Wednesday, February 9, 2011



The idea arose so one had to experiment – with sincere apologies to all the poets involved. The strategy is not unlike an illustrator using an artist’s work in another context – again, ‘with apologies to . . ..’ The notion was to prepare a ‘poem’ – at least something with the appearance of a poem - using a limited collection of texts, a set of rules and chance. The texts envisaged were the poems in one issue of Quadrant – hence the apologies. The first step was to take all of the poems not in texts (and no titles) – in this case from Quadrant June 2008 because this was the issue that was reading when the idea arose – copy them and cut them up into separate lines to be placed into a large envelope, mixed and selected at random to make a new collection of lines – a new ‘poem’ if one dare label this mix as such. Even the title was to reflect the same strategy: using all the letters and numerals in ‘Quadrant June 2008’ mixed as ‘8 QUADRANT JUN0 20’ – ‘THE MELANGE’ clearly identifying the strategy to mix, with a cheeky allusion to Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’.

The rules were:
shake the envelope;
take a line from the envelope randomly without any looking, preview or review; strategy, thought or intent – using chance alone;
paste each line down as it is drawn directly onto a sheet of paper into sets of four lines – ‘quartets’ or ‘quadrants’;
make twenty sets of four lines to reflect the ‘20’ out of the ‘2008’;
the ‘8’ will remain as the allusion to Eliot’s ‘4’;
use the exact text, punctuation, capitals, format, font and style in each line as it has been copied – as in e.g., ‘QUADRANT’;
nothing is to be changed, re-worked, adjusted, modified or altered in any way;
no original text or context is to be checked, appraised, reassessed or judged.

The outcome is attached. There is no pretence as to quality, any claim to poetry, or any critique of poets, poems or poetry being suggested here. The intent is transparent, free and open: an opportunity for things to happen randomly within a fixed set of parameters. The idea looks at how random choices can create new relationships and contexts in alliances that form in the mind – or is it the body? - in a manner that, upon reflection, can only astonish. It is perhaps like a metaphor for life – c.f. Jung’s synchronicity? – where things happen and make their own new sense in a somewhat startling way.

It is for this experience that the outcome is being blogged, for others to ponder – nothing more. There is a mystery in chance that belies our understanding but seems to rely on our subtle and subconscious efforts to enrich an interpretation and perception for its being. Does it only show how optimistic our senses are – we are - when seeking to make sense out of things that are purely ad hoc: are faith, hope and love involved? Is this how we live? Is this the very nature of our world? Are all things basically random and relative as quantum physics suggests? Are we close to sensing another sense through a different set of senses that work randomly as well? Is it ‘another’ sense or just us – basic, poetic beings struggling to understand and establish an affinity with the infinity of chance possibilities of which we are a part? Are our faith, hope and love changed by our questions and analysis to give us ‘the trap of apophenia’*? There are indeed many questions and probably just as many – or more - answers.
* Chance is still working its strange magic. After completing this piece, one reads in The Spectator 20 June 2008, in Mark Mason’s  Trivia really is very important, you know : ‘apophenia’, the mind’s propensity to see patterns even where there are no patterns, and the reference to ‘the trap of apophenia’ seen in the listing is also added here:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Cite This Source
Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness".

"While observations of relevant work environments and human behaviors in these environments is a very important first step in coming to understand any new domain, this activity is in and of its self not sufficient to constitute scientific research. It is fraught with problems of subjective bias in the observer. We (like the experts we study) often see what we expect to see, we interpret the world through our own personal lens. Thus we are extraordinarily open to the trap of apophenia.

In statistics, apophenia would be classed as a Type I error (false positive, false alarm, caused by an excess in sensitivity). Apophenia is often used as an explanation of some paranormal and religious claims. Apophenia may be linked to psychosis and creativity.

JUN0 20

He drilled them so their stories became one
anyone can see the mincer is not to be messed with.
In years of innocence so long ago
And this is still that same world of course:

The vicious and the smug have all the clout,
neatly beneath their wings and fall asleep.
And the lodgings and the liquor were cheap.
of perhaps. Neither subtlety nor beauty

As they buckled to the hard task of silence.
the dying time proved slow and hard
And then at last he did a midnight bunk.
In line with some punitive little scheme,

The cloth of their jackets straining,
as if it had been treated with a dye.
The falling plays a favourite refrain
an unfinished stillness heavy with fear

An unbending Presbyterian.
but once I saw it being packed on Wednesdays
Or the woman at work;
It’s funny how their nipples get bigger.

The one continuing sign of him you saw
fruit wood and wrist-thick old briar
And knew the boy would lie, would have a go
comb and pluck out tufts of white fluff

as if a shroud
All those pastimes you thought
a river system aerial
could never hope to cover him

up and down my sleeves
Was the crate of his empties out the back.
to remnants of what has been.
and clouds are spreading froth across the sky.

onto the sands of Jervis Bay-
an album, photos, card from long ago
heavy as grain in a bin.
lying in bed wishing irons to rust, dusters

Fitting the handle to the twisting blades
where occasional pools of water sit
Gaunt and severe as the gaze of any elder,
The night my sister received the news

Some breathing hard, as if from work,
His smile returned, no place was this for tears
One of them always keeps an eye on the world.
of steady raindrops humming in my brain

The landlord was giving the guy a break
We could slowly sink in the silt
That he could cry on cue, and make his tears
Then steadily there’d grow another stack.

A screw buttons the rings of the mouth. Once
lurked beneath the shiny surface of my childhood
It moves like a cartoon, a mobile tap
but spoke like a woman who’d put up a fight:

you would never be asked to axe;
Deceased family and friends
in crevices and creases. It fills like a balloon;
A red blister growing unseen, unfelt

she sat straight up in the hospital bed
and the murmur of troubled men.
whether you swam every morning
Not his dear mother, though he loved her so

They gave him space, remembering what he’d done
if you hadn’t done that by now, it’s too late;
Captive, bearing mute witness
in reverse: falling open overhead

in unbearable blue. It is a cathedral
like a haemorrhoid. A swollen berry
of the hand as the mulish handle resisted.
the table’s in its grasp, thanks to metal wings,

All those hymns, sermons, prayers!
No words, no praise nor blame;
And when released about six months ago
the drunken roar remembered all these years

some days ago I do not
Inside, she’d waved a blade about-
from the grip of his frantic wife.
that I had always seen from her-

won’t warm you up; it’s too late
can be viewed through the gape in the head.
my breath a small bellows in the aching air
hide and crouch    clapped pouch

In the context of things architectural does this sense of the random equate with O. Gehry's crumpled paper becoming the basis for form?

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