One small, square box of revenge

To me, blackout poetry represents an opportunity to make mischief out of boring things like financial columns and interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger. You excise the dull parts with swaths of ink or paint. It’s like a secret code created with gleeful defacement.

talk to strangers, surprising men, a paper friend wrote that morning

You can see how I made a “rough draft” in pencil, but then couldn’t erase it because that would’ve effectively murdered the newsprint.

Poetry, in general, isn’t something I write. But I can never resist mischief (or trickery, or sneakiness*), and apparently I created a lot of blackout poetry a few years ago. I posted another blackout poem over a year ago. I found these few poems while looking through an old art journal, and had one of those “Oh, cool!” moments that come around sometimes when looking through old things you’ve forgotten about.

Or even things that aren’t so old. If you write enough, there’s a point when your brain can’t hold it all in, and blog posts from maybe two months ago read like new.

Call someone who you think they're an enemy.

If I twist my brain hard enough, I can justify this as being actual advice. Of some sort.

I thought I’d share these, because out of all the blackout poetry I found, these were the ones that came out surprising well. Or at least the ones that didn’t make me think, “Holy crap, how can anyone over seventeen compose something so depressively emo?”)

one small square box of revenge

I imagine it’s wrapped in elegant paper the color of titanium.

And the idea of a small, square box of revenge, whatever that is, amused me.


*Despite the fine distinctions between trickery, sneakiness, and mischief, I have tags for both sneakiness and trickery, and most of the posts overlap. Speaking of sneakiness, I just learned I’m the top Google result for “Kris Bowser sneaking food into movie.” For reasons..

Please Kill Me and then go do some stuff

A few years ago, I picked up Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk on the used book shelf at the grocery store. We put it on our cinder block bookshelf next to our Star Wars books and our giant thesaurus, and whatever other books we have on display in our living room that we think make us look cool, but actually do the opposite.

Please Kill Me sitting on the shelf

Please Kill Me thinks it’s cooler than the other books on my shelf. Even the Star Wars ones.

For years, music books were among the few types of nonfiction that could hold my attention through a few hundred pages. One day, I picked up Please Kill Me on a whim and read a few pages. I remained hypnotized in its pages until I finished it.

There’s less about the music itself than I would like, and the focus is on a fairly small number of bands. Plenty of TMI moments as well. However, it stitches together direct quotes so seamlessly that sometimes it doesn’t feel like reading separate voices. And despite the overwhelming number of people whom I’d probably hate if I met them in real life, it really conveys the living community of the New York punk scene, and it makes me want to be there. It reminds me of how important community is.

I wanted to share this quote from Legs McNeil, one of the authors of Please Kill Me (from page 334):

“Overnight, punk had become as stupid as everything else. This wonderful vital force that was articulated by the music was really about corrupting every form—it was about advocating kids to not wait to be told what to do, but make life up for themselves, it was about trying to get people to use their imaginations again, it was about not being perfect, it was about saying it was okay to be amateurish and funny, that real creativity came out of making a mess, it was about working with what you got in front of you and turning everything embarrassing, awful, and stupid in your life to your advantage.”

At its best, punk wasn’t about studied coolness or meticulous safety-pinning. It was about doing shit. Kicking down doors. It was refusing to be stopped by roadblocks on the obvious path in front of you, roadblocks that say “you can’t go here,” and taking that DIY spirit and making your own road out of salvaged bricks and broken glass and a found bucket of tar*.

That quote reminds me to make my own damn artwork to hang in my apartment rather than to buy manufactured art from Target or someplace, and to make that artwork out of subjects and materials I like rather than worry about getting things a certain way. It’s better to do something creative and true than it is to make the place you live a poor copy of something in a magazine.

It reminds me of why I’m going to help make a new wooden table top for what used to be a glass deck table but, thanks to an incident** that qualifies as “embarrassing, awful, and stupid,” is currently just an empty frame sitting on a sad deck.

It reminds me to write the things that I write, and that the things I write usually have to start out as a mess.

It reminds me to experiment and do things and learn, because so, so many people do not do things, only consume them. It reminds me that the biggest difference between many of my bad days and my good ones is that I did real things on the good ones. I made life up for myself.


*You can tell I know a lot about making roads.
**We didn’t buy a base for our umbrella because we didn’t like any that the store had. We knew we needed to get one, but the umbrella didn’t blow away, which sort of caused an idea to creep into our heads—an idea that maybe we didn’t need a base after all. Sometimes, we left the umbrella open, though we knew not do this. But again, nothing tragic happened, and another idea crept into our heads—an idea that it’s probably not the end of the world if we leave the umbrella open sometimes. One day, we came home to find that our umbrella had nearly blown off the deck in a big gust of wind, and a pile of tempered glass pebbles sat underneath what used to be our table top. And we knew better.

“Checklist,” a blackout poem

What I like about blackout poetry is that it’s sort of an inverted version of pinhole cipher, where a hidden message is concealed in printed matter by pinholes under the words of the real message. I used to make pinhole ciphers on discarded newspapers in cafeterias and coffee shops, just in case someone noticed.

checklist

“Checklist. Smile smile smile smile. Imagine the lie.”

If I had nine lives, I’d use one of them to be a spy who retires and opens a coffee shop.  Preferably, the spy part would be in the early half of the twentieth century, before analogue cryptography was completely outmoded.

With blackout poetry, I can just sort of pretend that someone sent me a secret message and pick out whatever words or syllables interest me.

I didn’t have any particular plan when I did this one, but it’s clear to me that this poem explains how I deal with a lot of social niceties, particularly being asked how I’m doing when I’m not doing well, but I don’t want to say so. Smile, smile, find some sort of lie, and try not to sigh depressively.

Not that I would put on such a charade at my spy coffee shop. I like to think I foster an atmosphere of erudite grumpiness.

The camera ate my color

Perception and memory interest me.

I took the first photo at the community garden where my partner has a plot, and it looks much duller than I remembered. This became even more obvious when I sliced off the top to use for my website’s header.

Part of the blame for that falls to my digital camera, which does poorly with low light and action, and is also skittish around children and wolves.

Part of it has to do with my own perception. How can a flat picture on a screen compare to standing on a hill at the onset of a cool spring night, the air rich with plant smells? I’m sure the sum total of impressions from my other senses influenced my memory.

I punched up the color in this picture three times. While the first picture is the one I took, and the third one matches my memory, the second one might be closer to reality. The fourth one isn’t quite hyperreal, but it looks more like an idealized, imagined sunset.

Even though number two is probably most accurate, three is more truthful in a way. It still can’t capture the energy of being alive with cold wind in your face, but the extra vibrancy conveys a bit more of the energy I remember.

They say that cameras don’t lie. But that depends.  Do you count a lie of omission as a lie?

The Index Card-a-Day Challenge

It’s now July 4th, and despite my Mr. Freeze-level hatred of warm weather, I haven’t been having such a bad time. I’m not even dreading the rest of July too much. This is partly thanks to the Index-Card-a-Day Challenge at Daisy Yellow, which I have participated in for the last two years.

Index-Card-a-Day is a challenge which involves making some kind of art on an index card every day in June and July. It’s not about making fantastic artwork (although that can absolutely happen), but rather about having a small, cheap canvas on which to do *something.* Daisy Yellow explains this in more detail, and with better pictures.

Color pencil index card color wheel

Index card color wheel, for reference.

Last year, I used ICAD as an opportunity to learn more about color theory. As a writer, I no longer have favorite words. They all have their uses. You can’t just use the word “defenestrate” because it’s your favorite when you’re writing about something it has nothing to do with, like coffee. Or your family. When I used to make art, I would mostly use black and grey, blue and purple, seeing as they are my favorites. Now I know how to make something yellow and brown, if what I’m trying to express has nothing to do with black and grey, blue and purple. Last year, ICAD was a great, low pressure way to learn more about color hands-on. So on a given day my assignment might be to “make something orange!” but other than that, I did anything I wanted.

I also learned how to make nice mini-collages from magazine pages that I clandestinely ripped out at work. At a cookout* I went to around this time, a guy I remembered from high school as being both really nice and having an enviable biking-places-doing-art-wearing-hoodies lifestyle confirmed what I had begun to suspect: the secret to a good collage is not to think, to go by instinct, to quash any impulse towards lining things up and adjusting the everloving fuck out of cut-out lampshades and bulldogs.

Tropical fish collage with blackout poem

Blackout poetry, but with fish.

So this year, I have been doing the ICAD challenge again. June was a crappy month, and I didn’t do as much with ICAD as I wanted. Since I’ve been working on my drawing this year, I may end up using the rest of ICAD to further that learning. Soon I will probably post the index cards I have made so far on my flickr. National Novel Writing Month has always been a time for me to dedicate to writing, no matter if I’ve had a poor writing year. Now I have the Index-Card-a-Day challenge to fill the same function for my art. Instead of being the classic security guard with the magazine, when the building emptied for the night, I was the security guard with the gluestick. And as someone who is prone to depression, participating in ICAD is a great way to make myself feel better during a time of year when I tend to stay indoors and get less sunlight. Yes, I have Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. Clinically, I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I’m sure I’ve got it. So yeah, treating RSAD with ICAD.

This month is not only the 2nd half of ICAD, but also Camp NaNoWriMo. So my big dilemma for the moment, after I finish this post, is whether I should go draw something, go write something, or put off both and get some more coffee.


 

*where cookout is short hand for night time outdoor gathering with a big ass fire, and liquor.