new zealand electronic poetry centre


Mark Young


Statement for Word for / Word

Mark Young

Sometimes I like to think of myself as a Zen calligrapher, writing the poem without lifting the brush from the page. One side straight-edge, the other Rexroth's crooked margins. & even though the poem may be focused on one image, or a series of related ones, at the same time there is this channelled flow of other images, the influences that brought you to this single spot, cropped to fit. Usually unseen, part of the mystery of the poem.

Somewhere in the sixties I read an article by William Burroughs, in the Times Literary Supplement I think. He was talking about his cut-up technique, & used as example the imaginary journal of an English Lady but a journal in three columns. The first column was what she intended to do that day, the second what she actually did & the third what her thoughts were as she was getting about her business. These would then be cut up & randomly mixed to give a narrative of the day. I excised the cut-up; but the parallel streams stayed with me.

Converting this to actuality in the typewriter age was extremely difficult & so it was something I attempted only once, at a very low level. & then I drifted away from writing for twenty-five years.....

During which time came split screen movies & TV, & word processing packages that allowed you to columnate, use different fonts, broaden or narrow the columns, justify one & leave the other ragged. & I came back to poetry with it all there waiting......

But running loose, out for agistment. Trigger one was reading Samuel Delany's Atlantis where he would occasionally break into two columns of prose, independent but related. The parallel streams drifted back towards the surface. Trigger two, the primary poem, caught its spark from something that snagged on me from a biography of Werner Heisenberg, exactly what I am now uncertain but which, when written, demanded that it be accompanied by a type of inventory, an infinite list running down the side of the page like a record of your past website visits & the promise of more to come. Right justified.

Rockhampton, 2004



Last updated 11 March, 2004