Monday, July 13, 2009

Prose Poem: Going viral on FB

Yesterday, some of my literary friends on Facebook started doing an exercise that went viral. It seemed to appeal to everyone. All that was needed was a handy book. Having just returned from a poetry reading, I was in a mood for creative ideas. I did mine and watched in fascination as the accumulated entries started to take shape as a whole. Below is the prose poem I saw forming.

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A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done. boiter: limp; fig: de raisonnement, be shaky, not stand up very well; boiteux, -euse (chaise, table, etc.), wobbly; fig: raisonnement, shaky; ĂȘtre boiter d'une personne, to have a limp. That's so funny, something missing from paradise. So many lovely pigmentations!

Pasternak experienced this sense of the objectivity of a work of art -- the feeling that the force that produced the work is above and beyond the artist who is responsible for the work - when he wrote MY SISTER. Prepared by such a life and following so safe a course, he was not disturbed at the approach of death. But if there is some crisis at hand, shouldn't your divine counselor be with you? Baba took him on his lap, loved and kissed him for a few minutes.

Designed as an arrow in the heart of forever.

~ Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharoah, saying, "I would make mention today of my own offenses."

Ranajit Guha has written insightfully about the manner in which "the Muslim" has becomes the preferred villain in early-nationalist writing, an intellectual device for focussing proto-nationalist resentment with the present condition while simultaneously not transgressing the ground rules of colonial discourse.

~ They thought they would find the "goodness of Jah" in one so deceptively named, the copycat of the true substance. ~ He had chosen to reject and not draw near what might have been his true base of authority, the Living Word, the Word which Samuel represented.

But it isn't always possible to start from the small and work into the bigger picture. I need you to help me remember. I have seen the general dare the combers come closer. Designed as an arrow in the heart forever.

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This is the exercise:
Grab the book nearest you. Right now. * Turn to page 56. * Find the fifth sentence. * Post that sentence AS YOUR STATUS. AND POST these instructions in a comment to this status. * Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST book.

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Thanks to Deborah Joy Shore, Michael Creighton, Bryan Roth, Marjorie Altman Tesser, Max Reif, Melanie Huber, K.R. Copeland, Patricia Wallace Jones, Carig Bryars, Cati Porter, David Dacus, and Tony Paterniti, for allowing me to take your sentences and play around with them. Not everyone gave attributions, but some of the sentences were from: a short story collection by Steven Saylor; Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God; the Langenscheidt Pocket French Dictionary; Letters: 1926 by Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva and Rainer Maria Rilke; Growing Up With God by Sheila Kalchuri; the Bible.

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Here's the next exercise, for those who want to play some more. Take this prose poem and rearrange the sentences. Let's see what the alternatives might be!

5 comments:

  1. Rachel! This is *so* cool. What a way to make use of all those random lines which feel more like serendipity than randomness. I never would have known, they seem to flow so well together.

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  2. It's amazing that they did, isn't it? I sometimes wonder just how much serendipity is involved every time we write. Whether we're subconsciously recognizing patterns and thus are sparked to set words down to reflect it. Cati, I am so enjoying your book! When I have some coherent thoughts, I'll write to you about it. And I'll spread the word.

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  3. Thanks so much, so glad you're enjoying it!

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  4. Anonymous6:28 AM

    I like what you did here. It was kind of a cool idea--a lot of folks over here picked it up too. My contribution, btw, came from a great book called HINDI NATIONALSIM, by Alok Rai. For anyone interested in language politics, linguistics, etc., this is a great read.
    --Michael

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  5. Michael,

    Thanks for letting me know the source of the quote. It does sound like a good book, and as I've visited India twice and have an interest in its history, I might look into it. I may try to post a footnote to this with the sources, as I think I have almost everyone's, and it's a fascinating list in itself.

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