Susana Gardner will be teaching Found Poetics, or Appropriation as Textual Intimacy, an exploration of writing through varied utilization and use of found texts and practice; flarf poetics, erasure, lifting, omitting, centos and cut-ups. During the class, students will explore new methods of reading and writing poetry in a muse state thus culled. The class will be encouraged to upcycle vintage books, found texts and other ephemera to create new poems alongside weekly prompts that will explore new forms. Students are encouraged to purchase a used book from Ada Books with which they will creatively omit, erase or cut-up in poetic exercise and craft. The instructor will supply additional texts, in the form of emailed PDFs and paper copies. For examples of course material, check out Michelle Detorie’s Sin in Wilderness or A Humament by Tom Philips. Course runs July 16-August 20, 2015 on Thursdays, 6:30-9:00 pm. Register here.
Ben Williams: How did you decide to teach a class on found texts? What do you hope to accomplish through the course?
Susana Gardner: I love working among other works and ‘found’ poetics. This could be in the form of found text found virtually anywhere and thus be more of a flarfy gesture or through the art of disseminating found literature. This is an exercise that is reliant on process more than output necessarily and invites other mediums and processes than merely staring at a blank page. Dead authors and strange texts alike can aid our process in creation, get the wheels turning and produce strange and wonderfully unexpected creatures/poems.
BW: How does altering a text, specifically through erasure or censorship, change its meaning? How does the act of re-creation, even destruction, challenge the notion of authorship?
SG: There is so much to be found in existing texts— especially antiquated books hold much possibility in way of creating ‘new’ texts. The experience of working with found texts can be spiritual and meditative as well. One needs to trust and follow a certain level of intuitiveness when omitting the next word. Ultimately, new poems can be salvaged and lifted from the original texts with quite a different meaning. The process is as important as the outcome. The act of re-creation and salvaging alongside disruption and certain destruction of the original into a new work certainly challenges the idea that authorship exists in the singular ‘I’, as writers are constantly writing among by our poetic influences as much as those influences are writing with us thus couching the idea of originality into what is more than not certainly is manifold and multiplicitous. Whether an original work is noted or not, we are all influenced and the circle thus continues. The art of altering an older poetic text is not new—yet bold as we choose to altercate a text and this takes an amount of thought and is a gesture, sometimes ironic, sometimes a poetic tip of the hat of the greatest reverence or challenge even.
BW: The physical presentation of your work–cutouts, pasting, bracketing, and imagery–seems very important to the experience of the text. How did you develop your style? What were your inspirations?
SG: The physical process of creation is definitely important to me. I always suggest that poets learn how to typeset as this gives the page the full possibility—there is so much more to the page than flush left! My ‘style’ continues to change to a certain extent with each project. I have many influences… I adore many modernists to the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets (my time in DC was well-spent)… but I also adore and return often to the Romantics. K. Lorraine Graham really got my literary heritages in her generous reading of my second book Herso.
Not By With America by Susana Gardner
BW: What are you working on now? Is there any specific found text that you would really like to work with sometime in the future?
SG: I do have a poetry MS in process—the working title is Somewhere Upon a Time (that gorgeous raw) but lately I have been devoting a lot of time to my publishing pursuits as the editor of Dusie. I have erased Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets to the Portuguese several times, and often find this an interesting work and re-work with as a found poetical matter. I enjoy the process as much as the outcome and the variety the form naturally allows. Will I erase or ‘lift’ certain words similarly or will other words speak to me in the process of finding the new poem within? I enjoy the quiet meditation with Browning, and my reading and rereading of the sonnets adds to my understanding of her work as much as it illuminates meaning for my own. I have created many sound poems with DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. The Victorian vocabulary is intense and thrilling to work with as it is difficult. I never know exactly where I am headed when I begin projects like this one. I never intended to write sound poetry… but the page called for it and perhaps Lawrence calls for it…culls for it. This is a way for me to keep dead writers alive as much as it is to produce new work, to keep the conversation going.
Susana Gardner is the author of the full-length poetry collections HERSO (Black Radish Books, 2011) and [ LAPSED INSEL WEARY ] (The Tangent Press, 2008). Her third book, CADDISH also from Black Radish Books. She has published several chapbooks, including Hyper-Phantasie Constructs (Dusie Kollektiv, 2010) and Herso (University of Theory and Memorabilia Press, 2009). Her poetry has appeared in many online and print publications including Jacket, How2, Puerto Del Sol, and Cambridge Literary Review among others. Her work has also been featured in several anthologies, including 131.839 slög með bilum (131,839 keystrokes with spaces) (Ntamo, Finland, 2007) and NOT FOR MOTHERS ONLY: CONTEMPORARY POEMS ON CHILD-GETTING AND CHILD-REARING (Fence Books, United States, 2007). She lives in Rhode Island, where she also teaches, freelances and edits the online poetics journal and experimental kollektiv press, Dusie.