Authors Note – Re: Short Poems (?)

Warning. Dear reader. Do not revolt. Revolt! You are among the #oulipo, w/ #AllenGinsberg, new #writing methods, #yourDNA&myDNA rapt in #technology.

Okay. Pause. Take a breath. Return to your body. The previous paragraph is not to be taken lightly. Modern language is on an upswing of creativity. We are @once thinking and promoting thought simultaneously. There is no better time to find the words to say exactly what it is on your mind, and people who are willing to listen.

“Nah,” you say. “It’s just gotten tougher to understand what everyone is trying to say. It’s all @this and #signs. Where is the #poetry? Where is the #passion?”

To this, I respond with a new series of Short Poems, featuring over two-hundred AllenGinsberg-OuLiPo-induced linguistic meditations published here @ – one per day for the next two-hundred+ days.

Originally written as a means to combat my own creative inertia, the Short Poems project has grown over the course of several years to express my need for maintaining a daily practice of writing. #Digg?

Care for some background?

These Short Poems have long been a ritual of my own enjoyment. Today, I release these #gemsofpoeticintent with this note on the process of their writing. Maybe something in here will help #inspire you.

Let’s return to Upstate New York, circa 1994, shall we? Allen Ginsberg was in Rochester, where I grew up, for a reading and a workshop. I attended both. The reading was great, very musical as I recall. But it was during the workshop that this series came into the world – on a breath as it were.

During the workshop, AG suggested a simple meditation to combat creative distraction. The way AG put it, “There is no such thing as writer’s block.”

1) Find a quiet place where you can reveal yourself to the universe. Have a notebook and pen(cil) handy.

2) First Stanza. Meditate on a place/thing/(false)memory/anything that is as far as imagineable from where you currently are. Write what you “see.” Make it short.

3) Second Stanza. Meditate on a place that is @half the distance between you and the focus of stanza one. Write what you “see.” Keep it short.

4) Last stanza. A single line. A meditation on (your)self.

This is where AG’s method ends and where this series began.

Over the next few years, while studying @ the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, and @ the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, then while traveling in and out of and around the country, whenever I found myself at a crossroads of linguistic creativity, I would return to this method. Two hundred Short Poems later…

Enter the OuLiPo. I discovered the Workshop of Potential Literature several years later while reading Italo Calvino. If you link through to the wikinfo (dibs on the coinage), you will learn a lot more about this ultra-creative group of writers, who like AG (and mostlikely YOU), refuse(d) to give up on writing creatively (and watch Tv instead).

Using variations on one of the Oulipo’s writing constraints, (N+7), I began converting/renewing/challenging each of the original 210 Short Poems using Chance as a guide. Chance = Rolling two six-sided die/dice, then applying whatever number revealed itself to the N+ method.

In short, if the number on the dice added to seven, I would replace each noun in the Short Poem with the seventh word following it in one of two dictionaries. If the number on the dice was even, I used one dictionary. If the number was odd, I used another.

To date, there are 420 poems in this series, some with slight modification (N+2) from the originals, others with significant variations (N+12) on the theme. For each Short Poem, a different strategy applies.

What is published here is the most up-to-date version of each poem (as of Dec. 2009).

One Short Poem per day will be published @, beginning in early February.

At some point in the future, the original AG-induced Short Poems may be released. At this time, I have no intention of doing so.

– Benjamin Spencer

Carmel Valley, CA 2010

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