News / Calgary

Calgarian creates rhythm of New York through text

Derek Beaulieu is using erasing warhol to discover new ways of reading and writing

Derek Beaulieu is changing the way you write a story.


Derek Beaulieu is changing the way you write a story.

It’s a book about New York, yet there’s hardly any words.

But that’s the point, according to Calgary’s poet laureate Derek Beaulieu.

On page per day, Beaulieu is erasing text from Andy Warhol’s "a, A Novel" to encapsulate the city’s rhythm and its frequent commotion.

To do that, Beaulieu is leaving in all punctuation: commas, semi-colons, apostrophes, etc. He’s also letting “sound” words — like “clatter” and “chatter” — remain untouched.

The end result is erasing warhol, a book that Beaulieu hopes will unearth new ways of reading and writing.

“(The book) will look a lot like art work, but also act like a novel,” he said. “It’ll evolve from page to page. The language of poetry will still be there.”

For example, “Drella—We should start for the park, right? Okay. Hmm. Coin drops,” turns into “?   .           .           Coin drops.”

“When I started looking at the pages, I got thinking that the periods and commas were traffic signs in a New York City landscape,” he said. “The city’s comings and going reminded me of a quote from Lynne Truss. It refers to punctuation as the traffic signs of writing.”

a, A Novel is all about “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll,” where artists hitch cab rides, walk the back streets and gossip, Beaulieu added.

It’s also a place that recharges his mind.

“As I’m doing this — reading the pages and erasing the pages — it’s reminded me of all the buzz of any given street,” he said. “That buzz echoes in the writing.”

Beaulieu said he plans to publish erasing warhol and exhibit the texts in a gallery. He has about 400 pages to go.

More on