Reznikoff: Testimony – found poem based on law reports

Gail Armstrong at Open Brackets, writing on plagiarism, mentions a work unknown to me: Charles Reznikoff’s ‘Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative’, which ‘consists of hundreds of stories taken from law reports’ (to quote Mark Ford) and rendered as free verse.

Languagehat takes this up too. Steve obviously knows Reznikoff, and he gives a longer quote from Ford and more links. From Wikipedia I gather that Testimonies was a kind of found poem. From an interview with Reznikoff:

bq. INT: When you were working in the law book company, did you come across the records that enabled you to write Testimony?

bq. CR: No, but working in the law book company I learned many interesting facts about the law. As a matter of fact, Dreiser’s novel, An American Tragedy, was based completely on a case, but he went into great detail there. It occurred to me that I should go through all the case books. I might go through a volume of a thousand pages and find just one case from which to take the facts and rearrange them so as to be interesting. Now Testimony: 1885-1890 covers every state in the union. I don’t know how many thousands of volumes I went through, and all I could manage to get out of it were these poems. And in looking through the book I might throw out some of them.

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