Get Cut-Up With William S. Burroughs

With traces back to the Dadaists of the 1920s, the cut-up technique was at the crux of writer William S. Burroughs’ most brilliant work. Putting his own spin on the experimental approach to creative expression, Burroughs’ The Nova Trilogy, which included the novels The Soft Machine, Nova Express, and The Ticket That Exploded—published between 1961 and 1964—were “an attempt to create a mythology for the space age,” as he put it himself.

And below, you can watch a video of Burroughs demonstrating his writing technique, which is certainly indebted to Tristian Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem:”

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

*And for more Burroughs, here he is talking about chicken fried steak at dinner with Andy Warhol.

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