These projects strive for transformation or re-invention of sources rather than the documentary representation reflected in Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam.
Sometimes these works even depend on the destruction of the original source; this method is most evident in the work of Phillips and Ruefle.
Would you call these excavations? defacements? something else?
- Tom Phillips – A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel
- Mary Ruefle – A Little White Shadow and Melody: The Story of a Child
- Janet Holmes – The Ms of M y Kin (erasures of Emily Dickinson)
- Jen Bervin – Nets (erasures of Shakespeare’s sonnets – more poems from Nets are in this review)
- Ronald Johnson – Radi os (erasures of Milton’s Paradise Lost – more poems from Radi os appear in this article in JSTOR)
- Jonathan Foer – Tree of Codes (novel carved from the pages of Foer’s favorite book, a collection of short stories, Street of Crocodiles, by Bruno Schulz)
Doing this type of work with the intention of publishing requires attention to copyright, so most writers and artists work with sources in the public domain. For more information on this topic, read the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry. For links to online archives that include sources you might use to create your own such project, see the sources page of Poetry River.
Contrast these projects with video documentary poems created in collaboration with filmmakers, photographers, and musicians. This poetry has a strong visual element too, but similar to Faizullah’s poems in Seam, strives to represent sources authentically. Examples include video poems produced by Kwame Dawes and Natasha Trethewey . Links to their projects can be found on the docupoetry page of Poetry River.
Which of these document-based or document-inspired approaches appeals to you? Why?
Try a method discussed in this blog post or the previous post about news poems, found poems, docupoems, and erasures. Transform a familiar poem published before 1923, or use a news article as a source. If you opt for the latter path, here are three articles you might use as sources:
- Syria chemical attack (Fox News)
- Dutch men hold hands in solidarity with gay couple (CNN)
- Forest bathing (The New Internationalist)