Wednesday, November 24, 2004

One letter at a time

Brian Kim Stefans's resetting of the Ginsberg poem that got me excited about writing, "Howl, One Letter at a Time," reminds me of a work by some friends, Boredom Research, called "7960 characters arranged in a dangerous order," which presents accurate instructions for the construction of a hydrogen bomb, you guessed it, one letter at a time.

The first difference between these two works that strikes me is in the palpability (or lack thereof) of the original text in the resettings: the one encourages the reader to focus on the text as artifact and, beyond that, on each letter as material in its own right; the other actively dares the reader to reach beyond, to connect the letters (or the dots, as it were). Is this just because one is a known text and the other isn't? Maybe. Is this just because one was framed as a poetic text and the other as instructions? Maybe. But maybe we can dispense with the "just."

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