In advance of this year’s International Congress on Medieval Studies, we (Marian Bleeke and Anne Harris) posted the following CFP on the Material Collective’s Facebook page:
Medievalists, ever want to cut your Kalamazoo paper up into little pieces? Let us do that for you - and turn it into something else. Poetry.This was the result:
Anne Harris and I are going to be presenting found word poetry based on papers from the conference as "Slices and Splices" in the Blunder panel sponsored by the Babel Working Group on Saturday afternoon. And we need raw materials.
If you would like to see your work transformed, you can either send it one of us in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or give one of us your hard copy after you present.
We will keep our sources anonymous.
When it was still a word of body, blunder meant to stumble around blindly, to grope about, to lurch and sway numbly. It’s from the Old Norse blundra – “to shut one’s eyes.” It embodies the consequence of the loss of perception, of perspective –especially when the choice not to see is yours, especially when you close your eyes to the bigger picture. Blunder as self-sabotage, blunder as willing yourself to rail against the tempest (or some other enormous thing you can’t control) with your eyes closed. Now, it can be a word of mind, of language action, of event. Now, we can soften the idea with French, a faux pas, more elegant than a blunder, side stepping the issue. Now, right now, with cutting and seeking and groping blindly through words and purposefully shutting our eyes to the big picture in favor of the little words, we can think of blunder as the writer before the thing fumbling for words. Looking at image, text, object, idea and willing the words to come. They do as they please. This is a few minutes in the blunder of language, those few minutes pulled from hours of writing in which the words pull you along, sentences separate from paragraphs, and words jostle the coherence of the page away. This is the fantasy, built on the mistrust of language and the yearning for words of cutting and pasting. I think I love words more than I love language: five, dogma, crenelated, vignette, Coptic, ruminating, contact, gruesome, fostered, perpetrators… I could do this all day. And those aren’t even my words, and yet I love them. I take them from someone else’s paper and savor them. In our blundering, we asked blindly for papers we might cut up. Never mind about meaning, we can blunder through that later. What we asked for, really, was trust. Blunder takes trust. It leans on trust to blunder through the blindness, the misstep, the ridicule, and the realization. To get to the other side of blundering – to open your eyes to see the big picture again. Quick! Close them, back to blunder. Back to the few minutes of every paper in which we trust ourselves to play with a word, take it out of context and let it be, let it become. Is this the prosaic brushing up against the poetic? We can blunder through that later. This is the fun of blunder, the blind man’s bluff, the lunging and the catching of a word, a phrase, a sentence. The delight in calling it poetry.
And so I have read and been taken by and wanted and took words and this is what happened:
I entreat the audience for help
In my quest for comparable imagery
[for] our much-heralded “return” to the object
objects par excellence
the phenomena that are at work
works [that] call attention to their own facture
unrolled and read aloud
they “speak” of their own significance
girding [their] rhetorical force
by the disruptive presence of that which is supposed to be absent.
Artists turned pigment into glass medieval efflorescence
copying, replication, and remediation
For his tomb announced that he was dead, dead, dead, except that he was still alive!
dozens of copycat tales,
Alice thus taunts images
[seeking] some measure of understanding
in this tangle of concerns
just adjacent to the missing segment.
the Raising of Lazarus could almost be happening.
Fantastically imagined on a vivid blue ground
built solely on style.
Instead of imagining
the world outside of the window itself.
The web of leading is cut to compose
a break in the path
to the border and to the stars
Illumination was active,
you see here and here.
Until the swath of green
glowing and deeply colored
stops the illusion.
To populate the lights
a foreigner, a Frenchman, threw a rock.
And dramatically shifted the opaque decoration,
the darkest creases that dark light so desired,
and the especially problematic painted indications
of shining colors now-destroyed.
The deposed king inhabited the island
and fabricated memorializing self-identifications;
time consuming indigenous traditions,
reticulated headdresses with elaborate ornamentation,
adroitly dynamic sword handling,
and the active veneration of horizontal continuity
Our lengthy and intimate allegiance to
this thriving concern deliberately kept us
assimilated and assumed a sense of the singular
theoretically allowing our previously prized
to receded into oblivion.
That descended from above
Promoted brief but spectacular
The Golden Wood commanded
Long – standing
Illumination is delicate
Like giants towering beside their tower
All scraggly-haired and bulbous-nosed
Ruminating on interconnections that are
And utterly spurious
Our lingering fears are rendered again and again like
Apocalyptic hordes only purportedly imprisoned
How estranged we are – yet
Are all interrelated
In harboring a love that was
Already lost at the time
I had analytical approaches
Pairs of peacocks and leonine quadrupeds
And some real work to do
Now, turned inside out, and, indeed, halved
I have penned a monograph
Turned pigment into glass
And now rival creation itself in my
It is a luxurious document
Girding its rhetorical force with indigo sections
Full-fulio swaths of small gold dots
And a sumptuous silken pastdown
Beautifully bejeweled beneath the golden script
Are painted to look like precious Byzantine silk
It is a site of replication and re-presentation
A reflection of its partner
And a copy without an origin
The thing after the cutting
Wants to stand and hold fast
Simultaneously bearing witness
To its easily destroyed manufacture
Trees and stones
Are always forever moving towards
Illusions of the analogous, an invented humanity
As statue oscillates after stone
The dice tumbling
Escalate quickly upwards as an immortal god
Of prayer and poem in their pristine state
What had been whole, an impossible object
Is now molten and messy, everywhere and inexplicable
A reliable source of ignition, of volatile shattering that
Simultaneously explodes and disintegrates into powder
A knife cutting
Forever cut off
As human presence
What a lovely, creepy idea