STUDENT POST: Give it a New Context: Creative Interaction with Found Quotes by Amber
During my time at JBWC, I wanted to explore the book collection and bring the texts on the shelf into our writings. I had the idea of planning a pre-workshop that leads us to the bookshelf, to find inspiration from words already written.
We each picked a book from the shelf, flipped it to a random page, and found a line that rang a bell or that we naturally gravitated to. Based on the quote, we created something new: a poem or a flash fiction piece. We took the quote out of its context and gave it a new home; in the new context, we incorporated the line to express what we wanted.
The line we chose showed something about ourselves but also took us somewhere new, which I realized as I wrote this poem inspired by lines from James Tate’s Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee.
Marxist philosopher friend
We apologized for not being in touch
Your gold rimmed glasses reflected a melancholy light
A thin layer of dust
Mumbled the shine of your old leather oxfords
Age is unforgiving,
You said as if that’s your excuse for having stopped sending written letters
So is capitalism,
So is time,
Hemingway took the title of a story to title a new piece, which conveys a bleak scenario:
Why The Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling
(Title of E.A.P work)
He had owed some people some money,
And had not realized they spoke French when he swore at them.
He had drunk too much and mad too many promises.
And so they came,
Back alley brawlers in possession of bravado and baseball bats
To knock him off of his pedestal of apathy.
He was short; it was easy to gain advantage, even easier when he finally lay down at their feet.
They called him a man full of mockery.
His crooked smile daring them to break his bones
Which they did.
Some other imaginative pieces came along. As in Robin’s, she took a turn and read a line through the lens of environmental issue.
“Though he feared Death and Hell, the sound of an axe in the grove frightened him more” (Robert Graves, The White Goddess)
Because many became few
Became awe became “mother I’m not sure I ever
Saw.” Every table a corpse.
Every house a skeleton.
Every pencil a finger no longer used for pointing. What does
Hell matter when leaves are crisp memories?
When death is all around us like wood chips?
If a tree falls in a forest but there is no forest, why ask?
Hannah’s piece about roaches is witty, heartfelt, and full-of-life:
Inspired by The Daily Mirror, page 95
Nothing Greater than love unless
It’s the primal urge to life
Of the roaches in this apartment
See-you tell me you really care about me, but these cockroaches, I mean they really don’t want to die.
Plus, I mean like I think it’s awesome that you are so passionate about things, but the cockroaches are really passionate about living they don’t see a compulsive need to talk about it ALL THE TIME.
And, you see, you say I make you want to live more than anything has ever made you want to live, but these roaches, they really just couldn’t survive without the messes you keep cleaning up.
Through this activity, I saw the malleability of words at play. The way we twisted borrowed words, making them fit into our own voice was fascinating; so was the fact that written words can give life to new creations.
But it was still readable
After all the washes it’d been through
The silvery letters still shone
Glistening against her warm skin
The pair of twinning arms
Wave together the fabric of the mist
Binding her to him forever
She’d scrubbed at it for hours
But it was still readable.
Books, no matter old or new, providing us the source for new energy.