words pasted onto paper

Home-Made Glue and the Creative Process Behind “Night-Time Skin Ritual”

After doing a cut-up last week using my own work and the WIPP nuclear waste warning poem, I decided I really enjoyed the cut-up process and the kinds of work it generated. I wanted to do something playful for Valentine’s Day using whatever advertising I could get my hands on. Unfortunately I didn’t come across any fliers or other paper ads in the wild, so my only source was the SF Weekly.

I hand selected the ads for events happening on February 14th in the SF Weekly and then cut out interesting phrases with scissors. I wasn’t satisfied with the variety of phrases and selected an advertisement for a beauty cream from the Tatler, and cut phrases I liked using a box cutter. I used a box cutter because I couldn’t find my little scissors and the big scissors didn’t have enough precision. All the cutting probably took almost an hour.

Then I put all the cut-outs on a big cookie sheet and used a variety of randomizing techniques. At first I arranged the cut-outs into little piles by size and chose from each pile in turn. I didn’t like the results. I removed a couple of cut-outs from the mix that I thought were too boring or repetitive. Then I tried stirring all the cut-outs together, and then sprinkling them gently onto the cookie sheet, to scatter them randomly. Some flew onto the floor. I then picked up the pieces that were on the outermost edge, clockwise, and put them down in a shoebox lid. After one turn around the clock I repeated the scattering process. Snippets that fell onto the floor were also deemed to be selected.

I modified the placement order for too un-random feeling randomness (like when two things appear in a row that used to be in a row in the original text), but mostly left the words and phrases as they came.

Once the shoe box lid was full, I decided to glue the phrases to a blank piece of paper. I couldn’t find any glue so I decided to make some paste glue using a little bit of flour and water and heating it up in the microwave. I added too much flour and made a gluey dough. When I tried to thin it out by adding more hot water, it just got lumpy. It turns out making glue is a lot like making French sauces, and once the flour has been activated with hot water, you can’t dilute it further. I put the bad glue in the compost.

I tried again with less flour in my paste mixture. It boiled over in the microwave and was too thin. I made some more very thick paste and added it bit by bit to the too-thin paste, which did work. I microwaved it again and it boiled over again. I had to transfer the glue to another container and wash the whole microwave.

Although the glue making was messy it probably only took about 15 minutes.

I got a piece of printer paper and attached it to a clipboard. I used a toothpick to spread glue on the back of each phrase and glued it down onto the paper.

There were more paper snippets left, so I repeated the process twice more. Then I transcribed and photographed the results.

People think that the worst that might happen with poetry creation is some spilled ink or accidental pencil stabbing, but I make much, much bigger messes as part of my poetic process.

And that’s how I wrote Night-Time Skin Ritual.

night-time skin ritual

Night-Time Skin Ritual

Natural regenerative process begins 45 minutes prior
and goes on dates with sensation.
The iconic pure opening & reception seats, chocolate & wine,
culminating in a glorious finale with Supreme Eye.
He took and you didn’t. Gigantic lamp can be stories that grow into a tale.
Got a heart?
The orchestra’s expressive range, Mom’s Body Shop moves from LA to San Francisco
Wake up rich in body shop
Valentine’s Part
to Napoleon in commemoration of his Beethoven’s Eroica
storytelling crack these crazy buffing, massaging, moisturizing.
Do you see who’d just said “I love you,” at gunpoint? The
monumental Eroica Symphony. Throughout the night! Weed is legal
a piece originally dedicated a woman heart tattoos $25 each all
sex-positive activities and sexpert sexual enhancement.
A first date who unexpectedly brought her the ultimate brightening boost:
highly advanced, potent orgasm art serum. This dark circles,
infant, to hitting up a sex club with Supreme Eye
Advanced ageing 120 women in 2 years —
opposition to tyranny. Showcasing five minutes of gliding.
Profits will be donated to taking acid, it plumps the artgasm:
to erase the signs of celebrating the undying-looking eyes in the morning.

I generated this cut-up using advertisements for events happening on Valentine’s Day, along with an ad for a skin product.

text of poem "They might be wild roses"

They might be wild roses

They might be wild roses


he is going

London is awake,

discover a secret under unnatural lights

dancing queen was the worst.


God inhaled

authenticity do not apply to his work. []

Don’t imagine food, supplies, and babies.

They came to turn

Nordstrom. The

sex I had when

This poem was generated using the cut-up technique as part of a group exercise at a class I’m taking at The Grotto called Pushing The Boundaries: Experiments in Fiction and Poetry (with Jenny Bitner). Every member of the class cut out words and phrases from whatever sources they chose, put them in a big envelope, and then we grabbed a handful at random and arranged them pretty much as they came. I manipulated mine slightly but only very slightly. You can learn more about cut-up technique and try it yourself. I don’t know why I never thought to use cut-up before, but then again that’s exactly why I decided to take this class: to push me in new creative directions.