Category Archives: live

poetry in motion

I’m not sure why we didn’t note QuickMuse last year when it debuted. No matter: the concept isn’t dated and the passing year has allowed it to accrue an archive worth visiting. On the backend, QuickMuse is a project built on software by Fletcher Moore that tracks what a writer does over time; when played back, the visitor with a Javascript-enabled browser sees how the composition was written over time, sped up if desired. On the front, editor Ken Gordon has invited a number of poets to compose a poem in fifteen minutes, based, usually, on some found text. The poetry thus created isn’t necessarily the best, but that’s immaterial: it’s interesting to see how people write. (If you’d like to try this yourself, you can use Dlog.)
Composition speeds vary. Rick Moody starts writing early, making mistakes and minor corrections, but ceaselessly moving forward at a formidable clip until his fifteen minutes are up; you get the impression he could happily keep writing at the same pace for hours. The sentence “Every year South American disappears” hangs alone in Mary Jo Salter’s composition for thirty seconds; you imagine the poet turning the phrase over in her mind to find the next sentence. Lines are added, slowly, always with time passing.
What this underscores in my mind is how writing is a weirdly private act. In a sense, the reader of QuickMuse is very close to the writer, watching the poem as it unfolds; the letters appear at the exact speed at which the writer’s fingers type them in. There’s a sense of intimacy that comes with the shared time. But the thought behind the action of typing is conspicuously absent. Is the pause a pregnant moment of decision? or simply the writer not paying attention? It’s impossible to say.