K. Silem Mohammad






Process Narrative

Kasey Mohammad writes primarily using digital media. Beyond the odd scrap of paper here and there, he composes, edits and revises poems on a Mac laptop computer. While initial forays into contemporary poetry were, in his words, more “organic” and “freehand”–typing the words and finding a kind of rhythm–his transition into working with the Flarf Group in the early 2000s came to rely more heavily on internet resources (such as Google search results) to generate material for collage poems. Due in large part to this digitally-oriented generative practice, Mohammad’s revision process is similarly digital: he culls computer-generated material and then manipulates it in digital space.

Mohammad’s equivalent of drafting, then, took on an almost fully digitized form. When seeking out material for a Flarf poem, he would copy and paste large portions of text from Google search results pages into a Word document (including URLs and colored, linked text), remove this “junk text,” and then remove extraneous punctuation and capitalization until he was left with pages of uniformally lowercase, black and white text. From there, he manipulated the text towards a poetic composition, rearranging line orders and grouping them into stanzas (often tercets) and deleting language that didn’t serve the evolving draft.

In terms of creating a collection of these poems, Mohammad came to seek a “lyric construct” or “verbal shape” that was somehow limited to a specific bank of search terms. His revision priority thus revolved more around verbal arrangement (including rhythm and sound) than verbal thematics–all the while keeping in mind the constraint of the search used to generate the text in the first place.

In his most recent project, Mohammad has begun feeding lines from Shakespeare’s sonnets into an anagram generator (he uses ‘One Across’ at oneacross.com) and then re-arranging the resultant letters to create new sonnets in iambic pentameter. This process, too, is completely digital, both in terms of generative work and composition.

Ultimately, despite the differences between his various projects, Mohammad tends to consistently work with a focus on finding clusters of meaning and rhythm within existing fragments of text, then “shifting and sculpting” what is already in front of him into a fun, fresh form.

Mohammad’s archiving and back-up practices are fairly simple: he saves his poems and manuscripts as Word documents or PDF files, and saves copies of the published books.