Instructions for the Zapruder, Mirov & Schomburg Project
Given how many different things are going on with these three writers, I wanted to generate something more open and flexible, so I’ve broken up these steps into sections, with the middle section having a looser structure and more options. Reminder/caveat: the value of these projects is purely hueristic; if you are a beginning writer or if this type of style of writing is unfamiliar, surrender yourself to the instructions and see what happens, be a machine. But if you are confident, go with your intuition, strike out into your territory. Also, do your prep work by reading this, this and this.
Opening Section (~3 sentences):
- Start with a Mirov opener. “I ____________.” The blank is a something you did (or do) or thought (or think). You can think about something strange you did or thought recently or you could write “(I) imagine(d) I/you am/are a _______,” filling in the blank with either a random noun or something that you really did/said/saw today.
- Write a “tunnel” or “ladder” sentence that wanders from something real/concrete to something abstract/unreal: “A real rabbit made from paper made from imaginary snow.” Connect to the previous sentence through a pronoun or by repeating one of the nouns. If you need help, grab another random noun and think about what it would be like if that noun were an omnipotent Platonic Form. Example, random word: pastry. Thought process: pastryness sounds like a giant sugary pinkness, cotton-like but also migraine-inducing (that’s where my mind goes). Result: I connect whatever I was talking about in my first sentence to a vague description of this “Pastry-ness.”
- Zapruder sinewy syntax: Now write a sentence that begins with a qualifying or subjectivizing phrase like
- “I sometimes think that…”
- “There is/are _______ that…”
- “It seems like…”
- “I feel like…”
- “I thought that…”
- “How is it that…”
- “Between you and me…”
- “I would like you to know that..”
- “Do you remember how…?”
then moves into a perpection-filtering or qualifying expression:
- “I have never truly seen…”
- “what appears to be…”
- ”___ might try to…”
- “if _____ wasn’t so…”
- “I admire when…”
- “if it should so happen that…” then continue with a somewhat fantastical idea/statement/phrase, and then…
Add a subordinating conjunction and a phrase that includes a reference to a random place (use the city/town generator, feel free to toggle the country and other place settings).
Middle section (2-3 sentences):
Pick two or more of the following.
- Zapruder shift: summarize something you saw, watched or read and switch from past to present tense, so it sounds like you/I are suddenly “in” the story
- Zapruder juxtaposition: a longish, complex sentence that starts with one thing and ends with a wildly different thing, written in an explanatory tone
- Schomburgian phenomenology: describe something completely fantastical as if you saw it or experienced it plain as day—give a couple details and simple explanations by employing simple present of past tense
- Mirov name-dropping: give something or someone you just refered to an arbitrary (real or fantastical) name, like Robert Frost.
- Mirov self-reference: refer to yourself by name, in the third-person
- Schomburgian contradiction: make a statement, then write another sentence that flatly contradicts it or makes it absurd/impossible. “I stood on the table. The table was not there.”.
This middle section should make at least one reference to a plant or animal. Use these animal and plant name generators:
- Write a few simple sentences in the simple present tense: “I pet a moth as big as a baby.” “I remove the duct tape from my naked body.” Interlock these sentences by using the same noun/pronoun in each. Use the random adj-noun generator for inspiration. At this point you should be developing idea totally different from the one you started with.
- Write a sentence modeled after this one: “A kind of peacefulness into me carefully moves, like a…,” replacing each content word (noun, verb, adj.) using improvisation and/or chance methods.
- End with one of the following:
- another “tunnel” sentence, moving from concrete to abstract or abstract to concrete
- write a self-aware, emo sentence using the first and/or second person, and a grand statement-metaphor about the universe: “You were born to feel a way you don’t have a word for.” “The world is black, and you are in its mouth.”
- partially contradict or qualify what you said in the previous sentence with a phrase-sentence, “Or…” “Actually…” “But…”
- Give it a long, awesome title by quoting a pithy, odd phrase from a poem you love. (Recently I’ve just been using phrases from Frank O’Hara and/or Kierkegaard.)
- Lineate and revise as desired.
- Submit your poem(s) to me, and I’ll post the good ones.