Monday, 20 October 2014

Creative Bag of Tricks #5 - Cut-ups

What do David Bowie, T.S. Eliot and Julio Cortazar all have in common? They all used methods known as "cut-ups" to write their own poems and songs!

"Cut-ups" are a range of techniques involving cutting up and rearranging texts, or borrowing from other texts, in order to create a new text such as a poem or song. In this post, we suggest three creative writing activities inspired by cut-ups, suitable for a range of learners and stages. 

#1 - Dotty Mixtures (Beginners)

The aim of Dotty Mixtures is to substitute parts of a simple sentence structure with parts from another sentence in order to create a new combination - often with silly results!

Vert, comme un oiseau dans la main!

  • Learners may start by creating their own simple sentences which they cut up and rearrange, or 
  • The teacher may provide a resource on a particular theme, such as those below, which learners can use to make new sentences (follow links to download in English and other languages).
  • Learners may give careful consideration to the new combinations they create or they may select from separate piles at random. 
  • The new sentences may be put together to make a short poem.

Dotty mixtures - Animals

Dotty mixtures - Colours

Dotty mixtures - Halloween


#2 - Vocabularyclept Poetry  (Beginner - Advanced)

The object of vocabularyclept poetry, is to reconstruct a poem that has been cut up into individual words, phrases or sentences. 

  • A poem is chosen and its components (sentences, phrases, words) are mixed up, either at random or rearranged in alphabetical order. 
  • Learners try to reconstruct the poem or make a new poem from the component parts.

Walle, walle, manche Strecke, dass zum Zwecke Wasser fliesse

  • Teachers may scaffold or extend the task by;
    • Varying the length of each component from single words to phrases to whole sentences, or a mixture of all of these;
    • Allowing learners to read the original poem before they are tasked with putting it back together;
    • Selecting poems which range in complexity and length;
    • Providing the first and last word of each line or the first and last line of each stanza;
    • Removing or including punctuation;
    • Allowing  the use of dictionaries or glossaries;
    • Allowing learners to "ditch" a specified number of components;
    • Reconstructing a poem verbally in an oral relay task:
      • Put learners in groups and place a copy of the poem for each group in several different locations in the room. 
      • Learners are given a set time to take it in turns to walk to their copy of the poem, read as much as they can remember, return to their tables and dictate this to the group. The rest of the group takes turns to write down what is said. 
      • Learners may go back and forth as often as their time allocation allows but they must wait until they return to their group before they start dictating. They may not read the poem aloud from its location.
      • The aim is to be the group who reconstructs the text most accurately.

Search for multilingual poems at the Scottish Poetry Library.


#3 - Fold-in (Advanced)

The fold-in technique is a very close relative of the cut-up. The content of poems is inspired by taking two sheets of any text - preferably with the same line spacing - folding each one in half vertically then putting them together. Writers then read, select and manipulate language from the results to fashion their own poem or song!

"...un sueño pacífico, sereno, convertido en una piedra..."
  • This technique is suggested for more advanced learners since it involves an astute comprehension of texts and careful editing.
  • A variety of texts may be used such as transcripts, novels, song lyrics, poems, newspapers, or texts generated by the class like essays and personal accounts.
  • It may be helpful to word process original texts in preparation for this activity so that line spacing requirements can be set.

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