Challenge #17: The Crack-Up Quarry

For today’s poetry challenge, I’m inspired to create a poem using the fold-in technique, made famous by William Burroughs.


Splicing together paragraphs from different books offers interesting juxtapositions of text and image. “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” said Burroughs. I walked over to my bookcase and selected the first two books that caught my attention.


I opened to a random page — The Crack-Up, a collection of writings by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The book fell open at page 161; Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks, Section J, Jingles and Songs.

This is the story of Fitzgerald’s “crack-up”, his quick descent from success to failure and despair and his determined recovery. Fitzgerald died in 1940 at the age of 44. “Sometimes,” Scott Fitzgerald once said: “I don’t know whether I’m real or whether I’m a character in one of my own novels.”

The second ‘fold-in book’ is a crime novel called The Quarry by Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt200px-TheQuarry

“Inspector Hans Bärlach, at the end of his career and suffering from cancer, is recovering from an operation. He witnesses how his friend Dr. Samuel Hungertobel turns pale and becomes nervous when looking at a photograph in a magazine he is reading. The person pictured is the German Dr. Nehle who carried out horrific experiments on prisoners in a concentration camp in Gdansk (Poland) and is believed to have committed suicide in Chile in 1945. Dr Hungertobel explains that his colleague Fritz Emmenberger, who was in Chile during the war, closely resembles Dr. Nehle.”

I opened The Quarry at a random page and used a piece of plain white paper to cover half the words on that page. I used the same technique with the Fitzgerald book.

I merged half lines of two verses from the poem ‘Clay Feet’ on page 161 of Fitzgerald’s book with a paragraph of half lines from Dürrenmatt’s book.

This is the result of the fold-in experiment. For clarification, Fitzgerald’s words are in regular typeface, Dürrenmatt’s words are in italics.

The Crack-Up Quarry

I can see them, sometimes



was completely baffled. 

Ghosts, slim

Girls and

Graces —

Glasses.  He always did that when he was…

Noon burns, and soon there come

Times said the Commissioner.  He readily 

The pale and ravaged places

Wasn’t always easy to give shelter to

ago adorned. — And Seeing, 

 and he, Barlach, would have to bear 

falters as an invalid…

Clandestine alcoholic.  He would


Did something in their being

to call the clinic Sonnenstein in Zurich. 

From them when my ideal did?

A bed for Barlach under the name of

Ghosts, cast down by that young damning,

He should describe him as a freshly 

answer:  I heard but you say,

but rich patient

weak.  We failed a bit in shamming.

Want to go to (his colleague Fritz) Emmenberger? Dr Hungertobel

Will freedom always weigh…

and sat down.

My heart?  For your defection,

answered Balach.

Who had me in your keeping, break!  Fall

(Doctor Samuel) Hungertobel, “I don’t understand you.”

Height to this great imperfection!

“is dead” corrected the old man.  “Now…”

weep. —  Yet can I hate you all?


Poetry Writing Challenge #16: Riddles in Rainy Weather

The challenge for today is to pick a language that you don’t know, and then translate a poem in that language.

Use the sound and shape of the words and lines to guide you, without worrying too much about whether your translation makes sense!

I chose to translate a poem written in Norwegian from a collection called Regnværsgåter (Riddles in Rainy Weather) by Gro Dahle.


Puten din
i det slitte gamle trekket
Et eneste stort kinn
av omfavnelse

Have they met some Ventura (good fortune) perhaps inserted afar? You have jotted down “Inserted Afar”, you have said Mercury in the Heavens; think betraying them, you can help?

Put it down!
I do slither as gamblers trekked.
And earnestly sought out kindred spirits
Above the state of OM (primordial vibration),
Five nails I see.

Below is the correct translation of the poem.


Your pillow
in the worn old cover
One big cheek
of embrace

bringinthecodes.jpg napo2013button2

Poetry Writing Challenge #15: Saltoun Sea, California




Saltoun Sea, California

I don’t know how to tell you of this journey and not forfeit my peace of mind.

I have been attempting to draw a line under
my Book of Experiments for almost a year now.

My equations calculating density,
Tidal waves and unremitting desire.

I want to be an inventor; to exist on more
than faith and mineral water, coffee and exercising.

Present a bunch of lilies to my lover at the week-
end, unapproachable as he is — all hot air,
apt to blow a fuse at the mention of marriage vows.

I’m remembering our most recent heterosexual position on
high ground at the Joshua Tree National Park. Seduction

above the heads of Emerald trees, looking in the direction of the inland

Saltoun sea –

created by a freaky flood in 1905.

It is said (by whom?) that the Saltoun Sea
sits on top of the San Andreas Fault Line.

If this is true, then I suck my teeth at her pop-up location.
This unfathomable so-called Sea, her
Longevity as unlikely as my holy matrimony.

If only a wave would roll over me and dispel my unease.
Return me to my senses!

The native wildlife, mountain lions etc.,  I roll my eyes at, but that is a given for me.
I lay down. Avert my eyes from the landlocked sea.
Turn inwards towards my spiritual sea.

Nothing to read but the ancient future.

Poetry Writing Challenge #14: Batman in Harlem

Black associates of the Joker have kidnapped Batman and Robin and, at gunpoint, forced the Caped Crusaders to help aspiring rappers escape from the Hood. A yet to be famous musician called Gill Scott-Heron narrates the story.

The Adventures of Batman
The Adventures of Batman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Batman in Harlem.

Aspiring rappers nicknamed the Sharp Necks are clamoring to gain entry to the Story Avenue club.

I shall not stay awhile under this duress, says Batman.

Say, what’s up, Bruce, you don’t dig the jive in Harlem?

I’m late for an appointment with the Mayor of Gotham City, opines Batman.

Lights! Camera! Action!

De-ne-de-ne-de-ne-de-ne… BATMAN!

Okay, in today’s episode, you and

Robin spin the turntables forward and

retrograde mimicking the paths of planets.

Are you down with you that plan, B?

Batman says nothing.

He’s a superhero. KABOOM!

What’s our payoff ? POW!!


We are company that his soul can’t bear to keep. SPLAT!!!

Roll away the stone, put your smoke in the air. HOLY SMOKES BATMAN. Life

is waiting and we gonna peel outta the ghetto like apples falling far from the tree.  ZAP!!


Hey you poets with the gold teeth – wave your hands in the air.

I present to you: Robin and Batman. The original R n B!

The crowd go wild. Stamping. Clapping. Cheering. Whistling.

Radiant eyeballs spin like casino numbers.

Robin and Batman start rapping out a Percy Shelley tune.

Batman: “Watering his laurels with the killing tears/ Of slow, dull care, so that their roots to Hell might pierce…”

Robin: “He has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress like King Lear‘s…”

And then like the pint size/nice guy/ that he is Robin lapses into a reverie about Ancient Greece.

My name is Tiresias: I am the fire of desire and passion.

For seven years I lived as a woman. If I don’t slip back to the Bat cave tonight

there will be chaos in the comic world.

A Sharp Neck in the crowd shouts out…

Die to yesterday, Robin… yesterday was shit!”

Batman is getting itch feet and tries to calm the crowd by continuing with Shelley.

“A lady-witch there lived on Atlas’ mountain within a cavern, by a secret fountain.”

At which point, I interrupt Batman, and step up to the microphone — and say:

“Batman you are a complex figure, with a foot in each of many oppositions, mediating between gods and mankind, sleepwalkers and seers, present and future, Gotham City and the Harlem ghetto.

Drink deep before your ghost can see the future for himself.”

Upon my words

Batman slows to a pause.

The crowd hush up and stare.

Looking to and from, Batman and the Sharp Necks, I rap:

“Today the obstacles are translucent and, with your help,

we’ll achieve our dreams. Batman, I say to you:

As the Joker’s apprentice is my work finished for the evening?”


Day 14 of National Poetry Writing Month.

Today’s challenge is to write a persona poem — that is, a poem in the voice of a particular person who isn’t you.


Poetry Writing Challenge #13

National Poetry Writing Month (also known as NaPoWriMo) is a creative writing project held annually in April in which participants attempt to write a poem each day for one month.

Today is Day 13 of the challenge… I heard from a trusted source that it’s not too late to enter the challenge!

“Your prompt for today is simply to take a walk. Make notes — mental or otherwise — on what you see on your walk, and incorporate these notes into your poem. A bit more serene and observational than yesterday, and hopefully a nice, calming poem to begin your weekend with.”

Paper Dance Steps


CUTS       an old-fashioned



into paper dance steps

for left        and right


She lays the makeshift choreography on the frozen sidewalk

directly below her ninth floor Boston apartment.

She counts from 1 to 100

for her partner to appear.