Method for “Money Has An Enemy”


These poems are worked from the two elementary types of ciphers: "substitution" ciphers
(where a letter is substituted for by another letter or some other sort of symbol); a
"transposition" cipher, where the sequence of an original set of symbols is re-ordered
in some way. 

Here, I substitute each letter of the alphabet with a word or phrase, more or less arbitrarily,
selected from images or issues in my work--poems, pile, or photographs. I chose them
because of a general sense of the community among them, intuiting that I could work with
them in relation to the initial phrase to be encoded, in this case, "Money Has An Enemy." 

The original list was:

A   hammerhead
B   tongs
C   crystal
D   bellows
E   long river
F   in embryo
G   Wrench Boy
H   conflagration
I    African Rattle
J    melee
K   aberration
L   zero
M  black box
N   saber / jaguar
O   bank
P    infinity
Q    infirmity
R    hotel
S    deep storage
T    red book / red box
U   rocks
V   violets
W  vocabulary
X   transport
Y   bugle
Z   rain gear

Each subsequent poem in the series employs the same list in the same order but moved one
letter ahead: i.e., A in the second poem is "rain gear" (former Z),  B "hammerhead, "  C
"tongs, " etc.

The rules for each poem are as follows.  The phrase encrypted in each poem is "Money Has
an Enemy." 

I assign the appropriate word or phrase to each letter in that phrase (in the first (cycle)  thus: 


M - black box
O -  bank
N -  saber / jaguar
E  -  long river
Y  -  bugle

I then write a poem using these words in the correct order, composing freely, the only
restriction being that I more or less not use any of the assigned words except as required by
the order of the code. Thus, in the first poem, the verses composed for "money" is :

The black box
was the bank itself. 

We found a long saber
at the bottom of Long River.

A bugle blew to tell
that we had found it there. 

I allowed myself to use "long" once in addition to its use in "Long River."

Any of the code words may at any time become a proper name and then be capitalized as
such, as, indeed,  above with "Long River. "

I allow myself to vary the words regarding singular or plural as context suggests. Thus
"violet" can be "violets" or the name of a woman, "Violet." 

There are two anomalies in the list: "jaguar" may be substituted for  "saber," and "red box"
may be substituted for "red book." 

Once the entire phrase has been encoded and made into its verses, I look at the letters that
are not used in coded phrase and make a list of them.

I now look for words or phrases in the verses I have composed that contain the letters not
used in the coded phrase,  make new lists of words and phrases that correspond to these
new words and phrases, and compose verses for them, continuing the process until all the
letters of the alphabet have been used.

This completes the process for the first "cycle".  I then "progress" the assignment of the
letters to the words and phrases as described above, and repeat the process for the second

Essentially what changes from poem to poem is the frequency and order of distribution of
the words and phrases, causing distinctive emphases to occur as I am writing the verses;
that is, as elementary cryptography knows it,  "e" is the most frequently used letter, while,
because of the peculiarity of the encrypted phrase,  m's and n's will have a certain
dominance. Thus the words that stand for e, m, and n, as well as for a, will dominate the
subject matter of the poem, and this will shift from poem to poem. Again, as the sequence of
the letters are determined by the encrypted phrase, the sequence of code words in the
individual poems will be similarly ordered. This gives a certain unpredictable repetitiveness
to the verses, that is, perhaps, their distinctive quality.

Also, as I am composing, I am vaguely attending the implications and associations of the
encoded phrase,  "Money Has an Enemy,"  the consequence being that different aspects of
the implications of the encrypted phrase come out with each poem.

I plan to do twenty-six cycles, one "magnus annus" or "grand cycle, " but I will stop short
of that if I feel that I have naturally run out of perspectives on the encrypted phrase, or the
process seems to become tedious. At the moment of this writing, I have made 11 poems. 


To date I have composed 42 cycles:  one grand cycle plus 16 cycles of a second "ring." The
poem seems to be continuing as a coil. I have no idea when it will stop. What seems to be
happening is something well beyond what I anticipated with the initial experiment. A
complex system of mythographic, ontological, spiritual universes seems to be coming into
being that are absorbing much of my thinking from prior work and effort. The individual
words have become characters, and their relationships and the quasi-narratives in which they
are embroiled as well as the conceptual and mythological figures which they delineate, seem
to be working towards a maximal complexity, without completely violating the notion that at
every point the text as it were begins anew. There is "tension" between the continuous,
aggregative, accumulative nature of the work, and the discrete, even arbitrary character of the
individual utterances. Phrases float in sequence and accumulate meaning or quasi-
connections as they may. A narrative starts up and then cuts off without warning. And yet
any story or any sense of meaning may recur to amplify or initiate further narrative or
reflection as the entire thing develops.

At the beginning of the second ring, a meta-level seemed to articulate itself, commenting on
the entire accumulation to that point. Narrative fragments seem to extend themselves further,
and the sense that the whole works against the background of a not-yet articulated but more
or less completed grand myth seems to begin to be there. Also, various desires of mine
weigh on the composition, which the method itself throws up a resistance to. I "want"
certain things to happen or certain ideas to take shape, but I do not have much control over
whether or not they will be able to do so.

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