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William Burroughs & Brion Gysin: Cut-Ups



Don't know words. Poets don't know. Words don't know poets.

The lineage of the cut-up poetry technique can be found with early Dadaism, specifically in the work of Hugo Ball. Popularized in the late 1950s by William Burroughs, via his collaborator, the artist/wrter Brion Gysin, the art form is described as aleatory, a composition of chance. In this literary form, entire texts and phrases are “cut up” and rearranged to construct poetic stanzas. It is often likened to literary collages; an effort to recount the mapping of a visual experience.

In this circa 1976 recording, Gysin performs some of his original poems. Following the performance, Burroughs reads additional texts including an excerpt of Cobblestone Gardens, giving praise to his contemporary. Allen Ginsberg also discusses the technique, recounting and contextualizing Burroughs' practice and relating to writing on a typewriter.
 

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