Via Languageisavirus.com

Here are the first 10 of 66 writing experiments you can use to hone your craft. Enjoy!

1. Homolinguistic translation: Take a poem (someone else’s, then your own) and translate it “English to English” by substituting word for word, phrase for phrase, line for line, or “free” translation as response to each phrase or sentence. Or translate the poem into another literary style or a different diction, for example into a slang or vernacular. Do several different types of homolinguistic translation of a single source poem. (Cf.Six Fillious by bp nichol, Steve McCaffery, Robert Fillious, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Dieter Roth, which also included translation of the poem to French and German.) Chaining: try this with a group, sending the poem on for “translation” from person to another until you get back to the first author.

2. Homophonic translation: Take a poem in a foreign language that you can pronounce but not necessarily understand and translate the sound of the poem into English (i.e., French “blanc” to blank or “toute” to toot). (Cf.: Louis and Celia Zukofsky’s Catullus.) (Rewrite to suit?)

3. Lexical translation: Take a poem in a foreign language that you can pronounce but not necessarily understand and translate it word for word with the help of a bilingual dictionary. (Rewrite to suit?) 1-3a. Try a variant of these three translation exercises using the “Lost in Translation”“Babel” engine, or other web-based translations engines, such as Babelfish and Free Translation.com.

4. Acrostic chance: Pick a book at random and use title as acrostic key phrase. For each letter of key phrase go to page number in book that corresponds (a=1, z=26) and copy as first line of poem from the first word that begins with that letter to end of line or sentence. Continue through all key letters, leaving stanza breaks to mark each new key word. (Cf.: Jackson Mac Low’Stanzas for Iris Lezak.) Variations include using author’s name as code for reading through her or his work, using your own or friend’s name, picking different kinds of books for this process, devising alternative acrostic procedures.

5. Tzara’s hat: Everyone in a group writes down a word (alternative: phrase, line) and puts it in a hat. Poem is made according to the order in which it is randomly pulled from hat. (Solo: pick a series of words or lines from books, newspapers, magazines to put in the hat.)

6. Burroughs’s fold-in: Take two different pages from a newspaper or magazine article, or a book, and cut the pages in half vertically. Paste the mismatched pages together. (Cf.: William Burroughs’s The Third Mind.) Use the computer cut-up engine to perform a similar task automatically.

7. Write a poem and cut it somewhere in the middle, then recombine with the beginning part following the ending part.

8. General cut-ups: Write a poem composed entirely of phrases lifted from other sources. Use one source for a poem and then many; try different types of sources: literary, historical, magazines, advertisements, manuals, dictionaries, instructions, travelogues, etc.

9. Cento: Write a collage made up of full-lines of selected source poems.

10. Substitution (1): “Mad libs.” Take a poem (or other source text) and put blanks in place of three or four words in each line, noting the part of speech under each blank. Fill in the blanks being sure not to recall the original context.


Source: Language is a Virus. “66 Experiments by Charles Bernstein.” http://www.languageisavirus.com/articles/articles.php?subaction=showcomments&id=1099111175&archive=&start_from=&ucat=&#.V3aZ-TY35pd

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