1919, from Fr. collage "a pasting," from O.Fr. coller "to glue," from Gk. kolla "glue."


in response to my question about linh’s comment on PoemTalk, linh wrote:

“The collage technique is more often the “I notice this, I notice that,” a process that began with city living, specifically riding through it in a street car or car, and reading the collaged newspaper, and now, surfing through the collaged and incoherent internet while sitting in a busy coffee shop listening to your ipod. I’m no fan of multi-tasking, by the way.”

in my essay, My Michael Magee & the Frontier of Democratic Symbolic Action (avail as a free PDF), i touched on a similar idea in the section titled: “Give it up! I was president of the computer club at Mineola Prep”:

“In Emancipating Pragmatism, Magee locates the roots of Frank O’Hara’s “Personism” in American Pragmatism and experimental jazz. “Personism” then becomes an intermediary inheritance between Emerson’s emancipated Pragmatism and Magee’s Pragmatist Flarf.

Magee describes how O’Hara’s conception of poetic speech as telephone chatter renders “all speech as fundamentally colloquial”; even the nature of the telephone “suggests that the poem is dialogic” (139). The poem, created through a jazz-shaped “nerve,” exists between two people and facilitates “a kind of collective improvisation that represented for O’Hara democracy in aesthetic action” (143). Magee points to how O’Hara’s “I do this I do that” poems emphasize personal address and the act of doing to “set the writer and reader dynamic in motion” (142).

Despite the obvious parallel, Magee’s “Personism” is more of a “Virtualism,” where the poem doesn’t exist between two people, but between one person, the computer, and the virtual world. Moreover, Magee does not write “I do this, I do that” poems, but he writes what I call “I read this, I read that” poems. You just go on your server, so to speak.”


it’s not all that surprising that collage continues to be a major technique in contemporary poetry (with some poets making a career out of it) since collage creates so many different prosodic and semantic effects. plus, collage is so theoretically malleable. and there’s long precedence in the visual arts (picasso, braque, etc) as well as in the literary arts, from the dadas and the surrealists, to eliot, pound, williams, rukeyser, zukofsky, moore, olson, to name only a few non-contemporaries.

before school started for me, i had been tinkering with an essay looking at the use of collage in contemporary ‘ethnic-avant’ poetry, thinking of collage as assemblage through a Deleuzian ‘agencement’. maybe i’ll have time this summer to do something with it.

i’m curious, do you ever use collage? do you have specific kind of sources you use? what do you feel is the value of collage? how do you theorize your use of collage, if at all? who’s your favorite collagiste?

since my plans to talk-shit about selinger have been successfully thwarted, i need your comments–now more than ever–to help get me through a rough week of NaBlogWrMo.



3 thoughts on “1919, from Fr. collage "a pasting," from O.Fr. coller "to glue," from Gk. kolla "glue."

  1. burroughs and gyson used the cut- up method to produce poems and prose.
    it was like collaging with words.


  2. Do i use collage? I’m not telling 😉 Who was it who said: “talking about one’s procedures is like talking about one’s love-affairs”? I think it was me, right now. Anyway, I’ll try to copyright it tomorrow and we’ll see if it comes to court.

    Also: do the muses use collaged inspirations before they allow us to recollect our emotions in tranquillity? That’s the real question.

    Comment comment comment.

  3. My favorite collagist is Jess Collins.

    I think collage is of potential value to any artist, whether or not they use it in their final art.

    For instance, if I was teaching a class on making comics, I would have the students design at least one comics page out of pre-existing drawings.

    This would allow the comics makers to forget for a moment about having to to draw recognizable things–which takes up a good portion of most of our time and thought–and to refocus on other aspects of comics-making, for instance on how they’re creating a page for maximum effect. This might give them valuable insight into how to design pages in the future to get whatever story or idea across.

    In other words, using collage–even if only playing around with it and never using it in finished art of some kind–can help illumate other aspects of making that an artist may not have focused on before.

    Craig, could you clarify what you mean by ethnic-avant? Do you mean avant-garde writers dealing with/foregrounding enthnicity in some way in their work? I’ve seen the phrase used in music, where it does mean just that. But you may mean something else?

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