The Fact of Having a Body

Francesco Levato - The Fact of Having a Body
Source: The Pale King, manipulated via chance operations.

FRANCESCO LEVATO is a poet, translator, and filmmaker. Recent books include Endless, Beautiful, Exact; Elegy for Dead Languages; War Rug; and Creaturing (as translator). His poetry films have been performed with various composers, including Philip Glass. He founded the Chicago School of Poetics, holds an MFA in Poetry, and is working on his PhD in English Studies. ttp://


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  • September 5, 2013

    Winston Plowes

    Francesco, In your source notes is refers to your composition process as “manipulated by chance operations”. I like this neat phrase, which suggests multiple (operations or repetitions of the same process) and a degree of randomness.

    Both this and the impact of your finished work leaves me wanting to know more about how it was formed.

    The statements you provide for us seem like the thrusts of a knife blade in the dark. Only seeing a brief flash before the next quickly arrives. Excellent.

  • September 5, 2013

    Francesco Levato

    Thanks Winston,
    This is a great project, as is FPR. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

    About your question, the chance operations I use are a modification of the acrostic chance method described in Charles Bernstein’s experiments ( blended with the mesostic process of John Cage. In acrostic chance the idea is to use a key phrase as a means of finding text in a source document. For each letter of your key phrase you would go to its corresponding page number in your source text (i.e. a = page 1, z = page 26) and find the first word on that page that begins with your key letter and copy from that letter to the end of the line. This would become line one of your poem, and so on. What you would end up with is an acrostic poem constructed from found text (the letters of the key phrase seen down the left side of the poem). John Cage’s mesostic poems also use a key phrase, but this runs through the middle of the poem. I essentially use a combined “mesostic chance” operation to search for words that start with my key phrase letter and then copy the entire line (to the beginning and to the end from where I find the key word) and so my key phrase would run through the middle of my lines like in Cage’s mesostics. My concern though is not in preserving the key phrase but in using it as a means to collect language for later manipulation. So there is also a lot of interference on my part in the collected language to shape the resulting poem.

    Also, I really like your erasure as a three dimensional collage (and via that the idea of the poem as an art object with a very material presence).