The Globe and some experiments

What have I being doing?

Watching an excellent blood-splattered production of Titus Andronicus. It’s by no means Shakespeare’s best work, but I was lucky enough to have a free ticket and the play was in the wonderful Globe theatre in London.

I had a seat in the lower gallery, but decided to join the groundlings in the second half and was rewarded as the action literally spilt from the stage. We were engulfed by smoke and surrounded by superb actors who sweated, laughed, bled and raved through the crowd. It was an excellent production, though not for the faint hearted. The barbarism in the play had disturbing parallels in current events. Barbarity in the misuse of power, the abduction and rape of a woman and the  idea that her family may be shamed by her continued presence.

Apart from seeing the play, I’ve been writing reviews, editing a short story or two, worrying about writing, worrying about not writing, not worrying about writing, even enjoying writing. And experimenting.

Yesterday evening I found this  cut up machine. I’ve known about this technique, used by William Burroughs and David Bowie, among others, since I was teenager, but had never used it myself. It’s not as if I want to abandon my carefully (you might say painstaking) approach to writing poetry, but experimenting can sometimes feel like letting your hair down, and can help loosen things up and generate new ideas, especially if those concise lyrics are not flowing freely. Have a go if you haven’t tried this before.

I fed my own poems and some newspaper text into the machine and came out with some pleasing results. It seems to me the original text should be full of interesting language if the ‘cut up’ or scrambled version is to have anything going for it.

After the cut-up machine had done its work I’ve spent some time shaping the results. There is also a reverse text function and random sentence generator which gave me ‘mint-cream coloured ice-water’ and ‘rented angles of antique white’ and got me thinking about Manhattan at night.

David Bowie, William S. Burroughs, Photo by Terry O'Neal, tour mThe only problem with this type of creative play is that it can be very addictive. But there are worse addictions. Speaking of which, here is an example of something that emerged from these experiments. It isn’t the type of poem I would normally write, and I’m not sure it is a proper poem. I like to think it’s got something of Dylan Thomas about it, but perhaps not!

I’ve taken a fragment away to keep and will be working on something salvaged from a few of these lines. See what you think!

An excavated song

Step out of skull brogues of British
regret: the needle craters, the spine
soldered, your tin crotch built
like the dogs arches.

By the steel fountain, an arm’s breath
from death, tender faced
in the church of addiction,
thigh pierced to the hilt.

The expectation clock ticks
above the femur-beaten hill of atheists
who roll below the day-stained windows;
this is the jaws

clean innocence, this, the wait to become
your own grindstone god.
It’s a crumpled little death.
But the needled heart, high

on its inner wing
sings through spine chest nipple
and neck, sings of morning
and of vertebrae.

Sleep now under brows
of innocence, only pierced by your beaten love
who slouches off below a clock
of guano-greased stone.


  1. Wow that cut-up machine is an amazing find!!!. I have a slight Luddite antipathy against letting a program do it for me, but really I know that that is actually a great thing to do – to embrace the future and whatever trans-human wisdom spills out of the machine. The poem is extraordinary. It made me laugh out loud in the first stanza, and my favourite line is “this is the jaws” !
    It would have been interesting to see your poem before the machine had it’s way though; you have some amazing stuff in there already, by the looks of it. Right – now to have a go myself!


  2. Loved the poem, Roy. It’s kick ass and gutsy. No doubt in my mind it’s a proper poem!There’s something very freeing about using this approach as a springboard, isn’t there? It gets over some of the inhibitions about having to originate work all the time.


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