Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Scott MacLeod Engages

NIGHT WRITING from The Early Poems: Notes & Errata by Jim Leftwich
(unpublished ms., 2016)

WORLD YAWN from Superprose by Thomas Lowe Taylor
(anabasis / xtant, 2003)

LONG AGE from The Glue Is On The Sausage by Jim Leftwich 

LOVE BALMED from The Belovèd Embalmed by Joseph Carriès

STEALING from Superprose by Thomas Lowe Taylor
(anabasis / xtant, 2003)

60/70 from Seventy by Thomas Lowe Taylor

TOWARD MORNING from Seventy by Thomas Lowe Taylor

WARK from McKenzie Wark 2017 & John Milton 1674

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 fifth of five monthly installments from Scott MacLeod’s series. The first is available HERE, the second HERE, the third HERE, and the fourth HERE.]

NIGHT WRITING from The Early Poems: Notes & Errata by Jim Leftwich
(unpublished ms., 2016)


I don't remember what I was thinking
the same kind of writing, night after night

I put everything in a box with her name on it
it means exactly what it says, is matter of fact

don’t believe a word in a motel room
without ever considering the possibility
you want to be a member of the cult

there should be a space between
the root and the lightning bug

the fine print between us

erotic as silence

WORLD YAWN from Superprose by Thomas Lowe Taylor
(anabasis / xtant, 2003)


morning again, scattering
the frame, rain in the moment
and not, the solo voice in absence
satisfies the distance

at least this much spreading
towards the day went on, ground
passed in caution, hanging up
too soon, too distracting, without
humor, the play of your skin
funnier the first time, really
the mundane soon enough you say


or perhaps less or too much

warning you

LONG AGE from The Glue Is On The Sausage by Jim Leftwich 


your long age

thin verbal

doubt lasso mirror

start with your exit song
as many as you can

return to the future
follow it

watch late night printers

everywhere you


LOVE BALMED from The Belovèd Embalmed by Joseph Carriès


so death in a strange box

quite full

replaced, stinking of brandy

I said, hard as marble: darling

her slender

shroud unbound
and falling

and irritating

precious pleasure once more

my astonished

STEALING from Superprose by Thomas Lowe Taylor
(anabasis / xtant, 2003)


you forget the other days
you call out long enough to see
somewhere in the focus of recognition
possessed, you welcome your possessions
this is about your complete
the air below streaks the glass

you are wrapped up in the before
something happened on such and such a day
you are the frame, superimposed
selfish, selfless, contrary

the day holds you open
you hear the flattery of light
forms deep within the evidence
this play, between lunch and dinner
this plus and minus in alternating current
the lines of wailing assholes growing longer
you undermine your pattern and response
temples of gesture and beauty

the hour of doom is halfway up the hill

60/70 from Seventy by Thomas Lowe Taylor


forever long I am across a fence
from the heart beating, incessant
center of gratitude in the unconnected
silence of connection, inside the disease itself

I live with my secret with no bottom as we float
in the dark and light together forever
slowly gaining speed, here it is come upon you
remembering an instant you run out

what finally calms the personal is set free
to spread around and arrive in the middle
of the night, slighter than before, clear to anyone

alert to someone newer inside your skin at last

TOWARD MORNING from Seventy by Thomas Lowe Taylor


your fragments escape events, step and dance
into the intersections between particular paths
snapshots that connect silence and longing
luck forged in actions without maps, splinters

lingering in motels, dust on shadows every morning
pallbearers gone astray, radio silence broken
nearby illegible hum, low rollers on the lee shore
bodies missing parts in cardboard boxes underfoot

excess encountered within memory and clear your throat
around the impenetrable inevitable between seconds
between accuracy and hope, abandoned in the here
and now, looking back, horizon with holes, hurled

they come, back into some nether lost, removed
into silence, into this morning, into a corner alone

out of sight, clothes off, whatever madness suits us

WARK from McKenzie Wark 2017 & John Milton 1674


even rarer already rare
no longer the master

now a financial derivative
nothing, collecting itself

information no true Ornament
barbarous wretched and lame

Poets carried away by constraint
as a thing of itself, trivial defect

vulgar example of ancient
and troublesom bondage

and no delight
in jingling endings


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.