I am a poet and a librarian in equal measure; I believe the same impulses drew me to both. I get a lot of inspiration from the compression, juxtaposition, collocation, and even the deletion of initial articles we see in libraries. I view my writing as a project of sustained bricolage, in which I compose by making use of what material and opportunities are close at hand; in my work I seek to inhabit the order and disorder of the archive, the incidentalness of attention, the stitching together and undoing of documents, bitstreams, radiowaves, and memories. I’m concerned with how serendipity and circumstance offer us certain opportunities while denying us others.
When I’m having trouble getting started writing, one of my procrastinatory habits is to wander the stacks browsing books; looking at titles, pulling random books, and looking for ideas or images or index entries or other bits of texts that might trigger a writerly impulse in me. Looking through subject headings and other metadata, and encountering all the questions they raise, often has the same effect.
Recently my writing process has involved a lot of attention to shifts between the affordances of print and electronic texts, and I often experiment with the ways my own writing (as well as external sources) can be transformed through randomization, querying, redaction, sorting, indexing, and the other ways we act upon texts. The post-publication activities I undertake at Really System are an extension of these interests, and I enjoy the collaborative nature of what goes on there. Last year’s National Poetry Month remix experiments were a great deal of fun for me, and I undertake this invitation to provide a prompt for the Found Poetry Review in that spirit.
For my contribution, I wanted to combine some of my favorite things: old books in the public domain, subject headings, and chance. Rather than one prompt, however, you get *lots*. I created a little prompt generator that draws from the HathiTrust Digital Library and the Library of Congress Children’s Subject Headings to deliver an nearly endless supply of generative activities. This tool will direct you to act on electronic versions of nearly 200 serial publications from the New York Public Library’s holdings with the year 1916 listed in their catalog records. Depending on the prompt fate deals you, you’ll also be provided with topics and/or titles from a selection of over 300 subject headings developed over time to describe books and other library materials intended for children.
Visit the prompt generator here: http://patrickwilliamsintext.com/prompt/
Patrick Williams is a poet and academic librarian living in Central New York. His recent work appears in publications including Noble/Gas Qtrly, Reality Beach, fog machine, Jungftak, and Heavy Feather Review. His chapbook manuscript Hygiene in Reading is forthcoming from Publishing Genius. He edits Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. Find him at patrickwilliamsintext.com and on Twitter @activitystory.