body is recovered from the condition of “invisibility” that marks the practice since at least Cicero. So there’s something always anyway about “putting oneself in it” and trying to “find out what hides underneath”—I’m just especially interested in translation practices that foreground both of those activities.  

So for my translations of Catullus 99, there really was in each case an act of reading that was turned into an act of writing. Since the categories of fidelity and treason are, to my thinking, overdetermined and actually constitute a whole other point, the concern instead was to have an experience in which I was to varying degrees reading the Latin text of Catullus and trying to write according to the understanding I had of what that meant on that given day and in that given situation (I was at work).

Not to dwell on my own text—I think the question about how translation specifically coincides with the larger tendencies of appropriative writing, is not resolved at all.

I always think of the George Steiner idea, "understanding as translation," or as I think of it: understanding is translation. Working with found materials is a kind of translation project, especially if understanding is translation.

I don't take others' language to make it my own, nor usually to mock the original speaker/author or otherwise comment on them so much as to understand them, what is said, or attempted to be said, by translating it into my own writing (or drawing, in the case of comics).

The visual translation supercedes the spoken...or rather, sound taking root before word. Where brain's capacity for ease of information, for immediate entry, doesn't get tripped by cortex, by neuron, by inherent meaning. Like the feral response to the sensorial has to occupy a deeper catacomb in the brain, back from infancy.

also thought the exchange between kenny g & al filreis on
al's blog is directly relevant to et's inquiry.

here's a section from my panel presentation:

It’s like learning other languages. Vocabularies expand infinitely, tourmaline glitters in a damp cave. Rob Fitterman writes, “I am interested in the inclusion of subjectivity and personal experience; I just prefer if it isn’t my own.”Own?" Expression irrigates expression.

Me and the multitudes form a lacy network: no containment, just connections: me and the multitudes weave into each other. Drew Gardner: “Your own handwriting is collective.” Who’s containable? I’m all apertures. Dana Ward: “Correlated ooh la las between us.”

No one’s not a sieve: desire leaks: we drool when screen lovers kiss. It’s all language, antic and lascivious. Susana Gardner posts an update quoting Mina Loy: “LOVE of others is the appreciation of one’s self. MAY your egotism be so gigantic that you comprise mankind in your self-sympathy.” I steal with love and out of sympathy.

Both love and poetry are alien visitations here in the breathable room of lazy heresies, and I am writing this for you (the primordial you) (the resonating body) with my weeping heart and ornamental personality. Aesthetic intimacy, not distance, but not for “authenticity.”

> me and the multitudes weave into each other <
Lovely nada...your striving for intimacy while keeping authenticity at arm's length is the definition of a weeping I'm gonna condense all these thots, who knows...but keep'em coming...

When I use sought text I am often fusing modes. I start with multiple sources. I break them up, recombine them and use them as a kind of environment for the writing of the poems. It's not exactly collage-- I think of it as improvising on harmonies (themes, vocabularies, perspectives) that emanate from the sources. There are lots of different dynamics possible -- dialogue, dialectic, contradiction, pile up, etc., with this way of going about writing.

It's a kind of cybernetic steering through a sea of information and communication and subjectivities, and a way of reaching and stretching the range of themes and materials I'm dealing with. That steering creates flow in the poem, the flow of rhythm but also the flow of information. It allows me to expand my range and to fuse modes -- satiric, lyrical and meditative, for instance. Using materials from the web also keeps me connected to the poetic values of the vernacular, and helps me to discover poetry in places where poets might not always look.

And that would be an ultimate goal, to discover where poetry may lurk within your life where you didn't expect it to be. Or within the cyber id of the webbed world we're currently alive in. But also, to discover it by letting it alone, by letting life discover be jingoistic—if you're tuned into the thing that shushes you. I've given these process-oriented workshops (as opposed to critique-oriented) which are about practice as meaning...and one of the major tenets is to expand your sensory perception of the world, the better to absorb information, to make anything your world.

And I wish we would all talk more about cybernetics, do y'all know the cybernetic psychotherapist Gregory Bateson?  His treatment of subjectivity as a kind of gear-and-pulley mechanism seems relevant to this.  Bateson basically thinks individual people's switches get flipped based on their understanding of the larger social context, and the wrong understanding of the context makes people mad.  It's somewhat reductive and controlling, but it's a way of thinking about using inputs to build understanding of larger groups. 

i love bateson. he was margaret mead's husband. and smart.

oh yea-- Bateson- I love
Steps to an Ecology of Mind -   / systems
theory mashed up with psychiatry & genetics -- fascinating

like to imagine a world in which Derrida was left at the margins (as Bateson is/was, pretty much) & Bateson's ideas got the clout Derrida's did... this could have happened, as they emerge more or less at the same time but alas twas not to be... too bad!

Lenny Bruce when asked about his influences, said that he had never had an original thought in his life, after all, he spoke the english language. Meaning, I take it, that to speak a language is to be socially embedded, so already interpellated into a web of influences. i.e. it's impossible to write an "original," single-authored poem, because every word is the property of all speakers and has been used. every text is an intertext, every word a hypertext.

"Every word is hyper-text" loses a certain ownability for that word but gives it a larger opening. Like, we ARE the "original" single-authored poem everyday. It's an implosion of translation into its molten translation using word as beget the next — that first word beginning, millions of words before us. That first grunt...influential or just reactive. And if we are speaking the speak that gets us heard, reflecting a socially embedded web would be the original thought. That is—throwing back the meaning we understand, in order to connect to everyone's meaning. Us meaning a connective species, no? What animal needs no animal?

I believe both things. Yes, there is no such thing as an idiolect. Yes, everything I do is influenced.

At the same time, everything I write is mine simply by virtue of the fact that it is my edited selection of words. What is writing besides picking out words and putting them together in a frame? If I'm picking the frame and the words and putting them together, it's my writing. If I put the urinal in the museum, it's my art; it's not the art of the person who designed the urinal or cast the ceramic, because they did not intend to make art when they did those things. Just as the racist blog commenter or five-year-old writing a book report did not intend to make art when they wrote the things that I made into art by putting them together and changing their associations or in some cases their content.

We all have poetics that existed before we were a group that started sharing our writing this way. And our voices were set before we started writing this way - "this way", collaboratively, or "this way" using Google - take that whichever way you want to take it, both are true. And for the most part, our individual voices haven't changed very much and are still totally identifiable within our poetry - even as we have developed cadences and phrasing and techniques that do sound alike.

Being aware of the lunacy-slash-creativity hidden within and letting it go, for the world to bring it back to ownership. And to the words that own you. And like the dog owner who begins to look like the dog...the similar cadences among the scatter will attract like-minded scats.

Here's this snippet from an interview I did with Gary last year that might be relevant to this thread, the whole she-bang is here:

RK: How is collaboration important to your work, and how do you see the value of other voices—invited, sampled, or stolen — in your poetry?
GS: Language itself is collaborative! Period. And beyond that, our understanding of ourselves as “poets”, the whole culture of poetry — that’s a collaboration, too. The idea some people have and perpetuate of the solitary poet coming up with his or her work alone is, as far as I’m concerned, a complete misrepresentation of reality.

Part 2 in a few days.

Originally Published: December 9th, 2009

A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...

  1. December 10, 2009

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  2. December 15, 2009
     Josh Ingram

    Originality is simple. Just create something completely devoid of humanity and human characeristics.\r

    Of course, if such a feat were achieved, what would be the point to reading it?

  3. December 15, 2009
     John Oliver Simon

    "I addressed this a little in my conceptual panel presentation"\r


  4. December 15, 2009
     Edwin Torres

    Would that be a 'found' humanity then?\r

    What is 'original' in a poem, that is, what makes the voice of the poem count as something original...when my mind is as unoriginal as humanity?\r

    That is, who am I to say what is and isn't original?