Inventing the Remix


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I’m already revving up for National Poetry Writing Month’s challenge of writing 30 poems in 30 days. Last year’s attempt resulted in 21 poems over the course of the month and most of those poems ended up becoming Palimpsest. In fact, there is only one poem in that chapbook that doesn’t have its roots in NaPoWriMo ’08 and that’s “Fire Escape.”

“Fire Escape” was written while looking over black and white photos of old fire escapes, most especially this incredible image from Stanley Forman, and after having read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Hidden Door,” a poem that really didn’t thrill me on first and subsequent reads. So why write a poem after it? Well, the idea of a hidden door, especially one on Anywhere Avenue, just wouldn’t let me go and the idea for it kept passing through my head which for me is like a poetry alarm clock that is yelling, “Write the poem!”

So to bridge last year’s NaPoWriMo with this year’s attempt to get out 30 poems in 30 days, all the poems this year will be some form of refacimento: poems written after or (as I recently saw somewhere) against a previously written poem. They may also take the form of collage text or centos (Peep last year’s “The Ice Worker Lives”) or some kind of found text. The trick will be to find some kind of thread that will bind them all together and then to be able to incorporate them into my current ms.

I know that this challenge is still 6 weeks away but poems, chapbook, and themes have a way of living in my head for a while before they actually become first drafts. Kinda like the way a freestyle rapper or other improvisational artist has a list of scenarios planned before the actual freestyle moment hits and creates the illusion of spontaneity or, as Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka would say, “Improvisation is a parlor trick.”

Big ups should go to Mary Oliver and her very excellent A Poetry Handbook for putting it in my head that poets should go through the process of step-by-step learning like any other artist–think how an apprentice painter, no matter what style they wish to pursue, has to draw a nude or a bowl of fruit in class. In this same way I’ve tried to figure out the rhythms and tones of writers before me by going over their work step-by-step.

I already have some text to help me get through this and look forward to finishing up DJ Spooky’s Sound Unbound, which happens to contain Jonathan Lethem’s very excellent “The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism”, a must read if you are interested in mosaic text; revisiting Javier Huerta’s thoughts on the Advertisement and his use of it in ; try to learn some more from the man who first introduced me to cut-up and collage, the innovator of the scratch, Grandmaster Flash; and listening to more Fania era breakbeats, basslines, and bugalús.

In keeping with the spirit of the remix, here is where I picked up the term refacimento:

On Language: Rifacimento
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Published: February 15, 2009
In re: repurpose, rebrand, remix, remash.

Other old citations prefer refacimento, pronounced re-FATCH-i-men-toe, from the Italian word taken up in English that means, in the definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, “a new-modelling or recasting of a literary work.” Such recreativity is accelerating today, especially in music, suggesting to me an updating to “the radical refashioning of a work of art, often by computer.” It has spawned a new set of synonyms beginning with re, Latin for “again.”

Full article can be found here.

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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