Beware the Scissor Men

I’ve been delving into Auden’s collected poems and I ran across these lines from The Witness:

And now with sudden swift
Come the hooded women,
the hump-backed
And the Scissor Man.

At first I had no idea what to make of it. Yet the imagery struck me in the face. Who were these scissor men and what exactly were they going to do to me?

A few weeks later I began watching the Doom Patrol series on TV and the surrealistic ideas got my brain churning again. You see, as a youth I loved the bizarre notions of dada. I had collected multiple books on the movement along with the diaries of Salvador Dali. For a long time, I strived to mimic the quirky and off-the-wall nature of surrealistic ideas. 

Yet the more I read about the formation of the Doom Patrol and it’s run by Grant Morrison, I realized trying to be weird wasn’t the point. The idea behind Dada or Surrealism is to use techniques to unlock the unconscious so that pure ideas flow forth. Something us creative folk strive for. 

One technique, pioneered by another favorite of mine — William S. Burroughs — was the cut up. In this, you cut apart pages from a book or magazine and then reassemble them into new, Frankensteined sentences. The idea here is to jar your mind out of linear thinking. We’re so used to a specific order of things: Boy meets girl. Girl rejects him. Boy prevails and wins over girl (or dates her brother). 

Cut ups can get you to think in different ways. The best cut up sentence I created came from a newspaper sliced up with scissors in a coffee shop. The line created was this:

Unfamiliar puddles of light lurked in the crevices like cancer.

This spring-boarded me into a story of survival in space, and also my first published story. 

Except you don’t even have to use the newly created sentences. They might simply be a jumping off point for a new idea. Follow the rabbit hole down and see what lies under the ordinary. Because haven’t we had enough of the same old, same old?


Special Gift: Try the Cut Up Generator as a quick and easy way to detach yourself from linear thought.

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