May 31, 2016

The slump experiments

Lately I've been in a writing slump. Nothing strikes me as poem-worthy; I struggle to get started and seek out as many distractions as possible. Recently, I rediscovered a useful set of starting points: Bernadette Mayer's writing experiments

In this slump-time, the idea of writing as an experiment appeals to me. It's writing as play rather than writing as duty. Mayer's collection "Sonnets," which I'm currently reading, follows in this vein of playful experimentation. Scraps of songs, answering machine messages, and famous lines from other poems weave their ways into her sonnets, which resemble the traditional form only in their fourteen-line length. In one delightful example, the sonnet takes on a surprise ending. It cracks me up pretty effectively, even after reading it many times. 

Some of these writing experiments remind me of exercises in other media: Lynda Barry's assignment, described in her book "Syllabus," of drawing the same subject for five minutes, then two minutes, then one minute echoes the spirit of "Make writing experiments over a long period of time." I spent a weekend earlier this month at Moogfest, which was unique in my music fest-going experience in its emphasis on lengthy soundscapes. In one tent, the Grimes song "Realiti" played on repeat, and pushing into walls of stretchy fabric allowed you to stretch out or compress different elements of the music, creating a continuous remix as people moved through the space. In a dark room, Olivia Block created sounds in an attempt to answer a question of what cinema was, and how one might experience cinema in pure sound, resembling the writing experiment "Do experiments with sensory memory." When I can't write, I often doodle, and I notice how I remember the colors and shapes of things, and the feeling of different inks on paper.

I know I'll find my way out of this slump sometime when I least expect it. In the meantime, I'm contemplating experiments, and I'm interested to hear what works for you. How do you get back to writing after a slump? Reply any time. 


PS: I'll be doing a very short reading along with many other poets at the final Dollhouse Reading Series event on July 9th. Come check it out!