centones / derivations       index

I put together a small (40 page) book of some non-telegraphic code-related derivations, all of which appeared at my tumblr, asfaltics, over the last two or three years. This is the online table of contents of that volume.

This book contains derivations from other texts, all but two of them from sources available via Google Books, and each of those (with one exception — the first) being a single pre-1923 volume. Most of these pieces were composed with my tumblr blog asfaltics in mind; all of them appeared there, often headed by an image of some sort.

It was the images that in many cases arrested my attention, encouraged me to ramble and prospect through the technical article or entire volume at hand, and even provided some hints about terms that might be found in sufficient abundance to yield some kind of verse.

The images are often accidents of the scanning process, or some interesting and even beautiful flaw in the scanned cover. In their error, they’re tangential to their texts. (One recurring tag is non sequiturs.) I’ve tended not to post images without text, and ordinarily have used at least two units of text: (1) an epigram or title, and (2) an extract either from the source of the image, and/or from elsewhere. I have also been at pains to provide bibliographic information, links, and even identification of the holder of the scanned book. Many of my asfaltics posts are emblematic in this way, in which they are the sum — or some other function — of their parts.

It is odd to see these pieces together, outside of their asfaltics context, denuded of their images and of the language making connections to those images, shorn of links to their sources. Odd also to see them one after another, in no particular order, as if they came into being in one fell swoop, rather than over two or three years in tides of densities and thinness, more text and less, more image and less, color and grey. (I have been using tumblr for over four years; my posts total 1,228 as of 25 July 2015.)

cento / centone
I came across the term cento in The Guardian, in one of Billy Mills’s Poster Poem essays inviting submissions of poetry on a theme, that month’s being found poetry. Wikipedia offers some information and scholarly references, along with this etymology :

The Latin term cento derives from Greek κέντρων (gen. κέντρωνος), meaning to plant slips (of trees). A later word in Greek, κέντρόνη, means patchwork garment.

A cento would appear to be more intentional, more worked, than a found poem. The parts are found, indeed, but then the elaborations happen : arrangings and re-arrangings, selections and deletions. Groupings. A listening for music, rises and falls of sound and, potentially, sense. This covers some of what I do with my derivations from telegraphic codes and other sources. Hence the title of this volume.

Why derivations?
Probably because they permit an improvisatory attitude that I could not achieve with original writing, in which (I imagine, probably wrongly) words and syntax to be drawn from some internal space, and need to mean something... I write this with no confidence whatever... except that I become progressively less coherent... Repetition and variation (mumbling) are much in evidence here, deriving either from phrases oscillating around single words or short expressions, or in the index-style — with its repetitive see also’s — that appear in two of the pieces (away and again).

There’s some kind of music there, anyway.

25 July 2015