At the end of he semester, the library at school had a book sale. I waited until everything was free, then I took five or six old books and hymnals. Lately, I’ve been using one of the books as a sort of puzzle – you know how you’ve seen those altered book pages, where people black out most of the words on a page and leave the rest as a sort of poem? Well, it is actually a very useful thing to do, especially when you’re muddling through writer’s block but still really want to create something. In a lot of ways, I also think the exercise strengthens me as a writer, forcing me to think hard about what I’m forming with words already written. It helps me become more comfortable revising, switching around what I leave and what I black out. It helps me pay attention to the purposefulness of words, the fact that the original author wrote these ones for a reason, and how beautiful it is that I can use the exact same words and form them into a completely new idea. And it’s cool, because I know what the original page was about, and in some ways, my poem will still be connected to it, but you, my reader, get a completely different experience.
I love that dynamic: the fluidity of meaning.
Anyway, I’ve made quite a few of these little poems, and I’m going to post them over the next few days. Hopefully I can also figure out how to upload scans of the original pages as well, since part of the uniqueness of this type of writing is what it looks like on an old yellowed book page.
For now, here is Page Forty-Seven.
he recounted the left behind,
weathered from the broken stone.
an answer to prayers.
we have heard the people
history is always like that.
pulling at the Valley of shadows,
the great fierce prayer made
because they expected nightfall