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The "cut-up technique" is a citation-based prosodic form developed by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. An early example is the poem of poems, written in 1958 and published in 1961 in the International Literary Annual, in which Gysin combined fragments from the "Song of Solomon", Shakespeare's sonnets and T.S. Eliot's translations of "Anabasis" by St. John Perse. The result is a verbal collage based on the reading out of each text or the random mixing and rearranging of the fragments, up to a completely new combination. Burroughs had invented the term'cut-up' in 1959 after Gysin had randomly reassembled cut newspaper clippings. New movements were formed, such as the first cut-up movement from "Minutes to go":

"There seemed little doubt however that Mr Eisenhower said, "I weigh 56 pounds less than a man, flushed and nodded curtly. Asked whether he had a fair trial he looks inevitable and publishes: "My sex was an advantage. He boasted of a long string of past crimes highlighted by a total eclipse of however stood in his path when he redid her apartment.In 1966, this technique was again supported by audio tracks developed by Burroughs, Gysin and Ian Somerville, consisting of confusing permutations of just four phrases: "Yes, hello?", "Look at the picture", "Does it seem to go on? ", and "good. Thank you very much."

In German-speaking countries, authors such as Jürgen Ploog and Carl Weissner translated this tradition of cut-up as "Schnitt-Schreibweise" (cut-writing) and described it as follows: "The simplest form is to cut any two pages of your own or foreign text vertically & reassemble the four halves in reversed order. One now begins to read over the semantic fractions." (Ploog 1979, 108). Rolf-Dieter Brinkmann also adapted this form in his book of poems Westwärts 1 & 2: Gedichte, published a few days after his accidental death in London. Typical are Brinkmann's long, multi-stranded synchronous or surface poems, whose rows are divided into two or three columns. They consist of rhymeless verses, irregular rhythms, interspersed quotations (especially from American lyrics) and a large number of characters.
Paul Wührs poetry is also based on direct quotations and compositions of various historical and contemporary discourses, whereby Wühr refers to the limits of authorship by means of the intertextual references also in the sense of Michel Foucaultsimilar to Heiner Müller. Another impressive example are the idiolects of Ulf Stolterfohts,which consist completely of different technical languages or textbooks, for example on pig breeding, radio technology or geology. Stolterfoht uses set pieces from very different specialist literature, which is why it is impossible to draw the line between his own text and a foreign quotation in his poems.

In this context, the boundaries of dialogicity in the sense of Mikhail Bakhtin must also be considered: Max Czollek's poem an einen vorgeborenen (to an ancestor) which is engaged in a dialogue with Bertolt Brecht's An die Nachgeborenen is not a real cut-up, but rather such a dialogical form of intertextual reference. Far more modelled on the cut-up technique of Gysin and Burroughs, on the other hand, is the poem rätsel, kreuz, prozeß (puzzle, cross, process) by Michael Lentz, which breaks off words and sentences with similar rigour and cuts up found quotations.


Fahrer, Sigrid (2005): Cut-up: eine literarische Medienguerilla, Würzburg.

Ploog, Jürgen: Der Raum hinter den Worten. In: J. Gehret (Hrsg.), „Gegenkultur Heute. Die Alternativ–Bewegung von Woodstock bis Tunix“, Amsterdam 1979.

Weissner, Carl (Hg.): Cut-up. Der sezierte Bildschirm der Worte, Darmstadt 1969.