Sunday, March 22, 2009
Ann Bogle: Cut It Up
Cut It Up
By Ann Bogle
This exercise in prose, poetry, and revision has three parts.
Write a letter to someone you know well or someone who inspires you to write well. It could be an editor or agent or teacher or love interest. It could be someone with whom you’ve had a falling out, someone you might never see again, or someone you miss. There may be deep respect or erotic feeling to it. You may be enamored because of something you wish to gain—such as favor you wish to curry—or something you lost.
Write two pages double-spaced or one page single-spaced. Write freely because no one besides you will be looking at it. When you are satisfied, save the file, print it out, and cut it into phrases.
Cut at each comma, period, semi-colon, colon, and dash and at each line ending. Pile your phrases in a bowl then draw one out and transcribe it on a new page. Draw another and transcribe, another and transcribe until all the phrases are used. This is your new letter. Your cut-up should give you camouflage.
Once you have studied its new meanings, try it a different way. Print out the original letter again, cut it in one-line strips, and section each strip using your scissors into one-, two-, three- or four-word units. Put those in a bowl. Transcribe them on a new page, one unit at a time.
The second cut-up will likely be more abstract and may suggest meanings you didn’t imagine. You may wish to run the phrases and units as lines in a poem or as dialogue in a short play or as prose.
Save both cut-ups.
Finally, print out the original letter again. This time rewrite the letter based on things you learned in arranging the cut-ups. You may move sentences and paragraphs in any direction you wish, but try to stick to the original thoughts as much as possible, crossing out a sentence once you’ve recorded it.
This new version should be tight as a drum and devoid of excesses and looseness allowed in the first version.
You might even wish to mail it.
Ann Bogle has published short stories, prose, and poetry in many literary journals in print and online. For a listing of her publications and a sampling of her writing visit Ana Verse at: