Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 15, 2014 - Roundtable on Appropriation: Tinker Greene Live!

We were delighted to have Tinker Greene join us once again this past Sunday. Tinker guided us through a kaleidoscopic discussion on appropriation, sharing his thoughts on collage, cut-ups, and using quotes (in several cases an entire quote becomes a poem) from other text sources, mostly prose/non-fiction. Tinker also "appropriates" from his own well of personal memory--his autobiographical past--forming poems with the disjunctive images of his childhood: a bale of hay on a scythed field that's "melded" with a stack of LIFE magazines in an attic during WWII in "My Vermont."

Tinker started off reading "Hoagy Carmichael Reminiscing about Bix Beiderbecke," a poem from his chapbook Funeral Sentences in which he "steals" the words of the "Stardust" composer Carmichael from his (ghost written) autobiography. Also a "photographic image-maker," he explained the process of "framing" prose as a way of forming the poem; every poem is "framed," set off on the page. Williams, Pound, and Eliot were cited as modernist poets who often re-framed found language.

While it's the Romantic period (Poe and Coleridge cited) that Tinker often returns to, it was during the 1960's that he first experienced appropriation while encountering Gary Snyder's "John Muir on Mt. Ritter," a straight quote from Muir originally a section in Snyder's long poem, Myths and Texts. Next, Tinker read from The Road to Xanadu by John Livingston Lowes, a work revealing Coleridge's "mind as a well," from "the shattered fragments of memory" to "snake-birds" and "footless birds of paradise and the fauna of polar and tropical seas." We explored what makes things collect inside our memory-wells, acknowledging that much of it is not (nor ever will be) new or original thought being human on a planet full of regurgitated language. "We are born into the world and start picking up and using language," Tinker clarified. "Poetry is condensation."

Next, Tinker read "Pouring Glory" from his recent chapbook, Your Thoughts Are Real. The poem is a direct quote or "made of the words" of astronaut Chris Hadfield's experience in space that is versified and "arranged" on the page. After the break, Tinker read (by request) "Blue Flame Ring," a prose poem "written the day before a reading" and retelling his sublime dread while hiking in threatening weather, getting lost and taking refuge in a small cave. The title alludes to a dropped passage from an earlier draft which remains as a mysterious fragment, a kind of cut-up.

Toward the end of our show, Tinker shared a quote from a book that had a big impression on him as a young poet, Ronald Johnson's Book of the Green Man--a hiking trip poem set in England, studded with quotes: "decayed literature makes the richest of all soils" (Thoreau). Self-taught, Tinker has allowed himself through the decay that begets other decay, reading one piece of writing and following its resources back. "Romanticism is a theme." Tinker then read sonnets LXVII and LXVIII from Ted Berrigan's The Sonnets, cut-ups of the poet's own work.

Closing with "My Vermont" (1, 2 and 3), Tinker's sonnet sequence, we were reminded that it's freeing not to tell the truth when appropriating from childhood memory ("like Wordsworth"); readers will garner some form of truth. "I was a horrid child, possessed by the to travel as an/ ectoplasmic wraith floating through the moonlight..." We are grateful that Tinker floated back into the studio to share with us more from his personal "well," however appropriated! His chapbooks are available upon request at Click here to listen.

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