Experimenting with erasure

During my poem-a-day challenge for NaNoWriMo 2014, I've given myself the freedom to experiment with some different forms that I've been curious about, but a little too bashful to try before. I know what that sounds like, but different poetic forms, especially some of the more contemporary/experimental ones, can be a little …intimate. Well, very intimate, actually.


Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 165.

I'm still figuring out how I feel about erasure as a poetic form. I'm not sure that I would lump my erasures into the same category that I would my poetry. The hands-on, collage-like process of erasure creates something that, to me, feels more like visual art

You are working with a page from an already printed (and/or bound) text (that was, hopefully, in bad shape before you started tearing pages out). You can erase (i.e. cross out) the words you don't want to use in creating your new text, but you can't add words (even little ones) that aren't already there and you can't rearrange their order on the page. It's harder than it looks like it will be before you've begun marking up the page. But it's a stimulating sort of challenge, that forces you to look at the myriad ways a single word can be manipulated into multiple meanings. It's almost like you're searching for a secret code embedded in the text, but the code message isn't actually there at all. You're finding subliminal meaning where it hasn't been planted for you. Which could be considered schizophrenic, unless its art.


Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 83.

The thing about erasures is that more than half of the effect is visual. If these scattered clusters of words are removed from their page of origin and arranged on a new canvas, without all of that residual blank space where the erased text was, the poetry is nearly removed from the poem. Its quality of foundness, of altered-artness, makes it something more. That imposed spacing that spreads this smattering of culled words and phrases down the length of the page, the knowing that these words were stolen from a larger text beneath it, gives it added layers of meaning.  


Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 22.

For my erasure experiments, I used a particularly battered copy of one of my favorite novels: Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. I imagine this would yield even greater results with non-literary texts, but I started with a text I knew well. Intimately, even.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Starry-eyed at the Sky Stage

Editor pants, poet pants