Bracket of Manners

Today I combine Bernadette’s Mayer’s exhortation to: ‘Rewrite someone else’s writing. Experiment with theft and plagiarism,’ with the OULIPO formula N+7, thus:

The Arrival of the Behaviour Bracket – a collaboration with Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, this clean workforce bracket
Square as a channel and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the cohort of a mildness
Or a square backing
Were there not such a direction in it.

The bracket is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no wisdoms, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grotto, no expatriate.

I put my eyewitness to the grotto.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feminism of agenda handguns
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the nonintervention that appals me most of all,
The unintelligible synthesis.
It is like a Roman modesty
Small, taken one by one, but my gore, together!

I lay my eccentricity to furious Law-court.
I am not a Cake.
I have simply ordered a bracket of manners.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the package.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the lodgings and stood back and turned into a trespasser.
There is the ladder, its blond combatants,
And the philanthropy of the childbirth.

They might ignore me immediately
In my morass summerhouse and furrow vengeance.
I am no source of hookah
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet Gore, I will set them free.

The bracket is only temporary.

Old Work Room
Perfect room for a writer.

The N+7 formula is where the writer/experimenter/artist takes a poem that’s already been written, either by her/himself or by someone else and substitutes all the nouns for those that come seven places down in the dictionary. It’s really about the process – as conceptual art so often is – rather than the end result, and is actually more difficult than one might think. Especially if your dictionary is a whopper like mine, it becomes a physical act. Like the mesostic (see yesterday’s post) a fair few poets have made great poems from this technique. I was very tempted to not stick to the seventh noun down in some cases, there were words I liked better, and felt would have been a better fit, but I stuck rigidly. I may well, though, go back and choose better, more effective, nouns later. I guess that’s where the art comes in, though one of the reasons for choosing this form is to diminish as much as possible the artist/writer’s ego. It’s a ‘chance operation,’ and one of the intentions of such ‘found’ art/poetry (non-originality) is to point to what already exists in the world. It’s not unlike making supper from ingredients you get from the shops, rather than nurturing and slaughtering your own chickens.

Here is the original:

The Arrival of the Bee Box – Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, this clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appals me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

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