An Ongoing Attempt to Collect the Poetry of William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs is generally considered a novelist. To make the case that he was also a poet is neither revisionist nor perverse but absurd. After all, Burroughs paid about as much obeisance to genre or medium as he did to the law. His work consistently ignored the traditional boundaries between forms of creative production — to the point where, if you were really to collect Burroughs’ “poetry,” you would be hard-pressed to explain why you might leave out Naked Lunch. It may well be the most “poetic” text he ever wrote.
And what of the cut-up? Is it poetry, prose, or something else altogether? Oliver Harris has broached the question in his essay “‘Burroughs Is a Poet Too, Really’: The Poetics of Minutes to Go.” Harris writes that, in Minutes to Go, poetry “is not understood in terms of words on the page but as the ‘place’ reached by a particular use of chance operations on pre-existing words.” It is a method “to be grasped by doing,” not a “content to be understood by interpretation.” This insightful analysis could serve as an introduction to this somewhat quixotic attempt to collect the poetry of William Burroughs, and Oliver Harris has very graciously allowed RealityStudio to republish it.
Poems by William S. Burroughs
- Cut-Up Poems from Minutes to Go (1960)
- Dead Whistle Stop Already End (Floating Bear 24, 1962)
- Spain & 42 St. (Floating Bear 24, 1962)
- Where Flesh Circulates (Floating Bear 24, 1962)
- Cold Lost Marbles (1972)
- My Legs Señor (1973)
- Fear and the Monkey (Pearl 6, 1978)
- Pistol Poem 2 (A William Burroughs Birthday Book, 1994)
- Pistol Poem 3 (A William Burroughs Birthday Book, 1994)