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Make New Meaning with a Word Collage: Daily Creative Write it Friday

Do you have any favorite poems or pieces of text memorized? Something that you have said so many times it feels a part of you? What would happen if you took that text and rearranged it to create new meaning? William S. Burroughs made famous the cut-up technique. He cut text into random phrases and sentences and rearranged it to create a new text or poetry. Called Cut-Up Poetry, this technique frees your mind and shakes up entrenched expectations of word order. So today, be like William S. Burroughs.

Full disclosure: this may take more than 5 minutes, but I think you can do it in ten minutes and still find it fulfilling.

You will need some text resources to cut up. Magazines, newspapers, books, old journals will all work nicely. You will also need tape or glue, and a piece of paper or page from your journal.

  1. Cut out sentences, short paragraphs, phrases, words from your source material.

  2. Put your cut-outs into a bowl or bag.

  3. Randomly pull out one at a time and place it on your paper, adding it as the next line to a poem.

  4. When you have added all of your cut-outs, read what you have created. If you are not pleased, start over or rearrange the words in some new way.

  5. When you feel satisfied with the result, paste the words down.

  6. Notice what you felt as you were doing this exercise. Did you feel resistant at any point? Did you find humor or surprise anywhere? Was your final product what made the most literal sense? Or did you like they lyricism of the word placement? What title would you give your poem?

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