I spent a fantastic afternoon with the Year 10 English class at Streetly Academy in Sutton Coldfield this week. In a poetry masterclass we looked at structure, rhyme scheme, imagery, language and punctuation in Robert Browning’s ‘Meeting at Night’ (a surprisingly subversive poem!).
Then we ripped it up into little bits and made our own poems out of it. We borrowed from Tristan Tzara’s 1902 poem, ‘How to Make a Dadaist Poem’:
Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are–an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.
I managed to capture a couple of great examples before the poems got swept away:
large gray voice quench
pushing from fiery hearts
the sea and beach,
night and sand
waves and ringlets appears
the little joys each startled fears
low fears, its pushing the sand.
appears: loud, less long land
These are great poems, but whose are they? These are Browning’s words (everybody’s words?), arranged to a method proposed by Tzara, but by the hand of today’s young poets!
This ‘cut-up’ method was later used by the Beat writer, WIlliam S Burroughs, and by David Bowie.
My grateful thanks to the students and the English staff at Streetly for their warm welcome. We are looking forward to your visit to Staffs next term.