nickm.com > classes > experimental writing, spring 2014

Academe Envoi

by Sarah Mountjoy

An investigation into the prosetry of my 21W.750 final project

The original idea behind my project was to constrain my writing by using only words that start with the last letter of the word before it. In this style I saw an interesting way to connect ideas by forging a literal connection between them. The writing this method produced also sounded very interesting to me so I experimented with writing stories and also more abstract poems using this method. Each packet was then connected to the other packets by the same constraint, so that even blocks of text on different pages would be clearly and smoothly connected. What resulted was a series of passages that together connect to tell a story.

In constructing each passage, I began with an idea of what I wanted to convey and a collection of words I could use to describe it, then gradually strung them together within my constraint. I made it a goal to keep the repetition of words to a minimum. Each passage focuses on one particular experience that the main character Omar has felt during his time at university or that his sister Nina experienced during the same time period. This project gave me a lot of new insights into English words ? in particular how strongly correlated the meanings of words are to their first letter. The letter d, for instance, begins very few positive words but many negative words. Synonyms often start with the same letter and can be difficult to find with different first letters. As far as word length, four-letter words tend to be useful words (prepositions, pronouns, etc.) while six-letter words are unique and outstanding. Five-letter words tend to strike the best balance between being useful and interesting.

My final completed work takes the form of a printed chapbook, but I am including a description and image of it here. Five printed pieces of cardstock were folded over each other to create eight half-pages and a cover page which were then bound together by string.

Some Excerpts:

We ever reach hours so oppressively yellow without the eager rays staying great. Those eerie Eastern nights sap, pull, linger, resistant to our restlessness. Soon, night takes sun-like eventual lines, shooting galvanized decisiveness straight to our reach. Hold readier rogue echo.

How was shock, kept to Omar, rippled down? Now where emotions spoke, emptiness stews silently. Yonas slipped direct to oblivion, not too opposite each historical luminary, yet too oversoon. Nina asks "Shall lots shift tonight?" That totals solo Omar. Realistically, years should duff, forgo one edict tragic.