When Andy Warhol published a: A Novel in 1968, critics conversely called the 451-page tome a work of genius (Newsweek) and pornography (The New York Times Book Review). The so-called novel is an unedited, word-for-word transcript of several conversations recorded between the author and his friend Odine (whom he met at an orgy) that were transcribed, in typical Warholian fashion, by a team of four typists and two high school summer students.
Several decades later, Toronto poet Liz Worth is using the novel to build, page by page, a collection of poetry on her blog. I trooped through it when I was going through a major Warhol phase but found it jagged, as transcriptions tend to be. But between all the amphetamine-fuelled conversation and incoherent, disrupted dialogue, there are some strikingly beautiful lines and haunting statements, she writes on her blog.
From page one, for instance, Worth extracted this poem:
I didn’t do a thing last night
felt like a ghost
just staying up and all that, just talking
car noises in the background.
Some of my throat is gone.
Need some Obertrols “ blue ones, blasting
oh, the orange ones are divine.
Is there ANY place we can keep calling
voice on the other end
know where we can get some.
This number in front of us “ sister would know us.
We should start for the park. Takes forever.
Asleep on the bus, too gorgeous.
It’s all right “ fantastic, baby,
you definitely are here.
Worth plans to construct one poem from each page every day, which she estimates will take at least a year and a half.
[I]f I take a few days off here and there, that’s okay. It is important to me to stick to a single page at a time, though, because I want to only use words and phrases from a specified page, she tells Q&Q. I like the challenge of being limited to working with a set vocabulary. It means I have to get creative and work with what’s available, not with what I think would be ideal.
The project will be housed on Worth’s blog, Rewriting Warhol. For now, the author has no immediate plans to turn the poems into a book. Worth says she’ll be busy for the forseeable future with her forthcoming novel, PostApoc, due out in October from Now Or Never Publishing, and another poetry collection she’ll be shopping around soon.
While publishing the collection in the future isn’t out of the question, for now, she likes the habitual nature of daily blogging. That immediacy on its own seems very Warhol, she says.