Something Like This Long Sweeping Arc

January 2, 2012 § 9 Comments

More erasure poetry! (Check out our first attempts here.)

This time we dissected a nonfiction book written to young teens who might be considering humanitarian trips to Africa. Sad to say, it was a book full of cliches, and we found it hard to make new poems sans cliche. However, we strode through the pages like a couple of water buffaloes on parade.  But slimmer. Here’s what we came up with.

Joining us was our good friend Anna. (Expect to see some guest posts from her later!) Her poem:
“In Theory”

From Pakou:
“You See”

From Abi
“I learned from the world”

The evening sparked a good conversation as to whether or not erasure poems are entirely one’s own, especially since – if retyped separately – many of these lines are taken verbatim from somebody else’s phrase. Yet each of us looking at the same page would come up with three very different poems.

And it’s not so much “this long, sweeping arc” that is moving as much as it is when paired with “something like / this long, sweeping arc”; not just “where you first tossed it,” but that idea paired with “it becomes more” that starts to provide imagery, meaning, and originality. We may use the same lines as the initial writer, but we infuse it with our own context and purpose, and it becomes a different piece altogether. Plagiarism and inspiration sometimes walk a close line, but as Billy Collins writes, all writers steal from each other. What do you think about it?

This exercise has been such a fun and simple way to get the creative juices going. Have you tried it yet? If so, send your creations to abigail.lzc at gmail dot com, and we’ll feature it in our next post on erasure poems!


§ 9 Responses to Something Like This Long Sweeping Arc

  • Eve Redwater says:

    This is such a good idea, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before! Maybe I should give it a go. :)

  • Andrea Westaby says:

    I love these – your earlier ones as well. Like you said before the first hard part might be finding a book that I don’t mind demolishing…Maybe a long magazine article would do? As far as the poems being your own…I agree that the different phrase combinations make it unique…interesting idea.

    • I hadn’t thought of magazines before – that would be perfect. I always have a bunch lying around that I’m not sure what to do with. Andrea, you and brother must have a writing competition with this….

  • Dawn says:

    I am consistently challenged by you and your creativity, Abi. I hope you and Pakou continue to keep writing often in 2012. Happy New Year! :)

  • Danny says:

    I read your earlier post about this and was inspired to write some of my own. I’ve thought that it would be a neat way to write song lyrics as well. I used pages from the Tolstoy short story “Family Happiness” (I photo copied the pages first of course!) And I found that I could easily convey the meaning and message that I was feeling, while feeling a revitalization of language and a focus on image. It’s a really cool idea! I love all the poems you guys wrote!

  • P. Graham says:

    This is fantastic! I actually used to do things like this but on a more comedic level in high school textbooks. Ah youth. Nonetheless, this is awesome :) Thanks for sharing!

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