Tuesday, March 6, 2018



THE WAITLESS [from Cole Swensen: It’s Alive, She Says]
(Burning Deck 1984)

ITERAL DAY [from Jean Day: The Literal World]
(atelos #1)

RE. THE. [from reception. theory. by P. Inman]

GALLOWS [from Pool [5 choruses] by Endi Bogue Hartigan]
(Omnidawn, 2014]

DEAF BEFORE DISHONOR [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod]

DEEP WATER [from Culture by Daniel Davidson]
(krupskaya, 2002)

THE REPRESENT [from Xenophobia by Rae Armentrout]

WALLED PLAINS ON THE MOON [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod]

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 novel, Anne Frank In Jerusalem, (a sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank), 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 third of five monthly installments from Scott MacLeod’s series. The first is available HERE, and the second HERE.]

THE WAITLESS [from Cole Swensen: It’s Alive, She Says]


people / coffee / a ferry
rip in memory / weather

these lines repeated everywhere
dark now, record over, always
evening, all strangers, no sound
possible on the tightrope, inside
each small body in darkness

a memory, so / thrown back
until the ink ran / wild / afflicted

rowing slowly as you remember
in movies, not yet the future
headed here, blind mirage

dream waterline

ITERAL DAY [from Jean Day: The Literal World]


“… in the genre of day there are no originals.”

I make
what is there
in the increment
makes of / to the brim
going nowhere
between the facts / straight looking
our minds completely
amazed that others
as autonomous / in their own voices
attorneys / with words / respondent
symbols of control
the whole medium
bric a brac

carving / this
shiny script
missed the fiber         in the cabins
the sense of each      in our adjacency
flat, free, brave          bright with verses

utterances                  utterances

language, synthesizing
description / the applause
the abundance / that linger
against the panorama
in the midst of our absorption

observation is nothing / cartoon
one of us imagines it / you get in
become small, transportable
held gently / what we call thought
(namely: word) / bullet between your teeth
makes an anchor / full of detail

an exit

the emergency
nothing like anything
hurrying to arrive
we need never lie

I prepare but you refuse / fugitive
as the story bursts / to the magnet
extracted, magnificent, artless
in its own footprints / running

damned calamity / making meaning / botching

a consoling dream is deep, ambiguous, and
plain, like a straight line, from a concrete event

poised to leaping, from

RE. THE. [from reception. theory. by P. Inman]


           unem.        ploded.
  tort.       con.
than.       atos.
  syn.       onans.
         smudge.         budget.
  add.       verb.
 purse.       verse.

GALLOWS [from Pool [5 choruses] by Endi Bogue Hartigan]


we cannot help it: machine guns
slip into us in crowds of dumb bruises

crippling and swelling

we can’t quite begin to happen

 - - -

from the instructions demanding
news, strategic laughter, rampages
of mouth and tongue, cutting the neck
near the stem, as the chorus cracks, discarded
to the wind, into the tides or hung
tied to the post, as if we would vanish

- - -

by mistake

- - -

curled to sleep under shells knuckling
down, drilling as for blood oil
pulled out the ground from under us
pits and all, thin-skinned after all
cold chorus echoes everywhere, hung

to hit the high notes – just leave me

DEAF BEFORE DISHONOR [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod]


love it or leave it moth
nk im a hypocrite, come
here so I can kill you!
n our flags and disgrace
my land, get out! and to
se other little piece of

shit desert lands who ha

DEEP WATER [from Culture by Daniel Davidson]


the govern____ staring
no sign of terror

foreign still attached
linked by the repeated

fear at home blistering
white beneath, thin skin

crudely drawn

WALLED PLAINS ON THE MOON [from Images Of El Dorado by Scott MacLeod]


we have figured out the art of time
damage and chaos, if you have evr
USA youl know what im talkn abt

animal carvings, shallow ructure
around houses, roads, bridges
hinged coffins // for miniatures

we thought we heard (tourists)
thankfully they did not (see) us
______ sunset and the sky dark

[lists of photos etc]


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.