Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Dental Cosmos / Ghosts / Putting a Cow in Lingerie as a Technique of Revision

for Craig Conley

Craig Conley sent me this fantastic "Dental Cosmos" masthead which he found somewhere. It was just begging for an image or a text to accompany it. Is this it?


A different context helps me see a piece of my writing in a new and revealing light. Putting a cow in a lingerie store makes me see both the cow and the lingerie differently.
Some of the things that help me get that textual cow into a new cortical lingerie store are: 
Waiting. Sometimes if one waits, the lingerie store comes to the cow. Or the cow becomes the lingerie store. Or there are chickens everywhere.
Trying some radical intervention. I don't mean lobotomizing or trepanning my own head, but rather the text: Alphabetizing the lines, reading them from last to first, trying deleting elements, changing it from prose to poetry or vice versa, etc.), running it through a Google translation machine. Blending two texts together.

Being brave. Steeling myself to truly be open to what the text is doing and if everything is necessary or working effectively or has achieved the most it can. Sometimes, it is just realizing that the text was more of a warm-up or exercise, or of a particular moment. Or it just doesn't work. What I hoped would be a fantastically brilliant cow in a chemise, turns out to be a duck in a rubber boot.

Presenting it to an audience (reading the text out loud to friends or at a public reading; publishing it in a journal, blog, or book; showing it to an editor or other writer/reader; or even considering whether it belongs in a MS or to be sent out to a journal, blog, or elsewhere.) A change, or even a consideration of audience takes me outside of myself, helps me see how a text might be perceived by a reader/listener/editor. Of course, my reading of it can change depending on the audience, but another view of the text is helpful to me. (This can be tricky though. If I put my cow before a bunch of bovine lingerie aficionados, then I might be seduced into believing that the text actually works in other contexts, in somewhere other than that particular moment.

In light of the above discussion, here's a poem that I'm working on. 

they give up bones
slip through subway grates
are made chamois-soft
by the memory-rich

headbutts of commuters
what has a ghost?
the silver sink, the future tense
the pale paint skin of the white wall

I disguise myself as a ghost
by looking like myself from a distance
blackbirds, dogs, memory
or snowfall as a Möbius strip

last universal common ancestor
my family

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