Burroughs, William S. “The Cut-Up Method.” The New Media Reader. By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT, 2003. 89-91. Print.
Queneau, Raymond. “A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems.” The New Media Reader. By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT, 2003. 149-69. Print.
Queneau, Raymond. “Yours for the Telling.” The New Media Reader. By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT, 2003. 171. Print.
I found it pretty awesome that the NMR editors who wrote the Introduction for The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin brought up Burroughs’ sordid past in the second sentence of his introduction, “Here, William Burroughs –adding machine fortune heir, junkie, killer of his wife, most challenging and complex of the Beat writers…” (p. 89).
This is why the New Media Reader is useful, because I knew Burroughs’ name was familiar and didn’t have to google it to find out that not only was he was a rich dude who murdered his wife and did drugs, but he was also a beat writer. This is relevant because the stream-of-consciousness style of certain beat generation writers fits in pretty perfectly with the cut-and-paste method Burroughs describes. Kerouac’s book, On the Road, for example is written in a beautifully rhythmic series of descriptions of his travels, and musical segments of almost nonsensical poetry that could very well have been written in bits and pieces and assembled later on. (If you haven’t read it, do it. You’ll sound smart to your friends and its one of those books that gives you an experience you won’t forget.)
Another Oulipo piece to carry over from last week’s reading selections, I chose A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems. I find that, even after assembling the pieces to create a new sonnet, I wasn’t impressed with my final work. It seems to have a poetic tone, but it makes no sense in the end. I did enjoy several of the verses on their own, however. A few of my favorite lines were, “To one sweet hour of bliss my memory clings,” “Such merchandise a melancholy brings,” “To break a rule Britannia’s might might waive,” and “For Europe’s glory while Fate’s harpies strum.”
I found that when I translated a few of them from French without the author’s help, the interpretation was easy to change. It seemed like a few of them were even translated into a more poetic form when in English, rather than a direct translation. Many of them had to be shifted to maintain the rhyme structure, which impressed me because not all French words have a rhyming English cognate. One French line that I translated was, “Je me souviens encor de cette heure exeuquise,” which the author translated to, “To one sweet hour of bliss my memory clings.” My translation came out, “I still remember that exquisite hour,” though I couldn’t find a direct translation for the word “exeuquise.” Though I was impressed with the author’s poetic translating skills, I’m still not convinced that the Oulipo stands up as an independent art form, since it’s all just copy/paste after the initial lines are provided.