Sunday, January 14, 2018



Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod 
(unpublished unique collage book, 2016)

Philip Whalen, Collected Poems, p. 428 by Jim Leftwich
(slowforward, 2016)
The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen, Edited by Michael Rothenberg
(Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 2007)

Communism is up there and we are down here but it is happening now by Olive Blackburn
(Timeless, Infinite Light, Oakland CA 2014)
The Fatalist by Lyn Hejinian
(Omnidawn, 2003)

The Early Poems: Notes & Errata by Jim Leftwich
(TL Press at, 2016)

Top 40 by Brandon Brown
(Roof Books, New York, NY, 2014)

The Fatalist by Lyn Hejinian
(Omnidawn, 2003)

Anonymous manuscript found in a box in the rain 
in Oakland CA 2002

The Early Poems: Notes & Errata by Jim Leftwich
(TL Press at, 2016)

About the Process 
These poems were carved out of existing poems, some by me but mostly by others. Every word of these poems was found in the source poems, and 99% of the time I keep them in the same order, case, gender, tense, etc. as they appear in the source poems. Sometimes I dig out these words (actually usually short phrases) while I read a poem, sometimes after. 

I don’t have any conscious rationale for choosing which poems to engage with in this way; usually just a four-second visual scan tells me if the source poem’s vocabulary has some resonance with “my” vocabulary. I consider this type of thing successful if my poem sounds like something I would write but also keeps some sort of connection with the source poem. I like to think I am finding a vein that has let’s say the same ‘blood type” as the source poem.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenges of working within strict limits. As a sculptor, I work almost exclusively with found objects; my two-dimensional work relies heavily on found images and collage techniques; my videos are all appropriated and edited from other videos. I prefer to think of my practice as “philentropy,” my portmanteau word meaning “the generous and thoughtful rearrangement and redistribution of matter and energy.”

Appropriation started becoming a larger influence on my writing practice in the 1990s. In 1998 I wrote a sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank. Published in San Francisco in 1999 by Ex Nihilo Press, this novel, Anne Frank In Jerusalem, was composed using only short phrases appropriated from forty works by other authors, including Emily Dickinson, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Koestler, Walter Benjamin, the Marquis de Sade, Adolph Hitler, Karl Marx, Anna Kavan and Hannah Arendt. For that project, I selected one short phrase from every page of every source text, writing lists on yellow legal pads, one pad for each book. Then every morning, depending on my mood, I’d select four or five completed pads to work from; maybe one day it would be Anna Kavan, Flaubert, de Sade and Benjamin, for instance. I’d start scanning the phrases until three or four began to stick together in a short sequence that seemed like it might lead somewhere, write those down and start hunting for the next couple of phrases that would elaborate the emerging narrative. 

I’d continue in this manner for as long as the fragile thread held together. If I was lucky I would get a full page or two out of one session. Interestingly, for me, the seemingly unlikely combination of Dickinson and Céline generated the most lucid and powerful material, while Flaubert was a disaster, as if his sentences, though perfect whole, fell to useless mundane shards when cut up.

So there was a strictly constrained vocabulary within which I had to improvise constantly in order to provoke some sort of meaning from disconnected sources. The result, which purports to be a found manuscript that seems to be a sober, meditative diary kept by Anne Frank between December 1995 and March 1996, is a dense read:

Lift it up, take it off. The wheel and the brakes. The everlasting examinations, the instrument panel and the wretchedness. The particular mood that makes chemical factories, gasworks, as if there were no such thing as a bigger prison. Tall thin windows forming a large row. Air into calm white. Still on, the cones swinging, towards the edge, rattling doorhandles along the sidewalk. Beautiful girls disappear into the shadows. Amnesiacs, ataxics, catatonics who are on their way in gasps and bursts, into the same distortion of terror. Little girls and then a chalk face, the despotic face of the fallen.

Caught, to lull yourself in a gambling and indolent network of interpretations. Too concerned with measuring its rectangle or circle to mind its exceptional need to be protected from this directness, this happiness, these half-formed incoherences, the other volumes and cavities. Threatened by something reaching forever in the intervals between journeys. Charred shell, floating still, alone, returning. No word, no stubborn device. Some ashes which yet adhere. How hollow the reconciliation upon the features of the dead, like a flower, silent. The other volumes and cavities. Lay back down into this highly-polished beginning and laboriously grow cold, grow small.  You cannot go further in life than this sentence.

The Anne Frank novel was the culmination of a growing tendency towards appropriation; after its rigors, I felt comfortable enough to use appropriated text in almost every subsequent project, and to use it more freely and inconsistently. It has since become such an integral part of how I work that I often do it just for fun. Fun that every once in awhile generates a few artifacts that other people might want to read, such as these poems collected here in Galatea Resurrects, all of which were taken from reading I was doing in 2017.

[Editor’s Note: This is the second of what will be five monthly installments from Scott MacLeod’s series. The first installment is HERE.]

WHEN YOUR HORSE DIES, GET OFF [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod]


during lunch we go in, all 
silent about it, sit down
play some pump up

lucky, totally prepared, we start 
something then, we very casual

uses its teeth to grasp the prey
light a stogie and the chaos begins

can you see in the dark?

a cracked stone image of
nude figures in wind-swept

neighborhood, full of cruelty
but also the unattainable

landscape, et voilà une surprise!
the first wave of crickets

cops all over us
one on top of another

with the throbbing heart torn out of his
falling short of reality and the memory of it

animal cravings and sufferings 
during his memorable struggles

through the wilderness, failing
eyesight and chose to turn to poetry

PHALENX [from From Philip Whalen, Collected Poems, p. 428 by Jim Leftwich]


no winter

no time

on and on and on
should / good / enough

like young 80s
banks and buddhas fail

glacial faults
lack intelligence

writers spilled

FATAL UP THERE AND DOWN HERE [epigram from Communism is up there and we are down here but it is happening now by Olive Blackburn. Poem from same and from The Fatalist by Lyn Hejinian]


“so we were thinking about drinking forties all day and
waiting for the rapture”

everything / works / to stop life

everything works out of place
tenderly regarded, the light is awful
naughty waves

the kitchen, still singing, rising
a dark caption to bewildered knowledge
people talk, I’m not sure why

surpassing experience without pictures
people are sewing constant credible change
blind as justice, or not

broken down mid-sentence, look
to avoid the edge, humiliated, not knowing
my capacity, contribute nothing

autobiography showed me figures
invisible to women who once blushed
which is merely rhetorical

abundant, profligate, indiscrete
the best words cannot be perfected
sulking, but fascinated

SISYPHUS WITHOUT FAITH [from The Early Poems: Notes & Errata by Jim Leftwich]


I spread the unnoticeable rhythms out on the floor
the rules of the game should be delirium, recorded 
on a cassette tape in a one bedroom apartment 
on 24th Street in the Mission very early in 1984

I still walk through holes I don’t remember

BUT LATELY I DUNNO [from Top 40 by Brandon Brown]


forgive me, another page
of Adorno on the bathroom wall
hardly discernible, makes me wonder
meaningless, without an object

the misguided lonely burlesque
I am desperate to forget
the sudden and multiple
towards everything

I wanted
to know

BURIED TREASURE [from The Fatalist by Lyn Hejinian]


you should see the sea
(and Captain Kidd, if there is an afterlife)
as if the surface is light, or lift
as the imagination might call it
hoping to get ahead of the game but
hiding instead in the underbrush, snapping
thickets in the dark, nobody’s business anyway
if the Captain is in that motel room alone or not
unable to figure out how to get, terrified, home

TREASURES I’VE SAVED FOR YOU [from anonymous ms. found in a box in the rain in Oakland, CA]


do not bring us better weapons
we have enough weapons

color and language
packed in silence

light flung recklessly
through the stars

THE EARLY [from The Early Poems: Notes & Errata by Jim Leftwich]


the labyrinth is endless, whenever it appears

she has baggage, Cinderella, the horror show
entwined, but I prefer cigarettes to friendship

I am tracking all the rumors into the darkness
the last five lines in the fold of the page, the song
you have to forget in order to hear, the place
you have to forget in order to remember

I walk through all the holes, dark as midnight
through the space between the period and the echoes

the last line of the poem that reads

you’ll just fuck your last line


Scott MacLeod has been presenting live, time-based, conceptual & static work in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally since 1979. His installations and paintings have been widely exhibited in the Bay Area at venues including Southern Exposure, The Lab, George Lawson Gallery, and SFMOMA as well as internationally in the Czech Republic, Belgium, England, Italy and Germany. Visual arts awards include the San Francisco Art Institute’s Adaline Kent Award (2000) and a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Visual Arts Award (2001). His fiction, poetry, theater and critical writings have been widely published in the USA and abroad, and he has co-produced several international cultural exchange projects between USA, France, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. He lives in Oakland, California.