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Welcome to my third roundup of my participation in the Pulitzer Remix project, wherein 85 poets are turning Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction into found poems. Daily.

As with adopting any habit, getting to and through the three-week mark is the hardest. Writing daily isn’t a problem, but pushing to get through the third week’s worth of poems is/was a bit of a struggle. Actually, in anticipation, I had written the first, second and fourth week’s worth of poems for the project prior to the beginning of the month, because I wanted to save this third week as a sort of additional challenge. Call it “deadline found poetry” if you will.

I picked a hell of a week to make things harder for myself.

I won’t pretend that living in Boston this week hasn’t been oddly unsettling. I’m fine, my family is fine, my friends and co-workers are fine, but I know this isn’t a universal truth. It’s also a qualified “fine” because I know that sometimes traumatic events have a way of worming their way inside our heads to deliver unexpected or unconscious consequences.

Would it change the timber or tone of my found poems?

April 13: methane melee
Okay, I promised with the limerick in the first week that potty humor was bound to return. But I swear, I don’t go looking for these things! And once I was finished the title was, and most of these anagrams have been, a happy treat of coincidence.

April 14: Neu Noir
My tip-o-the-hat to Bukowski. There is a story about me as a teen having a conversation with a wino on the street back in 1979 who I swear was Bukowski before I knew who Bukowski was. Honest. A face like his wasn’t hard to forget. Anyway, as the poem started coming together I suddenly felt like perhaps, just perhaps, Buke was raising a bottle of rotgut from the beyond and saying “Eh, nice try, kid.”

April 15: Warm People
Hunting through the original story I wasn’t coming up with anything cohesive. Everything seemed so disjointed and in lumps. Finally the word “happy” jumped out at me and I started making connections with different clumps as miniature portraits. I also realized how miserable Cheever must have been, so many of his characters seem driven by sadness and compromise.  Write what you know?

April 16: matinee
And here we are, the day after the bombing, and I’m in Rome. I wanted something simple, and simple I got. It’s best to conjure up an Italian Neo-realist movie before you start reading this one for the full effect.

April 17: whim-sea
This was an “assignment” to take two stories with connected themes – “The Swimmer” and “The Ocean” – and blend them to see what came up. This roiling result came from the first pages of each story. It wound up darker than it seemed while I was culling words and phrases initially. See my “about me” page for the personal significance of swimming pools.

April 18: old toy fever
Where the heck did this come from? I was playing with structure and didn’t even see the possibilities of parallel narrative with a shared “sigh” between them. I’m leaving it stand for now, but if I decide to do anything with this poem in terms of future publication I will probably reformat it. Your thoughts?

April 19: Euclid’s Dry Cleaning
In the original story a sign on a truck (which became the title) prompts the protagonist to ponder his life as a geometric fantasy. I was much more interested in Euclid, and what would it be like if he were a dry clearer in our modern world. Or at least in Cheever’s world. Cheever didn’t make it easy, but he never made it easy for his characters. Still, I think I managed to make it work. At least Euclid sleeps well.

It’s a bit of a long home stretch for the rest of the month, but I have the last three days already set so there’s just this coming week to sort through and decide which things are working and which just don’t make the cut.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of other poetry out there. Why, just look at the Poetry Friday postings over at Live Your Poem. Irene’s got the roundup from the kidlitosphere.

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Because I’m writing. Or rather, I’m rearranging.

Not editing, mind you, and they’re not even my own words. And to top it all off I’m not even getting paid for it.

To the right there you’ll notice a little badge for a thing called the Pulitzer Remix. For the entire month of April, National Poetry Month, the Pulitzer Remix project will post a new poem daily from 82 poets who have “found” poems within each of the 82 books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

I know the collective noun for poems is (mundanely) an anthology, and that the collective noun for poets can be an attic, mezzanine, cellar, anteroom, a scansion, break, stanza, break, deign, mope, peppering, ego, havoc, madness, rejection, and so on, but this… the Pulitzer Remix seems to require a new collective.

An extraction, perhaps?

Found poems are exactly what they sound like, poems found within some other context. Shopping lists, stacks of book titles, a note found on the ground can all hold poetic nuance, but also in larger bodies of text like books or magazine articles words and phrases can be culled to create new and previously (by their original author’s) unimagined meaning. It’s within the realm of this last context that the Pulitzer Remix operates. Each poet has one novel as their Urtext from which they can apply any number of rules and choices in which to create new poetry. The challenge is to ferret out the new and unexpected from the old, not entirely unlike musical sampling where a beat or a motif creates a new framework for new music, bringing the old to new ears.

While it sounds new (and perhaps sacrilegious) to maim and mangle the carefully chosen works of literature the concept isn’t far from what artist Tristan Tzara once described as a recipe for creating a Dadaist poem nearly a century ago.

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.

The poem will be like you. Because no one else would have made the same conscious choices, or could have produced the same exact results, not without a great deal of trial and effort. The found poem, like the Dadaist poem, exists as the hard truth within the joke that goes “I have all the great works of literature in this one single book!” wherein the teller brandishes a dictionary. Perhaps that is the ultimate challenge for the found poet, to create a new work from the dictionary that uses as many words contained in the dictionary without repeating a single one.

And so, in a few short weeks I, along with an extraction of 81 other poets, will begin a massive excursion into the rearrangement of American literature. I will post snippets and links throughout April.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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