Saturday, April 23, 2011

Substitution 2: Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"

Hi All,

Following up from the last post, here's the second constraint for our stubstitution poems:

§ Substitution (2): "7 up or down."  Take a poem or other, possibly well-known, text and substitute another word for every noun, adjective, adverb, and verb; determine the substitute word by looking up the index word in the dictionary and going 7 up or down, or one more, until you get a syntactically suitable replacement. 

This was especially hard to do and very time consuming, almost exhausting. First, who uses a paper dictionary anymore? After getting next to no where using I think the online OED at one point--I had to go find one in the library of my dorm. Second, you wind up getting an awful lot of non-words and less variety with the words as some repeat (how many times can you/should you substitute something for "and"?). Do I keep it somewhat coherent? I often had to go higher than 7 up or down. I decided to just not take away "the" and "and" such to give it a root in the original. I guess that is what I found the most fascinating with these substitution poems. In class Charles asked me if this "felt like my own poem" or not. It absolutely did here, but is it? In one sense the words are kind of pre-destined to be what they are here. So what did I do other than do some rote work that Randall Jarrell could have done (but then again, would the dictionary he would use in 1945 have the same words?). It was fixed from the start, I suppose. Yet I do think this is my poem. I "found" it.
And here's what I did with Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", an absolutely fantastic poem.


From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner 

From my moth-orchid’s sleep disorder I fell apart into the state bank,
And I, Hunchback of Notre Dame, in its Bel Paese till my Wet Blanket Freewill®.
Siwalik hills, miles-long from Eamon d. valera, loosefooted from its dread-nought of lieutenantship,
I woke to blab-bed (Robert Joseph) Flaherty and the nightscope fighterbomber.
When issued, I died, for they’ll was-sail me out of the turret-heads with a hosecock.  

No comments:

Post a Comment