Cut-up poetry

William S Burroughs would've been 100 this week and the Disquiet Junto got me to make a song using the lead story from the local newspaper as lyrics.

My partner Jo has been making cut-up poetry for a few months, inspired by the originator of the form: Tristan Tzara. Apparently he was kicked out of the Surrealists for thinking he could compose a better poem automatically and, as a result, started the Dadaists.

Today I had a go, with mixed results. It's quite exciting the way the juxtapositions force your brain to make sense from random combinations of words. Burroughs thought the process could be a magical ritual, revealing hidden meaning. I like his idea of audio being used the same way to cast curses by intercutting 'bad' sounds into a recording, such as his example of closing a restaurant he didn't like by recording them and then adding police sirens and screams. It's a kind of remixing.
Call Me Burroughs records a quasi-magical revenge attack on a Boulder deli from which two of his opiated friends had recently been thrown out. First, Burroughs arranged for a surreptitious tape recording to be made inside the deli—ambient noise, kitchen clatter, waitress-customer banter—and then, days later, with equal surreptitiousness, he played it back from a cassette recorder inside his coat as he sat at one of the tables. As Miles writes: “Over the next hour he increased the volume so that you could just about hear it, but no one appeared to notice.” Yet subliminal damage was being inflicted: discontinuous time streams, information feedback. “After forty-five minutes … one of the waiters threw down his apron and stalked out, followed by the owner, arguing loudly. The owner returned and began to scream at the serving staff, sending two of the women running to the ladies’ room in tears.” Burroughs, psychic vandal, was 63 years old at the time of this incident.