While I was waiting for my Glowforge my neighbor mentioned that her husband had misplaced an acrylic piece with his favorite poem, “If,” by Rudyard Kipling.
I was immediately tempted to replicate the missing poem after the Glowforge arrived.
The poem, which begins “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” consists of four stanzas with eight lines apiece. I figured that it would be hard to engrave 32 lines of text, plus space between stanzas, in an attractive and readable font.
But I could print the four stanzas as separate pieces, perhaps creating a frame where they could be shuffled to display one at a time.
I was turning this over in my head in the middle of the night when I remembered Magnetic Poetry, the popular refrigerator decoration which allows passers-by in the kitchen to create and alter poetic bits.
Maybe I could break the poem into smaller pieces…
“If” is a wonderful poem, but its language is repetitive: for instance there are 13 instances of “if” and 20 of “and.”
A half hour later I decided to use part of the last stanza of “If” combined with morsels from some other poets – T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Robert Frost – mashed up with popular lyrics from a melange of artists including Joni Mitchell, Jay Z, the Smiths, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley, Depeche Mode, Chuck Berry, Outkast and more. I would aggregate them into a block of text then remove all duplicate words with a script, distilling the result into a list of unique words.
When the Glowforge came I immediately began experimenting with acrylic but soon fell in love with 50-point chipboard as a basis for the word tiles.
That gave me a title for the project: Pulp Poetry.
So much to learn, starting with the Glowforge itself, then Inkscape which I hated at first but have grown to kind of love. I was not able to find a workable Engrave setting for the paper bags — they went from invisible to perforated as I varied power and focus. So I printed packaging info on the chipboard and glued it onto the bags,
The semi-final result consists of 400 unique word tiles in a brown paper bag closed by a laser-labeled clothespin, both embellishments suggested by my wife.
It’s unfinished in the sense that I’m still trying to come up with a rationale for the project, aside from personal learning and showing off how nicely the Glowforge can make game pieces.
Magnetic Poetry has a social component since it lives forever on the fridge, offering a creative canvas for cooks, diners and bystanders. Pulp Poetry demands a flat surface and is likely a transient visitor. Is it a game?
If it’s a game, what’s the purpose? You can’t reconstruct the source text because I sifted out all the duplicate words, so a song llke “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John is reduced to “hold closer tiny dancer headlights highway lay sheets linen busy day today.” (These lyrics are abbreviated because they are midway through the list of verses, so the words “me,” “count,” “the” are already claimed by other verses.)
Maybe just an odd piece of art.
I’m seeding copies of the project to a couple of people to see if they can develop a purpose.
Meanwhile, I’ve started gathering texts for the follow-up, “Pulp Fiction,” starting with Mickey Spillane.