NaPoWriMo Day 4: Chance

I didn’t “write any poems” yesterday, so I used chance to generate one. Some people write entire poems with chance operations, but I use them to generate material for collage/sculptural poems.

So I was trying to remember a quote that I had only part of in my head. I remembered that it said, “with all its… intact.” Turns out, I was thinking about Juliana Spahr’s kind blurb from Organic Furniture Cellar.

Smith’s ORGANIC FURNITURE CELLAR takes on big issues, such as how to write about the place where you live with all its distractions, beauties, and limitations intact.

Ok, so, I finally brought that up out of the haze of my memory. But in the meantime I got some pretty awesome stuff out of the Google search for “with all its” + intact. The first results I got weren’t usable; I had to revise the search string to “with all its” intact -FISA -problems. The results generated by that search struck a chord with me, as they relate to many of the things I’m interested in (rebirth, biological life and its limitations/diversity, damage and loss). Each of the resulting phrases is haunted by loss: by what could have been if the endangered subject had not been preserved intact, and the hint that what survived intact is only a part of what did not survive.

With all its goodness intact
With all its genetic potential intact
With all its wacky charm intact
With all its flaws intact
With all its treasures intact
With all its attendant horrors and monstrosities intact
With all its photons intact
With all its glass intact
With all its interlocking, working parts intact
With all its kidneys intact
With all its contents intact
With all its fittings intact
With all its traditions, orthodoxy and culture intact
With all its species and their habitats intact
With all its difficulties of thought intact
With all its strength intact
With all its grace and discipline intact
With all its epicardial fat intact
With all its standards and artillery pieces intact
With all its vibrational energy intact
With all its layers still intact
With all its contents intact
With all its burial artefacts miraculously intact
With all its ventral organs intact
With all its native birdlife intact
With all its original members intact
With all its accessories intact
With all its flesh and skin and hair intact
With all its territory intact
With all its dimensions intact
With all its variants intact
With all its monounsaturated fats intact
With all its rods, chains and locks intact
With all its nutrients intact
With all its industrial base (light and heavy industry and repair shipyard) intact
With all its original contents intact
With all its interlocking components fully formed and intact
With all its wrinkles still intact
With all its interiors and finishes intact
With all its connections intact
With all its intimate emotions intact
With all its graphic sex intact
With all its aspects intact
With all its teeth intact
With all its blemishes and beauty intact
With all its delicate flavor intact
With all its incredible health benefits intact
With all its items intact
With all its facilities intact
With all its powers intact
With all its grandeur intact
With all its vibration energy intact
With all its characteristic entire dynamic range intact
With all its child-like exuberance intact
With all its roots intact
With all its celestial sweetness intact
With all its buildings intact
With all its inherent power intact
With all its original divinity intact
With all its articular cartilage intact
With all its reputation intact
With all its bloodshed intact
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams intact
With all its attendant dignity intact
With all its furnishings intact
With all its geometrical features intact
With all its organoleptic characteristics intact
With all its idols, embellishments and sculptures intact
With all its functionality and performance intact
With all its charm intact
With all its natural beauty intact
With all its fleshy parts intact
With all its hilarity intact
With all its finger bones intact
With all its cuticle intact
With all its files and subfolders intact
With all its information intact
With all its original markings intact
With all its parts intact and unassailed

As you can tell if you do your own Google search for this string, I skipped, revised, or moved some of the entries to make the poem sound better or make more sense. I skipped search results that were too far afield, too long, or that sounded grating to my ear.  I also decided not to repeat entries. The hardest part was deciding when to stop because there were so many interesting results.

What makes a chance-operational poem a “poem”? I think of poetry as an artistic arrangement of words that brings about an optimal ambiguity of language, which then makes us think about the world around us in a new way. A poet is the one who creates this arrangement, and poetry is a “craft.” So “generating” content “randomly” through a search engine seems kind of like cheating, especially when compared to the stereotype of the “solitary genius” who is inspired (by a deity, alien, etc.) to write a poem. However, the generation of poetry by chance operation relies on a lot of “craftiness” from the poet, who determines the mode of chance operation (for instance, the composer John Cage used the I-Ching), filters and revises the results, and is ultimately in control of how the chance-generated materials are both generated and used.  If you want to read a really great book of poetry that uses similar methods, check out Christian Bök’s Eunoia.


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