Sunday, August 09, 2015

Disarticulated with Terry Wolverton In the Month of July

Olga Garcia Echeverría

Disjointed July
In July, things collided and came apart. My brother-in-law tumbled off a roof and broke his leg. I rear-ended a Lexus. In July, we got “Super Historic” rainfall in L.A. I saw lightning strike the ocean. In July, the dead haunted my heart. The moon fell apart piece by piece and then put herself back together again—twice in one month, Blue Moon. And then there was the disarticulated poetry that inspired and surprised...
Disarticulated Words
disarticulate: to make or become disjointed,
as the bones of a body or stems of a plant.

This past month, I had the opportunity to participate in Terry Wolverton's interactive online poetic project, dis•articulations 2015. Since the beginning of the year, Terry has invited a different poet each month to collaborate with her in the creation of "poetic disarticulations." Guests have thus far included Southern California writers Jessica Ceballos (January), Mike Sonksen (February), AK Toney (March), Angela Peñaredondo (April), Chiwon Choi (May), Elena Karina Byrne (June), and myself (July). This month, poet Sesshu Foster is the collaborating poet.
But what exactly is a poetic disarticulation? Here's a quick recipe to sum up how disarticulated poems get prepared and cooked on Terry's website.
Ingredients for Disarticulated Poems
2 poets
8 media headlines (4 per poet)
8 “fevered writings” (4 per poet)
1 timer
Prep and Cooking Time

On and off musings over the period of one month
1. Have each poet select 4 media headlines from dónde sea.
2. Swap these, so that each poet has the other's headlines. 
3. Have each poet freewrite a la brava (don't think too much, just write non-stop) for 3 minutes on each of the swapped headlines. The writings produced are the “fevered writings.” There should be 4 for each poet.
4. Swap again, so that each poet now has the other's fevered writings.
5. Read and let the words of the other poet brew.
6. Disarticulate the other poet's fevered writings with the goal of creating something entirely new. This means take the writings apart, move words and phrases, undo images and then stitch them back together without adding any new words. Only words included in the fevered writings can be used. Keep in mind, not every word has to be used. Repeat words if needed. Change the form of words if desired. For instance, change sandwich (noun) into sandwiched (verb) or love (verb) into lovely (adjective).
7. Most importantly play, play, play until an original poem rises from the disarticulated stew.
Wanna Give It a Try? Readers Can Play
One of the coolest things about dis•articulations 2015 is that readers can jump in  every month and play. Website visitors can use the posted headlines as writing prompts or the posted fevered writings to disarticulate a poem of their own. Reader Poems can be posted in the comments section of the website for others to read. At the end of the month, Terry selects a winning Reader Poem. The winner gets $25.00 and her/his bio posted on the site, as well as a link to the winning entry. If you're interested or curious, check out this month's prompts:
An Interview with Terry Wolverton in the Middle of this Disarticulated Blog
Bio Sidebar: Terry Wolverton is the author of ten books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, including Embers, a novel in poems, and Insurgent Muse: Life and Art at the Woman’s Building, a memoir. She is the founder of Writers At Work, a creative writing studio in Los Angeles, and is Affiliate Faculty in the MFA Writing Program at Antioch University Los Angeles. She’s also a certified instructor of Kundalini Yoga.
Terry, bienvenida! Can you share what has been the most rewarding part of your dis•articulations 2015 journey so far?
I’ve had the opportunity to meet and encounter the work of poets I didn’t know before (including you!) I’ve written poems I never would have thought my way to. And I’ve been told by a couple of collaborating poets that working on the process got them writing again after a dry spell.
What has that been like--working with a different poet each month?
It’s just fascinating to study how another poet thinks and how he or she uses language. I worked with one poet whose fevered writing contained no images of the body; that’s so different than my own work! Another poet was extravagant with adjectives, which made me aware that I can tend to be sparse. Others used words I would never use in a poem, but I challenged myself to do so. All this is expansive for me (and I hope for the other poets too.)
As writers/artists, we have to keep fueling our own visions and creations. What fuels the fire for this particular project?
This project reflects three of my particular loves—a focus on the process of creating (which for me is where art resides), experimentation, and working in community.
The concept of disarticulation seems to be at the heart of your project. What does “disarticulation” mean to you?
The word “disarticulation” literally means to take apart a body, or rather a skeleton, to separate the joints. I borrowed the term because I am taking apart bodies of writing—the passages of fevered writing—and separating them into their component parts of speech, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

What Disarticulating Terry's Words Looked Like

It was quite a journey to take apart your fevered writings and play with your words, not knowing where I was going or why I was going there. At times I felt very challenged, but mostly it made me work within certain word boundaries. In the end, I wrote something unexpected and that was really cool. What exactly pulled you into this creative approach?
This process appealed to me because I felt myself falling into familiar ruts with my poetry, returning again and again to certain subject matter, imagery, moods. I wanted a process that would disrupt those patterns; I wanted to surprise myself.
I think a lot of writers can relate to what you are saying about familiar ruts that develop in our writing. I really appreciated the elements of disruption and surprise in the disarticulated exercises. I read on your website that you've done something similar before.
Although I’d been playing with aspects of this process, things came together in 2012; my partner (the poet Yvonne M. Estrada) committed to do fevered writing every day for 30 days; she and I would exchange prompts. She used the results differently to inspire poems but I began taking apart my fevered writing, and recombining it. In 2013 I did a blog project where I invited friends and strangers to give me prompts and I wrote a new disarticulations poem every week for a year.
Wow, that is a lot of poetry. It's impressive how you've stuck to the act of disarticulating, and yet how you've allowed it to evolve. What contributed to the shift from your blog project in 2013 to dis•articulations 2015?
Working with prompts from other people was great, but I wanted to explore even further disruption, so I had the idea of asking other poets to collaborate, working with poets with a wide variety of poetic styles, disarticulating and reconstructing one another’s words to make our poems.
There's a $25 prize for a Reader Poem winner each month and also collaborating poets are given $50 for their participation. I love this about your project! Are you funding this yourself? And if so, why?
Again, because I’m interested in process and community, I wanted to create a way for others to participate, in addition to the twelve poets I collaborate with. I decided the collaborators would all be Southern California based, but the readers who submit poems can be anywhere. The $25 prize I had hoped would provide more inspiration to participate; folks who have won the monthly reader poem challenge seem to be pleased with it. Also, I pay the collaborators $50 for their participation; I think poets should get paid, even if it’s a nominal fee. I initially wrote a grant for this project, but it wasn’t funded, so I had to set aside a little budget to fund it myself on a more modest scale.
Random Picture of the Ocean in July to Signal "End of Interview"
Three Poetic Disarticulations From the Month of July

I can't think of a better way to end a disarticulated blog than with disarticulated poems. My poetic exchange with Terry Wolverton this past month led to Terry's "The Milky Blues" and my "Wildfires" (both poems are included below). If you are interested in seeing more of the actual process, you can visit the dis•articulations 2015 website for a list of the actual prompts we exchanged and the fevered writings we produced.
The first poem included here was written by Manuel J. Velez, the winner of the Reader Poem for the month of July. Manuel took the headline prompt "What Gaining a Leap Second Means for a Hummingbird" and produced the following poem. Terry's poem and my own were created from the disarticulation of our exchanged fevered writings.
A Farmworker Offers Advice to Hummingbird Flying Among the Grapevines
by Manuel Velez
Never let them count the thrusts of your wings;
the subtle motions that stir in their minds
images of nightgowns floating across ballroom floors.
They’ll never see how each thrust tears away
at your body and weakens your soul.
Never let them see past your rainbow plumes;
the playful dance of colors that reminds them
of exotic pearls resting softly around their necks.
They don’t see that underneath the rainbow
lies the cold grey reality of a life spent at work.
Never let them measure the rhythm of your beating heart;
The soft vibrations that sing to them like a silent lullaby,
a serene moment of meditation.
They’ll never know that each beat is a growing
desperation for survival. No, hummingbird, never let them see who you truly are;
A creature trapped in the monotony of labor.
A perpetual existence of constant movement.
A life whose dream is for only enough nectar
to survive another day.
Let them be mesmerized by your motions and captivated by your colors.
Let them believe that your true beauty is to be free.
Let them value that which least defines you
because it’s the only way they’ll find any value in you at all.
by Terry Wolverton
An atheist, a dolphin and a homo
walk into Heaven. God looks up but cannot
decipher their cratered faces. Rose water
spills onto the altar silk, marking it pink.
Long-stemmed and small-boned, I scatter whenever
rain spills against the church boat, unanchored in
a chalky sea. Amethyst breath of the moon
touches my face, baffles the infinite word.
You are native to the fierce depths, I am wrapped
in guns and dirty laundry. When we fuck we
go to Paradise, minus the amber ghosts.
All that upward leaping is just like marriage.
I keep imagining your sad, translucent
mouth, a haiku in space with no gravity.
Those plush goodbyes made me gasp with poetry,
La Luna pillowed on the surface of time.
Sharks are now people. Women are pagan. Earth
is littered with injury. Heaven spotted
with scientists, armed with examples. God knows
who are the dead, red jelly in the charred heart.
by Olga García Echeverría
Bam! Just like that.
Another woman of color
eradicated by the system.
Why not start a wildfire
with all the newspaper articles?
It makes as much sense
as anything.
She needed
more hummingbirds
more salvia
more seconds on the Universal clock
She needed
more nectar to sip
more time
to let it all hang out
to sit serenely, thinking
to small talk at dinner
to gossip with friends
She needed more time
to write
to birth
to live
to sleep
inside the safest place, her own navel,
spinning wheels of energy, yellow
Chakra vibrating, the mystery
of the undulating Universe
dripping from her fingertips
She needed more softness,
this purple-colored woman
bellowing through time,
wildfires in her eyes…

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