Archive for the 'Constraint Experiments' Category


GRIM, ARROGANT OBFUSCATIONS (See yourself in here?)

Inspired (and suggested) by Erinrose and this magical word-confusion machine she found floating around on the internets.

Glib, Means Jeans.

The Annoying Gnash.

Menageries or Snore.

Joint in Mask.

Safest Dollar.

I’m Brutal Bender.

Fly Jeers Flaw.

Resonant Shed.

Jet Concocts Spankers.

Deem Less Jam.

Ha Ha! New Rants.

So Jam on Hand.

Raze Fang, NT.

Sizing Rebel.




rape-mobile (a line-by-line poem by ben and erinrose)

my heart is an unnamed comet

it doesn’t know itself

it wends elliptic, silent, cryptic

on thick boreal shelf

i sometimes call it bill or tom, its

mass white dwarf or elf

a slopped and failing slipped dick

a pale and thin-veined shell

for all i know is speed and loss

and uncontrolled release

my abject is my ontic core

of sappy, semen fleece

my jaculate’s an opaque moss,

the twin testes obese

and out in space my heart is sore

from choking carnal geese

my tears serve as a basting fat

my ass streams rays of light

and when i bend at waist-mark,

i dream heart-cock in flight

i’m donning but a cockle-hat

to raise my staff each night

i find it better in the dark

to push into the tight



celebrities whose names are also sentences:

Tom Waits

Pete Rose

Rosa Parks

Mark Spitz

Jeremy Irons

Jeff/Beau/Lloyd/Nash Bridges

Karl Marx or any of the Brothers

Ben Folds

Lester Bangs

Barry Bonds

Wesley Snipes

Britney Spears

Julia Stiles

Leann Rimes

Edward/George/Ken Burns

Bill Withers

Timothy Leary

Drew/Jim Carey

Cary Grant (which works both ways)


Kenneth Goldsmith (Thesis Draft Excerpt)

Thesis excerpt (draft) from section on Kenneth Goldsmith:

* * *

The popularity of so-called ‘conceptual writing’, to the extent that ‘popularity’ is an appropriate term to characterize such a marginal field, is largely owed to the work of Kenneth Goldsmith. Originally trained as a sculptor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Goldsmith became increasingly interested in Duchampian word-play (for example making a 300 pound sculpture of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book) and eventually devoted himself to solely text-based work. Later, as the founder of UBU web and a Senior Editor at PennSound, Goldsmith established himself as the preeminent champion and archivist of conceptual writing.

In much of his more recent work, Goldsmith has produced enormous volumes of text that are almost the literary equivalents of Andy Warhol films. For example, in ‘Day’, Goldsmith retypes the text of the daily NY Times newspaper from left to right, making no distinction between different columns, stories, or advertisements. The result is a document that estranges its source text while remaining entirely faithful. Hidden within the mass of text are strange and totally unexpected conjunctions and abutments of language, many of the most exciting of which only the most dedicated reader would both slogging his way into. Still, these moments of chance beauty exist, they may and must, and so are tantalizing. The pleasure of this text comes from the adventure of the search and from the thought of the text not-yet-read as much as the reading experience itself.

Texts like ‘Day’ also provide excellent examples of the fruitful combination of aleatoric and constraint practices. Another example of such combination is Goldsmith’s book ‘The Weather,’ a text entirely composed of the transcriptions of one minute weather reports given over the course of a year. ‘The Weather’ uses the aleatory to highlight the structure and repetition of received language, thereby using the aleatory to perform an analogous critique to Queneau’s of surrealism, despite the fact that Queneau saw his critique as precisely a critique of the aleatory. Of course, the kind of aleatorics by way of chosen source text that we see in ‘Day’ and ‘The Weather’ are reminiscent of, albeit not identical to, the N+7 method. That is, insofar as they are variations on selection and copying as a means to produce text, these texts can be seen as descendants of N+7. However, Goldsmith does not manipulate his source texts, he simply re-frames or re-situates them, an act very much in the Duchampian line of Oulipian practice.

Goldsmith terms his acts of copying-writing acts of ‘uncreativitity’- a response in part to the sheer volume of creative work being constantly produced. This naturally resonates with our earlier discuss of copyists, Bartlebys, refusals; of potential writing as also always potential non-writing. Such a reading is appropriate to the work and even asked for. However, it is not a total reading, as Goldsmith’s ‘uncreative’ projects still possess interest as texts, even if, as noted earlier, they are not always constructed in such a way as to invite a thorough reading-through in the manner of a conventional work.

Take ‘The Weather’. By all rights, a simple transcription of weather reports ought to be a dull, unenjoyable, and uninformative read. However, as the literary theorist and critic Marjorie Perloff argues in her essay “Moving Inspiration” On Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘The Weather’, the text is neither so simple nor so boring as it seems at face value. For one thing, the book is structured in 4 parts, each section conforming to a season, in such a way as to produce a “classical narrative” arc.(Moving Inspritation) Another important choice that Goldsmith makes is to copy the weather reports at his whim rather than keep to a strict schedule of transcription. This choice, in combination with his decision not to date the entries, serves to abstract the text and keep it from reading as purely historical record. Perloff notes an almost science fiction-like quality in the decontextualized, strangely personal, stammering and semi-scientific reports. That is to say, as Goldsmith has framed them, these transcriptions possess a genuinely literary quality.

Perloff makes her point about the evocative value of the text by citing a “passage [that] nicely exemplifies the powers of “mere” transcription, mere copying, to produce new meanings. From the perspective of the weather forecaster, Iraq is experiencing some “good good weather”-good visibility, no doubt, for bombing those targeted sites, and not too much wind. The risk of “blowing sand” is slight. After the reference to “a little rain in Baghdad,” the “we” shifts back to the New York area, as if the Baghdad rain or wind were merely a brief diversion from everyday life in the Tri-State area where it’s a nice average day with temperature in the forties and a chance of rain.” (Marjorie Perloff, from “Moving Inspiration”: On Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘The Weather’)

As the above passage indicates, ‘The Weather’, though sourced from New York, is invaded by the narrative thread of invasion. By a purely fortuitous chance, Goldsmith’s ‘Weather’-copying period coincided with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. As were weather-bulletin listeners during that year, ‘The Weather”s readers are given a weirdly sterile and weather-centric account of the war. This intrusion of a war narrative adds a compelling and powerful layer to the text. Perloff utilizes a staple of Oulipian theory, the clinamen, to explain how ‘The Weather’ draws much of its force from the instrusion of the Iraq War narrative. She write that, “[i]n the wake of such “consumer minimalism,” as Goldsmith calls the mode of these one-minute weather reports, those sound bytes that “take our most complex, life-sustaining environment, and simplify it in a way that either aids or abets your commute” (email 14 July), the poet need provide no moralizing on the horrors of war; the actual discourse of the day says it all. The Baghdad thread is thus the clinamen that gives the “classical narrative” of The Weather its piquancy.” (Moving Inspiration)


‘The Weather’ is available online HERE.


Watching, Reading, Voting

Best use of appropriation in popular art:


Also, 5 trope is not dead!. Some background, 5 trope is probably one of my all-time top 5 favorite literary journals and I thought they’d stopped publishing because they had not posted new material in over a year.

It seems they just changed web addresses and did not link the old address to the new. So this means they are probably not super tech-savvy. Thankfully, they are amazingly language savvy. For example, look at the story ‘Small Finger of Potent Magnetism’ by Caren Beilen. Sick. These are texts in the fullest and most laudatory sense of the word. GOGOREAD!


Finally, I want to note that voting is open for the StorySouth Million Writers Award. I would like to encourage you to go and vote for the story ‘Fuckbuddy’ written by Roderic Crooks and published by the always rad Eyeshot. There are other good stories nominated too. One from AGNI is included, and since Sean used to do some editing for them, I have a guess as to who he’s backing.

Anyways, check out the nomineesHERE and then vote.


In conversation with Mickaël Mottet of Angil & Hiddntracks : :

A few months ago I stumbled upon this lovely album by “Angil and Hiddntracks” called Oulipo Saliva. The album was put together (one gets the sense it was built instead of recorded) under a great deal of constraint—avoiding the use of the letter “e,” avoiding the musical key of E, a restriction to mostly woodwind instrumentation excepting, for instance, the use of an old untuned piano.

I would certainly recommend it, as it’s a carefully crafted piece at every level. If you are interested in hearing more samples, here is their myspace page.

With experiments like this, results can be either gimmicky or a wonderful surprise. They are, in this case, pretty dazzling. I wrote a small piece about it and Mickaël must have had a google alert set up for his name, because he dropped me a message and then graciously agreed to have an email conversation with me about his music.

Here’s the text: I think you’ll find that Mickaël is an uncommonly sharp, crafty, and friendly musician. I’ve let him know that I will be posting this here, and that you may be commenting on it. So, if you have anything to say, make sure to say it

Continue reading ‘In conversation with Mickaël Mottet of Angil & Hiddntracks : :’


Exquisite corpse

Upon perusal of some of the more technical aspects of the Ghost Island I came to discover that the list of signed up contributors is far greater than the one displayed to the right of the text you are reading right now. So, in some sort of attempt at improved collectivism here on the Island, I am proposing a story composed of exquisite corpse style postings from as many of the inhabitants as we can possibly drum up. I will start:

Rodger went to the store on Wednesday, which was strange for him, as he was a regular Thursday shopper. He had decided upon coming early in the week because a failed attempt at making a cake for his Grandmother’s 82nd birthday had left him without some basic essentials. It had cost him 7 eggs, 18 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, 9 cups of brown sugar, an hour and a half, and one gallon of spilled milk that was knocked over by his cat Walter the 2nd.

December 2018
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