module 5

Module 5: Object Poems

In this module you will:

  • study object poems as models for your own creations
  • collect and assemble materials into an object poem, fluxus box, or cornell box that follows your theme
  • identify several art works or objects or texts which influence your work, giving context to your design choices
  • prepare for a five-minute talk which presents your influences to the class

Instructions:

  • Read the introduction, then read/look at the documentation of object poems below.
  • Using your theme as a guide and the object poems here as models, create a physical object (or a blueprint for one) which is an extension of (which is a) poem. What form might your poem take? What is its “appleness”? What physical objects would you include in a study on your theme? Then snap a picture or two in order to document what you’ve done. If your poem would take on an impossible form or you don’t have the time or materials to fully realize your vision, please jot down a description of the object which could stand in as a blueprint.
  • In our 5th class together, you’ll give a five minute talk on a single influence on your writing. Who’s in your lineage? What inspires you to create? Your influence may be literary (in any genre), musical, theatrical, visual, plant-based, literally anything that helps give context to your poems. (This is a question about your identity as an artist more generally and not strictly about the poems you’re writing for this workshop.) What really gets you going and why? As you prepare your talk, imagine that no one in the group will have heard of your reference. (Total aside: My friend just pointed me to this iconic James Wright poem  as the go-to example of an epiphanic ending and I was like “What? How have I never heard of this?” So.) What contextual information does the class need? Do you want to play a bit of the song or describe how the plant smells and where it grows? Lastly, you may wish to read/share specific moments in your own poems that link to this influence, or talk about why the influence never shows up completely or legibly.

Introduction:

  • Urayoan Noel: “In the late 1970s and early 1980s [Pedro] Pietri self-published a series of shorter works tending toward the conceptual, constructivist, and dissonant, from the blank pages of Invisible Poetry to the text orbitals of A Play for the Page and Not the Stage to I Never Promised You a Cheeseburger, an object poem in the shape of a cheeseburger prefaced by a page full of endlessly repeated word ‘EAT'”
  • Hayden Carruth: “What is the form of an apple? Certainly it is not only the external appearance, its roundness, redness, firmness, etc. Nor is it only the inner atomic structure. Nor is it the mysterious genetic force that creates appleness in the apple. It is all these things and more, the whole apple. The form is the apple. We cannot separate them. In philosophical terms it is the entire essence of the apple plus its existence, the fact of its being. I think that when we use the word form in reference to a poem we should use it in just this way. It means the whole poem, nothing less.”
  • Andre Breton: “I define the poem-object as a composition that tends to combine the resources from poetry and the plastic arts in speculating on their reciprocal powers of exaltation” (poor translation mine)
  • Natilee Harron: “Notably, the term ‘object-poem’ was borrowed from Surrealist works that played with material and symbolic relations between language and objects brought together into a common plane.”

Object Poem Examples: