The Exquisite Corpse of the Way We Were

14 Aug

Surrealists invented the technique of Exquisite Corpse in 1918, though the game bears similarity to an even older parlor game called Consequences. Participants take turns writing sentences down on a piece of paper, folding the paper so as to conceal everything but the latest addition, and passing the paper around the room until a collective poem or story is formed. Beatnik poets brought this art form back to life in the 1960s. In the 1990s, the Surrealist exercise spread further in popularity: cartoonists and novelists used Exquisite Corpse to create their works, and musicians like David Bowie and Kurt Cobain constructed lyrics using the technique. High school students at Badgerdog’s summer camp at The Girls’ School of Austin wrote at least two of these poems every day for three weeks. It gave them a greater understanding of the writer’s collective by trusting in each other and their own instincts. The following poems are proof that even without a specific topic, we are all connected when we write together.

Jena Kirkpatrick
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Sprouts Ideas

-an Exquisite Corpse poem

Where did it go? My world?
The land was dry and broken
A small piece of paper sitting on a table
The world slows down, and time speeds up
Sirens echo in a dark hallway
With that the daggers of ice hit the ground with a resounding crack
Earth’s surface like Grandma’s apple pie crust seemed to crumble away
The wind blowing without direction
The soft touch of graphite sprouts ideas
The carrots are coming
Does it all even matter?
None of it matters now.
It is all resolved; the only thing remaining is the witching hour’s sky

Dhruv Ruttala, Anya Van Arnam, Lauren Tourish, Keziah Myers, Camille Pfister, and Zoe Slade. Composed June 21, 2017.

Time

-an Exquisite Corpse poem

Time is but a relative concept
A million clocks on a million walls telling me a million different things from midnight to noon
Time, what are you? Who are you? You are fast and slow, can be light and dark, I am beginning to think no one knows.…
What if the past never existed, and we were simply placed in the present with these memories?
Hours race like seconds, minutes crawl like days
Every decision you’ve ever made leads you here
Tick tock the hands move along
What time was it when I began to fade away?
Time is at a standstill as the world whirls into eternity
Sometimes I wonder if our current life is just a dream, and death would just be waking up

Dhruv Ruttala, Anya Van Arnam, Lauren Tourish, Keziah Myers, Camille Pfister, and Zoe Slade. Composed June 22, 2017.

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