White matter … (s)

I’m reading Kim Addonizio’s book Ordinary genius, a guide for the poet within (2009). In the beginning I didn’t really like her workbook-ish style, but gradually my impression changed, and now, a quarter into the book, I’m indeed starting to enjoy it. In between writing challenges & exercise there are some very interesting and important thoughts on writing; on why we write, on how we (should) do it, and also on whom the writer is, or could be. Here Addonizio’s voice is not so much that of a teacher, as the voice of an honest and caring friend sharing her discernments.

Today my focus has been on Chapter 7: line, breath & vision – its a chapter on layout, on how the words are placed on the page, and on the energy and speed of the poem.

Addonizio says:

As you move across the page, the white space comes into play. Any musician will tell you that silence is an important part of music. Similarly, white space is a part of the poem.

And she continues:

Scientists have discovered that outer space – what we think of as space – isn’t. It turns out there is something they call dark matter, and it exists between the stars. So maybe for a poem, the page is white matter, rather than blank space.


CORNELIA PARKER: Cold Dark Matter, An Exploded View, 1991 A garden shed and contents blown up Dimensions variable  © Copyright 2013 Frith Street Gallery

While trying to catch some of Addonizio’s ideas about layout and space, a very different  artist suddenly made my mind a visit, namely Cornelia Parker, and especially her work Cold Dark Matter (represented above). And while delving on how and where to put words on a page, silence and noise, rhyme and sound, dark and white matter …. etc. etc, Parker’s idea of the art of blowing things up, this very destructive attitude, suddenly struck me as a very fruitful way forward – .

ps 1: When I was a student a professor once told me that the problem with Deconstructivism was that it would be impossible to build a deconstructivist building.

ps 2: I have always had a crush on impossibilities –

ps 3: writing exploded poems are no exception –

White matter … (s),


5 Comments Add yours

  1. KM Huber says:

    Right there with you on impossibilities…so many and so little time. Really enjoyed the post, Sigrun.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you Karen!

  2. Interesting re: deconstructivism & Addonizio. I think of her work as very well constructed (her own poems, not her creative-writing texts), but constructed slightly askew of standard. And that is worlds away from actual deconstructivism (whatever that may be). She’ll do, say, peculiar but brilliant things with what is apparently a sonnet form…but modified. Or compose and almost-villanelle, but with some original twist to the framework.

    Carson is good at this as well, though in a different way.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you, very interesting – I do not know Addonizio’s poems at all – yet. I like the idea of something “constructed slightly askew of standard”, because to me this implies that the work is recognizable and new at the same time: opening up and inviting the reader in, but also showing her something hitherto unseen.

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