Saturday, April 4, 2015

They Tell Us Everybody is Funny, and We Repeat Their Stories for Them

Mike Busam (last name pronounced as "bosom") is quiet. I've met him. A friendly man and happy to talk, he is not someone who needs to talk constantly. You can see him thinking, watching.

His interests are ornithological and entonomological, interests that lead him into necessary states of attention. I found him on the grounds of the Ohio State University in Columbus one afternoon watching a dead bird, I think a pigeon, but I would wager that he remembers the exact species of bird.

And I said he was "watching," not "looking," not "staring." His gaze was too purposeful to be merely looking, and he wasn't staring--he wasn't lost in the seeing but of the seeing, within the process of the seeing, found and thinking within the seeing.

Attention is his skill. It is a quiet skill. It produces understanding. It creates knowledge from experience.

As I watch the slow and careful process of his work for International Pwoermd Writing Month, I see this quietness, this attention, this method of creation through his results.

He is producing a body of found poems, a group of found works, which are artworks created through the active process of discovery. The writer of a found poem creates the work by recognizing the poem it is, or the poem it might be.

His first pwoermd was


He found this poem while awaiting a receipt at a gas pump when the display on the pump told him "RECEIPT READY IN A OMENT." Even the phrase is interesting: the doubled error by the lack of the "an" in front of a word beginning with the sound of a vowel. But the pwoermd itself is more so.

The word tricks us back and forth. The moment that is coming is ominous, the word itself the omen of that ominous reality. The moment is incomplete, missing its initial m. The o opens the word, suggestion an oh! the sign of a great moment. Manichaean word.

The second pwoermd was


Another found pwoermd, this one is a dance of irregularized letters, one missing. Breakfast is breakfat. Food becomes something to avoid for its unhealthful reasons. The messy arrangement of the incompleted word suggests a disorder of the message, the possibility that "BR EA K FA T" might be a way to avoid fat. The simplest meal of the day becomes a quandary, a message that leads too many places, something that doesn't ground us but topples us.

The third pwoermd was


The word comes from a partially damaged sign in Hamilton, Ohio. All these pwoermds Mike presents to us with their provenance, which explains their aleatoric production and gives us context, which context might lead our reading astray. But this word is so clear. We know it must mean "pottery" in its original form, but that is such a mundane word, a word of the hearth, not the heart. But "ottery" is a word of joy: that place in the world where the otters play, even if only in our imagination.

And these are the slow, considered, carefully collected pwoermds of Mike Busam so far. They are what I call found and aleatoric poems. Their magic comes from how they make us see as Mike does, how they make us slow down and consider.

And think.


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