This week, if:book Australia is proud to publish a series of remixes from its 24-Hour Book, Willow Pattern. The source material for the remixes goes well beyond the finished text of the book to include the entire database of edits collected over the project's duration.
Nicholas Powell has produced Figures in Waiting, a work the authors describes as follows:
I cut and paste the stories into one document, three columns to a page, then performed various Gysinesque experiments, underlining interesting run-ons, vertical enjambments. These fragments served as the raw material, the third mind, as it were. I sifted and shuffled the parts, did revisions, replaced words. The result is both aleatoric and subjective. There is nothing new in the procedure, per se. It seemed to be a work that needed to float in a gas of abstractions, to be everywhere and nowhere at once. I suppose I was drawn to the suggestive, the threatening, the absurd, place names, slippery pronouns and tenses, grammar errors, rhetorical motifs, and other elements that seemed to invite and resist metaphor.
Read Figures in Waiting at the Willow Patterns Showcase.
An interview with Nicholas Powell
You talked of “Gysinesque experiments” which led me to a jargontastic Wikipedia article on Gysin Sequence, after which I had to look at lolcats for ten minutes to decompress. For the uninitiated, can you talk us through this technique? Were you able to achieve this on screen or was it a physical process of manipulating the text?
It was a physical process with stationery: cutting and taping column combinations and underlining defacto fragments, then drafting with pen and paper, and finally moving to computer for further drafts and revisions. It’s more play than process, and quite archaic, building by hand.
The riot of absurd images remind me of James Bridle’s concept of the vernacular of the network, the idea of an emerging language of machines manipulated and filtered by human interaction (my favourite bits: “Good luck, sheep dip” and “Before you can say, “not finished”, you’re stairs.”). Did you have in mind that almost spambot aesthetic or am I making things up?
I had in mind, or began to hear, a certain idiolect capable of being playful and sincere in the same breath—which is probably the main tension in my poems, and certainly in my thinking about poems. Is language redeemable? “Words have become hazy and inflated through centuries of exaggerated feeling”, Nietzche tells us. I don’t know whether to mock and ironize the state of language, or use “rigorous compression, coldness, plainness, restraint of feeling and taciturnity”. 
In this poem the speaker is a prosebot, actually, and by retarding language he reaches beyond language. That is his aim, armed only with his obsessions and verbal tics. Call him Faux Pas. You’re also making things up, Jason.
The poem certainly has the feel of a remix, I get flashes of recognition throughout while appreciating the piece as something completely new. How did strike a balance between using the source material and your own contributions?
It’s close to the kind of poem I might have written in a more conventional way, but at a few removes. I also wanted the source material to shine through. Balance is done by feel, by listening to the poem, so it can be itself, but also be open to authorial flourishes. In the end it becomes quite subjective— even selecting which source material to appropriate in the first place is highly subjective, because there is no cold restraint. I had the double-advantage of being able to try on different voices, while being free to chime in.
What contrast did you want to strike between the poem’s first and second halves?
I like intermission in a long poem. The halves also mirror the collaborative aspect and the process. The fold.
I wasn’t after contrast per se between the two halves. If anything I wanted it to seem of a piece. Remixed in the poem, the narrative tropes from the source material lead you up the garden path. The poem exists in different temporalities, so it has to be held together tonally, and with certain motifs, for instance, Heather.
Part of the brief for the project was that the piece would be published online. Did that influence your work, knowing that it would be presented on screen, rather than paper?
No, I don’t think so.
 Friedrich Nietzche, Human, All Too Human. (England, Penguin: 1994) 121.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.futureofthebook.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Nick_Powell.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Nicholas Powell’s first full-length collection, Water Mirrors (UQP, 2012) was awarded the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, and shortlisted for the Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry. In 2012-13 he was commisioned to write poems for The Red Room’s Poetry Object, and Cordite-QPF’s Gibberbird. He lives in Finland. http://cordite.org.au/author/nicholas_powell/[/author_info] [/author]