Friday, September 12, 2008

an old poem embedded in thoughts of airports and found materials

According to my notes, this poem, hidden in my little chapbook search & rescue (Mercutio Press, 2003), was written around 6am from the Ottawa International Airport, Macdonald-Cartier, on July 20, 2001. Where would I have been going? I might have been going out to that West Coast Poetry Festival in Vancouver, but I'm really not sure, usually wanting to keep my summers open for the sake of my child. Where did the lines all come from? I know I'd received a copy of the new filling Station but days before from derek beaulieu, travelling with such as reading material, reading distraction. I know the Coke and Pepsi line from George Bowering, a little poem he had in the same issue. I'm sure if you looked, you could probably find the rest, which is why I was so open about where the lines came from. Is it still theft if you give such credit?

lazy poem written using
borrowed lines from filling station,
issue #21

alone in a rich cloud; we smoked
our last cigarette.

i dont care whether i get coke or pepsi.

he mentioned nothing about the german streets.

the harder i try to chuckle,
the sun forgets to close.

dont you know sirens end w/ punches.

in the meantime, i couldn’t care less,
why & when.
I've since worked to be more sly about where I steal lines, and twist lines and phrases into such unrecognizable forms that you would simply never know where they might have originated. Sometimes, even, a phrase causing another to appear in my head, and the point-of-origin irrevocably lost. I even admit that this poem is lazy; should I even take credit? Does this matter at all?

As Gregory Betts has already written, the idea of plunder is one of working through found material, writing already there, reworking out of what has been written into something else. It's what the character in Barbara Gowdy's novel Mister Sandman (1995) did at the end of the book, turning her home recordings of her family's voices back on themselves. Or poet Lise Downe, writing in the acknowledgements of her poetry collection, the soft signature (ECW Press, 1997): "All of these words have appeared elsewhere. Only their order has been changed, to maintain their innocence." Is there still such a thing?

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