November 14, 2010

Defragmentation of Thought

Computers are fast. Incalculable numbers are crunched and transmitted at light speed to deliver text, music, and photos to our hungry senses. Our brains are quick enough to keep up, and we want more. More information. Right now. Over time, our computers begin running slower, unable to deliver our wants to us instantly. Are we patient enough to wait for them? No. Click. Click-click-click and suddenly light speed just isn’t fast enough. At this point, hard drive defragmentation is in order.

Defragmentation, as many of us are intimately aware, is the process by which the computer’s hard disk is combed through sector by sector, byte by bit, in an attempt to collect scattered pieces of information and place them together in an efficient and contiguous fashion. When the process is complete, every random bit of code is aligned and covered like a disciplined platoon of obedient files. Everything is in order and close at the computer’s hand, so that it can resume processing expediently without having to search its entire memory every time we’d like to type another memo.

But what happens when our mind and memory, normally operated at speeds and efficiencies above and beyond that of our personal computers, become as scattered and disarrayed as the non-volatile disks of magnets and motors in our computers? As simple a solution as it sounds: We defrag our brain.

Like in a hard drive, those roguish bits of information that have no permanent home within our minds impede our ability to think quickly and creatively. They are the reason a word stays on the tip our tongues. They are the reason we make little progress in finishing what we’ve started. They are the reason why we “have so many amazing ideas for a poem or story,” but we “just haven’t been able to get it started.” With what we can safely call defrag poetry, we will find a home for this clutter and give our thoughts a clean living space for healthy growth.

The procedure is this: write down the first phrase that comes to your mind. Regardless of how ridiculous or offensive it sounds, this will be the title of your poem. Now, like the free association game, the remainder of your poem will be whatever comes into your brain next.

Your defrag poems will probably not make sense. They will likely sound childish and, at times, like utter gibberish (like L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, to some). This is perfectly acceptable and greatly encouraged. The point here is not to compose a concrete and publishable poem about your childhood by the pond. The point here is to clear out all of the nonsense that’s floating around upstairs and store it, neatly arranged, in a location outside of your mind. Chances are, the more absurd and risible your poem sounds, then from it, the better benefit you’ll obtain.

While not required, I’ve found that defrag poetry is enhanced through the help of a partner. As you both freely associate untidy ideas, even more junk can be extracted from you, from both of you. My wife and I do this frequently; it helps to clear away much unrecognized anxiety, and is a crisp, mental refreshment.

This poem will have no set length, so write until you’ve decided that you’re finished. If you have more brain debris, create another title and write another. Have some water, and repeat. When you’ve decided that your Moment is done, make a simple card from your poem and give it to the most miserable uptight in your office. They need it more than you do.

But I haven’t created a poem; this is unrecognizable and indecipherable garbage.

Says who, your college Creative Writing professor, who has chosen to remain in an academic setting to teach rigid methods of style within gradationally quantifiable standards to aspiring poets in order to justify “poetry as a paycheck”? Don’t listen to him; he’s unhappy.

Know that what you’ve created is poetry. It is a snapshot representing your thoughts and expressions at that exact point in time. It is something that nobody else could write if they tried, and it is beautiful (or grotesque, or insane, or incoherent, but in any way: perfect).

When our computers are running at optimal speed, we can get all of our memos, reports, designs, and proposals finished without the added stress of impatience. When our minds are running unhindered, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. Plans can be drawn, brick can be laid and cement poured, all so that the neighbourhood muralist may have a canvas of free expression. If the nonsense that floats around your head is getting in your creative way, give it a home. Let the world enjoy it.

We appreciate it.

As always, here’s my Moment:

Acrylic on Plywood; Poetry in partnership with Jeff Aicken.



  1. You are wonderful! Yes, light speed is not quick enough for me oftentimes, as you well know... I love our rumbulous nonsensical jibbering wocky talk... This is just what I need! DEFRAG!!! My mind needs some order and freedom and flushing!! XO

  2. "Jibbering wocky talk" sounds even better than "thought defrag!" It's certainly needed in all of us. For the mind, I can only compare it to a long, warm shower after being lost in the woods for a month. Incredibly refreshing, and over time, slowly ends the shame of being weird, different or insane.


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