Thursday, October 30, 2014

Some Notes on Remix Poetry

I’m fairly new to remix. So far, I’ve only used it in conjunction with three projects initiated by The Found Poetry Review. However, a number of people have asked what process I use for remix, so I thought I would provide an overview of it.

Generally, I take an arbitrary selection of a source text (or am assigned a selection), for example the first paragraph of every page of a text or a specific chapter from a book, and then use the words in that selection as the general vocabulary or lexicon for the poem that’s to be drafted.

I mix and rearranged individual words chosen out that selection of text. On occasion, I might remix using a phrase. But for the most part I use individual words: I separate all of the words out of the text so that they are not in context, because I don’t want to simply regurgitate the text in condensed form—I want to transform it somehow. Therefore, for my personality, it’s best that I not see the text on the page.

Then, using computer programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro, Microsoft Word, and/or Microsoft Excel, I create two lists—one in which the words are alphabetized in a single column and another that is randomized with the words in rows across the page. I select words from these two lists to make the poem. It's something akin to that prompt in which someone says “use these five words to make a poem” and then gives you an arbitrary set of words. Except in this case, all of the words need to be tied to the source text.

Separating out the words from their source context helps free me to use them in ways not tied to the source. For example, I feel more free to use words that can function as different parts of speech, such as bolt, which can function as a verb, adverb, or noun, as it fits the poem, not necessarily how it was used in the source text. Of course, a good number of folks aren't influenced by the story or specific meaning of the words on the page and can use the words without having to separate them from their context. I, unfortunately, am not one of them and so I create lists of free-standing words.

In addition to the word lists, I allow myself to use words that are not in the selection, but that can be discovered by:

 concatenation, e.g. sun + light --> sunlight

 erasure within a word to form a new word, e.g. erasing “ling” from “sparkling” to form "spark", sparkling  --> spark

If I get stuck, I allow myself to return to the source text on the page in order to apply erasure across a phrase to form a new word. If I can’t find a word I want within one line or 80 characters of text, I move on to another word or idea. As an example, take the phrase “as the new moon with.” By erasing “a” + “ the new” + “n wi” , you get the word “smooth”: as the new moon with --> smooth

For each revision of a poem, I go back to the word lists and techniques for finding new words.  I keep detailed notes so that I can adequately cite the source text, which is important.

Different people do remix differently and the above process is nothing official—it's just one that works for me. (I’m not sure there is an official remix method.)

It’s been interesting to note some of the comments I've received regarding remix poems. Some folks who are not fond of found poetry don’t consider it “real” poetry because they don't think it's original—not enough of the mark of the maker. Some who are ardent fans of found poetry don’t consider remix (or at least my remix process) to be “real” found poetry because there is not enough foundness to it. There’s too much original language—in this case, too much the mark of the maker, because the poem contains language that is not found directly in the source text or language that is not found in the same order as in the source text.


  1. Thank you for posting this! I think this is extremely helpful for me!


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