The following poems were inspired by Shane Rhodes’ essay “Reuse and Recycle: Finding Poetry in Canada” (Arc 70, Winter 2013). The essay surveys the wide range of techniques for ‘finding poetry’ developed in Canada and elsewhere in recent decades. My own technique offers a further variant on the theme, and in the poems I deploy it to ‘reuse and recycle’ Rhodes’ own text.
The procedure—which I call ‘downlining’—is simple: handwriting the text onto a series of 10-word x 10-word grids, jotting down any images or associations spontaneously occurring, then carefully and slowly reading down each of the lines (diagonally, too, if I want; any way but linear). While I happily pocket any ‘free’ images or other gifts that appear, I also treat the scrambled text as material to meditate, transform and work freely on.
The aim of the method is to combine the systematic rigor of William Burroughs’ cut-up technique with the free-flow of C. G. Jung’s deliberately unmethodical ‘method’ of active imagination, a kind of induced reverie comparable in some ways to Keats’ exercise of ‘negative capability.’ In this way (in theory, and my own experience) the writer gains access to two hitherto ‘unconscious’ levels of expression: his or her own, and the text’s.
lost & found (unmade poems, for shane rhodes)
poetry losing its Capital… (the plunderverse.) collage
educated. (Godgle.) canada: stealing whatever we find…
the glass flarf full? (the poet at her post-.) warhol: can
copy… (unmade sense.) dreams, the practiced self.
oceanic? driftwood verse… ‘proud history’: maple
syrup. (white shit.) the wildly popular mirror museum.
O Can-Dada… (inhuman resources.) poets starting the
bleeding! the unedited body. the Way of our errors…
the self imposed. (the american meme.) what the gap
stores… hysterical documents. man caves? boy cots!
scarborough: bleak stories. (when the lit hits…) words
worth daffodils? the men who delight in exposing…
bourgeois: ‘own words.’ (globe & male.) poetry’s face
off? (the indian’s activist nature.) little people: pixels…
‘canada’: erasure poetry. (the rubber fuck.) the man
on the lamb. flocking to the frame exhibition…
‘indians’: reported dead. (education, foreword to
the censored heart.) neat rows – poems to prose…
metaphor, simile? the rime of the ancient… god’s digit-
al age. gutenberg’s cancer. thought – collected works?
ophelia downstreamed… (silence following orders.) the
morse oratorio. ‘old hat’? the poetics of divine suspense.
the interrogated dead. (the incomparable metaphor.)
‘History’: art’s gaps in the Argument. myth lifting…
biggest fear? poetry’s largely harmless offense. (1513,
a whole new world?) falling in love with instantly…
the loss of Truth (though arrangements persist.) love
boring deeply. obese: the monumental nation builder…
the unsettling indian. (the superintendent shooting the
breeze.) african silences. childhood, the colonial past.
what next? tied to reality… (history’s bad rap.) canada
always found wanting! page: the steppes of the Capitol…
Sean Howard is the author of Local Calls (Cape Breton University Press, 2009) and Incitements (Gaspereau Press, 2011). His poetry has been published in numerous Canadian and international magazines, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2011 (Tightrope Books).