Week 9 begins!
Today we begin week 9 (chapter 9.2) of ModPo 2019.
Week 9 is about aleatory poetry—poems written by or through chance operations, quasi-nonintentional poems, poems written through or in spite of severe rules or constraints.
For many people, this is weird stuff. In some ways, the poets of week 9 stand against conventional self-expression. They seek a poetic self that gets disclosed by accident, or by chance, or unintentionally—arguing, perhaps, that that is a truer self. Many ModPo’ers over the years have been excited about this new approach to the problem of the poetic ego.
And most folks find the writing experiments this week to be fun. We hope you enjoy this challenge!
The headnote for week 9 is below.
This is also the week during which many people will be writing in response to essay assignment #4. This is a fun one! We are asking you to write an aleatory poem yourself (and also to explain it). Take a look at the assignment. Even if this year you didn’t write the other three essays, you might want to try this one!
This week our webcast will take place at 5 PM (Philly time) on Wednesday, November 6.
Getting ready to settle in the feather likeness of my justice chair,
HEADNOTE FOR WEEK 9
When Jackson Mac Low put a body of language (for instance a poem by Gertrude Stein) through a rigorous procedure, he would say that he created (or “wrote”—in the sense of computer programming) the procedure and that the procedure then created the poem. One of his goals was to experiment with the elimination or evacuation or at least the suppression of poetic ego. In this sense his work stands alongside that of Silliman and Hejinian who (by other means) sought to question the stable lyric subject that had been for so long been associated with the writing of poetry, and with imagination generally. On this point the chapter 9 poets are unified in breaking from modernism’s implicit and often explicit claim of creative, a-world-in-a-poem-making genius. But otherwise the aesthetic connection between, for instance, Mac Low and Stein is strongly positive.