Echo Mirrors (or playing telephone on paper) & A Revisioning Process

by Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison

(This exercise is my variation of the "echo poem," a technique invented by Aurélien Dauguet in 1972. You can find out more about his and other surrealist's techniques at

Process: 1. Gather a few poems to try this. Work with your own poems. It's also interesting to do this with poems from authors whom you enjoy. Choose one poem to start and spontaneously underline 6 or 8 or 10 short phrases. Choose without much thought, just impulse. They might be phrases that are rich in odd language, or phrases that trouble you, or don't work well, or....whatever. You may have underlined something in every line or only every few lines.

2. And then on a new piece of paper, write these phrases at the top of columns. Each column is about as wide as the phrase. Leave the page below the phrase so that there's lots of room.

3. Under each, write a number of phrases down the page that come freely to mind from the original phrase-these can be mirror reverses or echoes or homophonic changlings. The idea is to create alternative shifts that upend the original phrase's balance. Feel free to see what comes as you allow a shape shifting in the meanings as well as the sound.

4. After you've done this for your phrases from a poem, then go back to the original poem and insert some of the newly, wildly changed phrases, and then let them re-write the poem. Of course, this work will probably change the poem considerably. You may not want to keep any of it, but the process can open up new thinking for you. Re-type or re-write the poem, letting it change to accommodate, or consume, or be consumed by the new ideas. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The point is to let the variations spark and flash, opening up new possibilities. (Try it with a couple different poems. You may find that the process is very different, depending on the size of the poem and/or the subject matter.)

My Example:

[Original Line]:ideas of sex intersect in my notebook

[Variation]:idea-sex dissects the no book

[Variation]:idea insects hum the book mayhem

[Variation]:hem of my mumbling haphazardly sewn with brazen hope

[Variation]:idea insects in the body buzzing, otherness sects, swarm in their cloud robes

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