The Law of Life: Experimental Poetry


One of my favourite courses in the writing program was a course on experimental writing. I learned many techniques including the one in this piece which is called redaction. In a redaction poem, you take an original piece of writing (usual short prose). Then you edit the work by excluding portions of the text from the final product. I took Jack London's The Law of Life from one of my volumes of Norton Anthology of Short Fiction and redacted most of the writing to create the following poem.

The Law of Life

Life called her, and the
duties of life, not death
and he was very close to death now and
in the end, Death waited,
every-hungry and hungriest of them all.
They had passed out of his life and
he faced the last bitter hour alone.
At last the measure of his life was a handful of fagots
one by one they would go to feed the fire,
and just so, step by step,
death would creep upon him.
All men must die.
He did not complain.
it was the way of life,
and it was just.
He saw it exemplified in all life.
Did he not preform it, he died.
Did he preform it, it was all
the same, he died.
They had passed away like
clouds from the summer sky.
Nature did not care.
To life she set one task,
gave one law.
To perpetuate was the task of life,
its law was death.
Why should he cling to life?
What did it matter after all?
Was it not the law of life?