ChanceOperations are methods of generating poetry independent of the author’s will. A chance operation can be almost anything from throwing darts and rolling dice, to the ancient Chinese divination method, I-Ching, and even sophisticated computer programs. Most poems created by chance operations use some original text as their source, be it the newspaper, an encyclopedia, or a famous work of literature. The purpose of such a practice is to play against the poet's intentions and ego, while creating unusual syntax and images. The resulting poems allow the reader to take part in producing meaning from the work.
Juxtaposition in composition is the placing of verbal elements side by side, leaving it up to the reader to establish connections and impose a meaning. These verbal elements (words, clauses, sentences) may be drawn from different sources and juxtaposed to form a literary collage.
1. Choose a source for your text – newspaper, cookbook, text messages, novel, travel guide, textbook. Find one phrase or sentence from your source as your prompt and begin writing.
2. General Cut up – Choose your source (one source could create a theme for your writing), or many sources (instructions, dictionaries, books, magazines, cookbooks, etc). Lift phrases/sentences/words from the sources and write something using just the phrases you have lifted or add your own words as well. If adding your own text, think about weaving the lifted phrases throughout what you are writing, or simply using them as an epigraph at the beginning.
3. Cento –Take one line each from several poems until you have 30-40 lines. The original Cento had 100 lines, each one taken from a different poet. Maintain the punctuation and exact wording of the line of the poem. Now play with the order of lines to create your own poem, a kind of patchwork or quilt. I always find it fascinating how the created Cento will reflect themes and a certain voice of the writer even if each line is not their own.
4. Serial sentence (alternate Cento): Once you have the lines arranged as you like them, make changes and add lines/words/punctuation of your own. You can also make a Cento with sentences from prose. Combine into prose or poem, reordering to make it interesting. Again, you can create a theme by how you choose your source materials.