Contributor Spotlight: J.I. Kleinberg

J.I. Kleinberg on Found Poem/Collages

Drawn from an ongoing series of more than 1600 pieces, my found-word collages exploit the accidents of magazine design—the places where, by happenstance, unrelated words stack upon one another or cast unintended meaning across the boundaries of sentence, paragraph, and column break. Each poem/collage is made up of two to eight text fragments, each fragment the approximate equivalent of a poetic line. The text includes no attributable phrases and the lines that make up each poem are sourced from different magazines.

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The words are harvested from my near-obsessive perusal of magazines and set aside until I overhear some resonance between them. I am drawn to the music in the words, the iambic lilt, the assonance and alliteration, the potential and potent meaning contained within each fragment of text. It’s a visual and auditory process, somewhere between Dada and Twitter, between ransom note and haiku.

The words are more than language; they are physical objects, paper-color-font, sliced from magazine pages with an X-Acto knife, edges torn, words separated from prefixes, suffixes or punctuation to suggest new meaning, and arrayed across the work table that is my palette. From sense I excise nonsense, turning words back into raw material, then recombining them to disclose this new syntax. What propels me is the surprise, the accident, the noticing that allows me to recycle the unintended into this curious, evolving, personal, visual-verbal form. The pieces do not adhere to a recognized poetic structure; if they resemble a known form, that too is accidental.

This process grew out of a years-long parallel course of writing and art, including collage. Collage emphasizes both the new and accidental meaning of each line and the subtle shaping of breath as we read a poem. While the words could be transcribed into more conventional form, the language and the shapes are, for me, inextricably linked.

While the series addresses various topics, this collection reflects on how we function in the world, how (or whether) we change and what we’re made of: rocks, water, light, time—the elements that that are both the substance and the surroundings of our bodies (actually or metaphorically).