Give Chance a Chance

Chance operations are methods of generating poetry independent of the author's will and can be almost anything from throwing darts and rolling dice, to the ancient Chinese divination method, I-Ching, and even sophisticated computer programs. The purpose of such a practice is to play against the poet's intentions and ego, while creating unusual syntax and images.

Most poems created by chance operations use some original text as their source, be it the dictionary, a cereal box, or a famous work of literature.


Read and listen to Jackson Mac Low's poem "Stein 100: A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair," as well as the poet's note on what chance operations were used. Then select two or more source texts and create a new poem using your own chance operations. Be creative. The more steps you go through to transform the texts, the more original the poem you produce will be. When finished, include an author's note to let your reader understand how the poem was made.

Here is a list of chance operations you could use:
• cut and paste every other sentence to combine two texts
• roll dice, then search for all the words you can find that have that many letters
• use scissors to cut out your favorite phrases, then draw phrases out of a cup as needed
• copy and paste only words that start or end with a certain letter
• search and remove words that rhyme with one another
• change all verbs to present tense
• replace each noun in one text with nouns in another
• throw darts to determine how many syllables each line will be

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