Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Poems with permutations

     Below, in the May 16 posting, this blog considered all of the permutations of a few words -- in search of "the best" arrangement. Today we illustrate word-permutations in poems.
     First, a few lines from poet Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) -- who was masterful in her distortions of ordinary syntax and in her use of language in new ways. Stein played with both repetition and rearrangement; here is a brief example:

     Money is what words are.
     Words are what money is.
     Is money what words are.
     Are words what money is.

These lines are.from Stein's Collection,  The Geographical History of America first published in 1936 and available in a 1995 edition from Johns Hopkins University Press.

More comprehensive in the use of permutations was Brion Gysin (1916-1986).  Here is his "Rub Out the Write Word."

I found Gysin's "Rub Out the Write Word" at this website.  It first appeared in Minutes to Go, by Sinclair Beiles, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Brion Gysin (Beach Books 1968).  Links to information about the Cut-up method by Gysin are included in the  11 November 2010 posting.


  1. "Permutation City", an SF novel by Greg Egan, is prefaced by a 20-line poem that begins

    Into a mute crypt, I
    Can't pity our time
    Turn amity poetic

    Each line's an anagram of "permutation city". The Prologue's title is "(Rip, tie, cut toy man)", which also appears in chapter headings 3, 6, 9, and 12. Chapter 1 is headed "(Remit not paucity)", which also appears in chapter headings 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, and the Epilogue. Chapter 16 is headed "Toy man picture it". Chapter 20 is headed "Can't you time trip".

  2. What fun! Thanks, Tim!
    By the way, I have been enjoying your recent collection MOVING PARTS -- and readers of this blog will be fascinated to know that one of your poems ("Windmills") mentions Green's Theorem.

  3. Brion made amazing Permutations. Here's some online programs....