The Professor on poetry: appropriated, sampled, stolen

classicgrafitticlassicbasho

[graffiti, Basho / consider their collision / roots of my haiku]

The Professor has always written poetry—well, at least since the awkward days at Notfittininere High School in rural Connecticut—but this is the first time that he is sharing it online. He started writing haiku [5, 7, and then 5 syllables per line] in the late 1990s, mostly for special birthdays of friends and mentors. In 2008, The Professor took it a step further by writing haiku in response to contemporary art. That was followed by on-again, off-again writing until early 2013 when The Professor wrote a series of biologically-inspired haiku.

More recently, The Professor decided to use the processes of appropriation, hybridization, sampling, and stealing to embark on a larger, culture-fueled [rather than nature-based] haiku project. He felt that specific lines from certain songs. films and poems were just waiting to be treated as if they were raw materials. Constructive redeployment, displacement, memory and juxtaposition were the key criteria. The haiku would be new the same way that a collage is: they would create something unknown from something existing and available. The haiku might contain familiar words and phrases; many of the words might even be downright popular, but they would not necessarily be easy to specifically identify.

In a world where information and image overload has become an accepted and casual condition, in a world where consumer problems of consumption manifest in both extreme hoarders and vengeful survivalists, in a world where environmental stewardship is a political football instead of a concern that matters more to each person every day, it only makes sense to The Professor to utilize what is already around. Why make something out of new materials when we can reuse and recycle what is already here?

It is more appropriate than ever to make new things from our existing superabundance of words and phrases. The Professor’s first batch of haiku [a lucky 13] appropriates, steals and samples from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. The Professor is exploring this omnicultural path precisely because it is one of the defining strategies of our time. History teaches us that when we go against the grain of such strategies, we do so both at our own individual risk and at our greater collective peril. As always, the struggle is not as much with matters of form or function as it is with how to best make meaning—and that’s why they call me The Professor.

 

A long winter’s drive

Just the worst time of the year

Storms and arguments

 

The towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty

One small step closer

 

Lacking a shelter

The night fires going out

Sleeping in snatches

 

Charging high prices

Silken girls bringing sherbet

This was all folly

 

Memory and desire

April is the cruelest month

Dull roots with Spring rain

 

Summer surprised us

Lilacs out of the dead land

Winter but a guess

 

A handful of dirt

Out of this stony rubbish

I will show you fear

 

When you came back late

Your arms full and hair so wet

Water a known risk

 

Speak and my eyes failed

The heart of light, the silence

And I knew nothing

 

Under the brown fog

That corpse you planted with care

Will not bloom this year

 

You who were with me

Staring at forms inside-out

Like a burnished throne

 

Held up by standards

Stalled by men who lost their bones

What shall we do now?

 

There it is I said

The river’s flow forsaken

White bodies remain

© 2014

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