Today’s exercise: emphasizing process itself, and/or generating exciting new material, using parameters. Parameters are part of any conceptual art, as well.
This works really well if you can go outside and be in the world, moving about a bit from one setting to another. Give yourself a particular parameter, one such that when you encounter it you will immediately stop what you are doing and start writing, influenced by your surroundings and observations, or even in mid-thought. Try to avoid the use of cliches and canned phrases, and don’t be afraid of spontaneous new directions and weirdness. One example that worked well for me when I was in an international space (Lisbon, last summer) was to write every time I heard an unfamiliar language. Your parameters could be interpreted loosely, or more strictly, this is your exercise for you to design. You might do it by time, things you encounter, the point is to have some organizing factor to when you start writing (and when you write, finish out thoughts to your liking and then move on to the next time that parameter happens). You might generate some interesting material to be edited away from the exercise, OR, the exercise, the parameter itself, might become part of the piece in terms of conceptual work. One of my responses to “when I heard a foreign language” was a bunch of lyrical lines, and the next one was just a long list of every color I saw, and the next was trying to describe a conversation I was witnessing. It’s up to you to name the parameters of your world and then navigate them. This can also be yet another way to get at the idea of an “organizing principle” or a “mode of inquiry” for the piece.
Works equally for poetry and prose.
Part of 30/30 and my own Prompt A Day for National Poetry Month. Image: Kenzie Allen (Lisbon graffiti)
14/30: All Hail The King
"… I couldn’t have
gotten there without all the
IRS rigamarole but once
I got there I could export it
as an excel file and work on it
from my computer. This is
the first good payoff. Tea-infused
Titos vodka, mango puree, fresh
O.J., agave nectar. All along
they’ve said we want
to know the real answer,
not what the higher ups
want to hear, but this data
has nothing but science
to back it up and we’re
(A bar-poem about Elvis’ impending arrival. ;D )