Cubomania – a page from my notebook.

I thought I’d start the New Year by sharing a page from my notebook. I’ve been experimenting with cut up texts for a while now, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried the Surrealist idea of cubomania. It’s more usual for images to be cut into squares and put back together to create a picture collage, but I’ve applied it to written texts. I’ve used newspapers, magazines, essays, letters, pages from novels, even snippets of my own writing. What does it generate? Well, you have to have an open mind and accept that the sense, if there is any, is created by the way the brain makes connections between the words and phrases. Therefore, the meaning I get from the juxtaposition of these texts is probably not the same as someone else would get. Here’s how it looks when I’ve made some of those connections:

Our local writing group met for the first session of the year last night and we talked a little about what the value of this sort of thing is. Does it generate poems? Yes, but they’re off the wall, although if you play around a bit, meanings start to surface that do have resonance. Are the poems likely to have a wide readership? No, because they don’t provide that instant (and broadly accessible) hit that you get from a great line of poetry, for example, ‘the wet socket of a levered stone’ (from ‘Every Creeping Thing’ in Jacob Polley’s Jackself). However, I’d argue that the process of creating a poem using this method is a great way of freeing up the mind, of putting the ego to one side and not having any expectations about the finished product. If you’re strict with yourself, and only use the words in the collage, you’re imposing a set of rules you don’t normally work by. This gives you a sort of confidence (some of my writing group would say it’s misplaced confidence but that’s okay). The process of writing can be full of self doubt. An exercise like this needs you to focus. There’s no time for self doubt or procrastination, not in the initial stages. It’s almost a moving meditation, dividing up the texts, cutting them into squares, pasting them in the notebook. Then there’s the focus you need to find the words and phrases that you can use, that go together to make new meaning. Finally, you’re looking to build a poem out of these phrases. It takes concentration. You’re making something new. It’s better to be doing than not doing. You’ll probably decide it’s rubbish in the end, but then there’s a phrase lodged in your brain that wasn’t there before. You’re going to use it to write a better poem, aren’t you? And in case you’re wondering what I got out of the page I’ve shared above, here’s the poem. Pelt it with eggs if you like. It’s very resilient!


Testing Sophocles

poor everyone
sometimes you’re it
gentle iron nutrients     no skill involved

sometimes you’re flesh
teeth damned in the pond
crawling down houses at night

joys propelled like the ornithologist’s
impossible strategies
for mental involvement

free some blue     a kooky older Londoner
kind of allegory
the distillation of the rigorous touch

nothing has any power
that line break
the hard earned cash of failure

double gold petri-dish sun
the concept of luck
scratchcards take precedence over language




6 thoughts on “Cubomania

  1. This is interesting! I like word playing and being open to play. Sometimes poetry happens in the connections your brain makes, sometimes. At my Stanza group on Saturday, we took a first line from a poem published in the current Poetry Review then wrote in response to it and passed the poems round – Exquisite Corpse poems. You have to force yourself to be quick and to not think but to write. Thanks for sharing this. I might try it!


  2. Glad you found this of interest Josephine. Ideally, I’d like to give it another go with a less random choice of texts, just to see what it generates. If you do try this method, I’d love to read the results.
    All the best,


  3. Pingback: Posts from poetry blogs I’ve enjoyed reading this week – Josephine Corcoran

  4. Hi Julie,

    I’m very interested in collage processes and frequently use them in my writing. I hadn’t come across ‘’cubomania’ before. I think I might share some pages of my notebooks on my own blog. Have you come across the site I use the ‘cut-up’ engine/s quite a bit – something fresh and interesting always comes up. Thanks for an interesting post.



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