Sunday, February 21, 2010

Found Poem

This weekend I found a poem. I did not write it; I only recognized it. That is what a "found poem" is. It's part of early deconstructionism, a sort of Marcel Duchamp approach to poetry, that involves taking language from one context and putting it in another. In a word, appropriation. In our college poetry writing class, we were shown examples by Mark Strand, and we went out and read signs and cereal boxes and other texts, looking for poems. I've been looking for them ever since-- but this is the best one I've found. It's so good, I put my name on it and sent it off to the New Yorker (you can send them poems online now, and the automated message said that they'll respond in three months).  I can't wait three months to share it with the world...

The poem I found was this:



Interior of John Gordon’s mansion.
Bob and Dick— Gordon’s two shiftless sons.
Gordon’s fruitless efforts to make men of them.
His socially ambitious wife.
Their daughter Margaret.
The mysterious Countess Du Prey.
The visit of Betty Green.


The curse of wealth.
A father’s love for his children.
The love of Betty Green.
Betty makes a proposition.
Bob and Dick accept.
Bob accepts Gordon’s offer.
A villain’s treachery.
The ruin of Gordon.


Gordon’s illness.
The downfall of Dick.
A secret in John Gordon’s life.
Bob learns the truth.
Gordon’s trust in Bob.
Bob makes a solemn promise.
The death of Gordon.


Dick’s mistake.
Bob’s loyalty.
Van Darcy threatens.
Countess Du Prey turns the tables.
Betty’s decision.
Dick acknowledges his guilt.
Bob’s secret becomes known.
A happy ending.

Don't you love it? I want to find an open mic right away, because it's even better when read aloud.  I put it in my manuscript, the first poem in the second section, the one called "Art, like life." Because really what the manuscript is about (I think, anyway) is the way language can comprehend life or not, make life seem more real, shape life, and where it falls short. The role of artifice in our understanding of the "meaning" of life, and the meaning of the spiritual life. I put a note to the poem at the end of the manuscript, which tells where I got it:  Note: This is a found poem. The original text can be found in the script of the play Gilded Youth by Martin Heymans, published by the Catholic Dramatic Movement, Briggsville, Wisconsin, 1926. It's in the frontmatter of a play Steve's grandfather wrote, among many popular plays he wrote, known for their high moral message and for being "clean entertainment." The scripts were purchased for 50 cents each (12 for $5.40) by dramatic societies throughout the Midwest. There's a scene about such a dramatic society in Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, and the arguments that ensue are over the "cleanness" of the play.
If the New Yorker decides to take it, what do I do? There is no note. I found it. Steve says Grandpa Martin would be happy if it found new life in the 21st century. I think it would just be fabulous.

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