The current trade war between the US and China is a far-reaching topic, and a discouraging one. But there is an aspect of our trading partnership that can be very cheering. I’m talking about product descriptions and instructions for the many, many things we buy from China.
It occurred to me recently that there’s potential for some interesting found poetry here. Not long ago I was introduced to the idea of found poetry by a writer friend (Hey, Alisha!). Basically, found poetry is like collage, in that the poet collects phrases and composes them into a work, in much the same way that a collage artist might take existing physical materials (photos, fragments from paintings, etc.) and arrange them to make a new work of art.
Ideally, my recognition that I could use excerpts from Chinese instructions to compose found poetry would have been followed by my remembering where I had stashed lots of excellent source material. Alas, I have not been either diligent or methodical in my collecting. But I do have a lovely specimen of recent vintage that I can use to show you what I mean.
As part of the book on music video production that El Guapo recently finished (coming out in 2019–stay tuned), he was looking around online for various bits of equipment. In the description of a light he was researching he found this phrase:
A battery slice of rust
Doesn’t that sound like it needs to be part of a poem? I’m not even sure what the writer was trying to convey, but all is not lost. Chiquito (my literary theorist on speed-dial) tells me that Roland Barthes, French post-structuralist, wrote of “the death of the author,” the idea that what the author intends doesn’t matter. The text stands on its own. Post-modernism may have other things to say on the topic, but I’m going to assert that we don’t have time right now to go hunting for them.
Do you have favorite lines or phrases, gifted to you by non-native English speakers? If you’ve been more diligent and methodical about recording them and can share any, please do. If we collaborate, we’re going to be able to put together some quality found poetry.
Since I’ve only got this one line for now, perhaps I can use it as a Haiku prompt:
“A battery slice of rust.”
What mystery, this?
[Images: cemarking.net, babelio.com, Wikipedia]