Mechanics Monday: Chance Operations

Chance operations is a highly random way to write a poem. It originally started in the early or mid-twentieth century from a poetic movement known as the “dadaist”. Dadaist poets were very much interested in the subconscious and they believed that the minds of the writer and the reader would create meaning and associations out of any text. Even one created randomly.

In poet Tristan Tzara’s “Dada Manifesto on Feeble & Bitter Love,” are instructions to make a Dadaist poem. They are translated from the original French by Barbara Wright:

“Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are–an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.”

Personally, I find the idea interesting although it seems like it would create some difficult to read and slightly weird poetry. To each his own right? I must be part of the vulgar herd. 🙂

As an example of this form, we are going to use the poem “Stein 100: A feather likeness of the Justice Chair” by Jackson Mac Low.

A feather table: reckless gratitude.
It is that-there that means best.

White the green grinding trimming thing!
The disgrace, like stripes.
More selection, slighter intention.

Rosewood stationing is use journey: curious dusty empty length.
Winged cake: the cake, the plan that neglects to make color certainly.
Time long could winter: elegant consequences monstrous.
So much and guided holders garments are–and arrangements.
Staring then that when sudden same time’s necessary, that circular
same’s more necessary, not actually aching.

And why special?
Not left straw, the chain’s the missing, was white winningly and
occasion’s entirely strings.
Reason is sullenness: it’s there that practices left when six into
nothing narrow, resolute, suggests all beside that plain seam.
Pencils, mutton, asparagus: the table there.
There reddening is not to change that in such absurd surroundings.
Considering clearly, a feather’s large second heat is there.
There that thing which smells that whistles that there’s denial,
difference, surfeit-dated choices–everything trembling
imitation.

Imitation?–imitation is a joy gurgle.
Best bent, likely disappointed.
Cake season’s not more than most.
That cake makes no larder likely.
Not a single protection is even temporarily standing.
Sugar and lard there are sudden and shaming.
That single set comes orderly.
There the remarkable witness made no more settlement than
blessing.
Increase the way steak colored coffee.
Wheatly that music half-noisy.
Reason’s decline is not a little grainy.

This means taste where toe-washing is reasonable.
Salmon carriage?–action hanging.
Scene bits and this nervous draught don’t satisfy elevation,
There is no change.
Much was temporary behind that center and much was formerly
charming.
Then the then-triumphant showed their disagreeable hidden worries.
The chair asked the speech be repeated, supposing
attention-resemblance.
It is just summer.
Another section has a light likeness to pedestrianism.
Which is light?
That used this there.
The chair’s justice: nothing-colored mercy.
No, perhaps some is likely.

That is not a genuine bargain.
There preparation so suits white bands’ singing and redness that the
same sight’s a simpler splendor.
No, not the same.
Wishing the same is not quite the same as a different arrangement.
Any measure washed is brighter than an occasional string set.
A precocious nothing discolors that extract sooner than showing its
starting.
A bag place chain room winningly reasons with shining hair.
What with supposing without protection, no wound is sudden.
Coloring sullenness rushes bottom reason in gilded country.
What if it shows?
Necessarily, the whole thing there is shining.
Is that anything?
More single women stitch tickets.
To show difference exudes reliability.
Inside that large silver likeness, Hope tables thick coal.
Coal makes morning furnaces darker,
Joy and success are exceptions.

Four suggest a sadder surrender.
Pretence and cheaper influences are staining tender Pride there.
Sort out that little sink.
Why is the size of the baking remainder something that resembles
light more than cutting?
This cheese is more calm than anything solitary.
It is still an occasion for bottom anticipation.
Reason’s season cracked that which was ripe.
Nearly all were neglected by blessing, not without nervous actions.
He’s readily beginning to seed the cheese and estrange the Whites.
The celery curled its lashes at the slam.
Not-so-heated reason will be little able to satisfy another.
This was formerly much used as a charming chair.
Pedestrianism showed itself triumphant and disagreeable.
That which was hidden worried them.
They asked that her speech be repeated.
Summer light bears a likeness to justice.
Then the light is supposing attention.
That section has a resemblance to light.
Is it a likeness of the justice chair?

Special thanks to www.poets.org.   This post could not have been written without you! “Stein 100″ A feather likeness of the Justice Chair” was originally posted here, including information on how the poet constructed it. And more information about chance operations can be found here.

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