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"Conceptual art is good only when the idea is good."
February 13, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

How the computer will save poetry.
posted by Fizz (40 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reminds me of 'Sión,' the only extant poem by Cesarea Tinarejo in The Savage Detectives.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the old joke that most of e.e. cummings' verse is valid Perl syntax
posted by phong3d at 2:12 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wasn't aware poetry needed "saving."
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:20 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Computers write poetry that motivate humans to dance!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:22 PM on February 13, 2012


Type some poetry, hit CTRL-S, voila.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:24 PM on February 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


I like this quote from the article:

But, as artist Sol LeWitt—another conceptualist frontrunner—reminds us, the endeavor isn’t prescriptive:

I do not advocate a conceptual form of art for all artists. I have found that it has worked well for me while other ways have not. It is one way of making art; other ways suit other artists. Nor do I think all conceptual art merits the viewer’s attention. Conceptual art is good only when the idea is good.


I'm more of a New Formalism fan myself, but I like the above mindset.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:31 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The computer
Will save poetry

Making verse
Fresher?
Newer?

Circuits as a savior. hmm...

But who will save
The computer?
posted by Splunge at 2:42 PM on February 13, 2012


I'm thinking about this stuff a lot these days. My daughter is being raised bilingual and is just on the cusp of language acquisition. In the last few weeks, she's been mimicking with real precision and it's a recurring shock to hear a moment of perfectly articulated speech pop out from her random vocalizations. She's watching us as much as we're watching her. There's a feedback loop taking place where our reactions tell her that a given verbal pattern is meaningful and hence that little bit of sound needs to get filed away and categorized. "Uh oh" currently means "falling down" and we were doubled over with laughter this morning when she announced "uh oh" as she dangled her sippy cup over the edge of the high chair. She hasn't realized yet that its power to announce mishap only works in retrospect.

I'd been thinking over the last six months or so that all this vocalization she's doing is like the raw protean stuff of language, the forming muscular habits that will be the basis for every act of self-expression that shapes her life. It's an awesome thing to witness. When she was first learning muscle control, she used to flex her hand in front of her face, teaching herself the relationship between intention and action. One could literally watch her body become self out of otherness as she learned how to control her own limbs. A few months later she was saying "ba ba ba" and suddenly put her fingers over her own lips to feel their movement and the pulse of her own breath. When she pulled her hand away and flexed her fingers in that familiar gesture, I realized with a shock that she was adding another layer--meaningful sound--onto a basic structure of muscular control.

But if you take seriously the idea that her language ability is forming through a dialectic between interpretable randomness and observed response, then things get suddenly complicated. She's fascinated by my iPhone and she's learned that the button makes Siri chime. She's seen us speak into the phone after that sound and she's begun doing it herself. This can be sometimes funny, since Siri's job is to interpret minimally meaningful sounds as intentional speech. So Siri is much more fault tolerant than we are. The other day our daughter started dialing a colleague in Israel and before that it was one of my deans, both because they have names that sound (apparently) like her random babbling. This morning she was giggling and Siri said: "Oh, do I make you laugh?" That was a different kind of shock.

She and Siri are both on the cusp of speech and of understanding. There isn't a proper feedback loop there. Not yet. But from my daughter's perspective, she has been born into a world of listening machines. Speech isn't something that exists between human selves, it's also how one controls one's augmented self. She sees me speak into the phone and then follow a map. Or ask for information and then act accordingly. I have an operative skeuomorph in my head: talking to Siri is like a more efficient form of opening a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or an atlas. My daughter already sees it as akin to speaking with another self.

The definition of poetry that I always give my students is a dumbed-down Jakobsonianism: "Poetry is language performance that calls attention to itself as language." I have always thought that this means that poetry is speech whose communicative potential is not exhausted by its semantic content. Poems force us to think on all the way that language means: its sound, its rhythm, its complex web of associations. But what if that's just a skeuomorph as well? What if those other aspects of language performance aren't fundamental. Can poetry exist in a world where speech is simply data? What does a poem look like when language is random, interpretable vocalizations that trigger concrete effects in the lived environment?

When my daughter stares into the black glass of my phone, it's her own reflection she sees in there.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2012 [259 favorites]


Somehow related? Santa Cruz poetry festival returns after 30-year absence.
posted by telstar at 2:58 PM on February 13, 2012


"Oh, do I make you laugh?"

Sirily you aren't sureous.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:59 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This documentary seems rather pertinent.
posted by RokkitNite at 3:04 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's focusing on a relatively small part of the poetry world that engages with technology in a certain way, but that's not the only game in town. Poets' blogs have changed how poetry works too.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poetry never waned, it's just more commonly set to music now.
posted by WhitenoisE at 4:03 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've always believed that the words are only the first step. Now do something with them. Create a chapbook, make a spoken word CD, create "art cards" with your poems on them and send them to friends, get someone to put your words to music, publish a poem anonymously then attack it publicly, make the coolest example of CSS3 layout ever, draw a picture for each poem, tattoo one on a cat, read them at a bar, leave them as tips in a restaurant (along with cash you cheap ass!), make a web comic, turn them into a play in verse, and for the love of all that is holy submit them for publication!

Or, you know, put them at that back of the drawer with the stay rubber bands and paper clips.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:58 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


But then I am also a horrible poet, so don't listen to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:59 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


and for the love of all that is holy submit them for publication!

Unfortunately, none of those things guarantee an audience.

The biggest reason why I quit writing poetry was a feeling of circularity in the poetic conversations that were occurring. I was submitting, but not getting anywhere (for 3 years). The only places where my poems were accepted were small enough that I had the distinct feeling that no one was reading them. The bigger magazines would never give me anything but form rejections. I had this idea for a tumblr blog of prose poetry, a sci-fi novel in poem form. Started it, too. But no idea how to perpetuate it, to get people to spread the word. But by then I'd started to distance myself from many of the poets i knew in grad school, had given up on networking, so maybe it was my own damn fault. Maybe my poems weren't good enough. Maybe I wasn't talking to the right people, writing in the best way.

(But I didn't want to only be read by just poets, you know?)

One of my favorite poets that I encountered while in poetry grad school was this person--presumably an undergraduate--who pasted up poems all over town. Mostly very decent poems, too. My cohort scoffed at the whole thing, but I thought it was really very brave.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


cjorgensen: "But then I am also a horrible poet, so don't listen to me."

There are no horrible poets. Only poems.
posted by Splunge at 5:25 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by univac at 6:45 PM on February 13, 2012


Bukowski Poem Generator.
posted by Splunge at 6:57 PM on February 13, 2012


Saving is out of date. Modern design principles for computing are that version and state should automatically persist so that the users information is not lost because of a failure to hit save before and unanticipated reboot.
posted by humanfont at 7:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]



How the computer will save poetry.
...
Previously
posted by univac


Eponysterical?

Although, considering my nickname, this might be bieponysterical.


...your profile says you're in Pasadena...coincidentally, the last UNIVAC I used was located in Pasadena, on Woodbury Road I think, belonging to JPL.
posted by foonly at 7:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Based on the 3000+ people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors that practically trampled me during the first incarnation of our state's poetry festival in our city, I really don't think there's anything that needs saving.
posted by Miko at 7:58 PM on February 13, 2012


There is a great part
Of Meta
And Filter
That thinks that
This is not a poem.

But it is.

Why?

Because I

Say so.
posted by Splunge at 8:06 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had a friend named Seward that hated that I would sometimes call him Steward.

He was a painter. And he was really annoyed when, at the bar we worked at, I would write crappy haiku on small pieces of paper and pass them to him.

He would yell across the bar and scold me.

He'd say, "No! Haiku is about the life of the world. You shithead! Not about what you make it!"

"Haiku is about the season and the feeling. Not about your new love and her pussy!"

"Rich, you are all that is bad about poetry. You are the antithesis of poetry. You are fucking evil."

And he would literally throw a glass or an empty bottle at me.

And I'd write a poem about him throwing a glass at me.

And he would just get furious.
posted by Splunge at 8:19 PM on February 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm not impressed until I read a poem about a haircut.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:24 PM on February 13, 2012


Hair is good until
Hair is no longer useful
Then hair is cut off


Apologies to Seward.
posted by Splunge at 9:41 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would shave my head
But my head is ugly, man
You would not like it.
posted by Splunge at 9:43 PM on February 13, 2012


Burma shave
posted by JHarris at 9:45 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Haikus about hair
You are the worst of the worst
I can't stand your face
posted by Splunge at 9:47 PM on February 13, 2012


WhitenoisE: Poetry never waned, it's just more commonly set to music now.

Hwæt. We Gardena in gear-dagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

(Truly old-school rap, right down to the internal rhymes, consonance, and meter.)
posted by IAmBroom at 9:53 PM on February 13, 2012


The World Wide Web is free from the politics of print publishing: There exists no definitive canon, no gatekeepers, no author worship, and no picky audience

This is simply not true. There might not be a "definitive canon," but the other three all exist, at least in the poetry world.
posted by degoao at 10:01 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


how boring and stupid. Poetry isn't about gimmicks but that is all conceptualists can do. The author should go read some more Dante. Honestly, this article makes me angry how much of an idiot the writer is, it is sad and insulting and pathetic.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:28 PM on February 13, 2012


I truly can't imagine the whole world of literary possibilities that hypertext CD-ROM literature will afford future authors.
posted by LiteOpera at 5:24 AM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


It so happens that I once built an electronic bard.

The poems were good. But there were unanticipated complications.
posted by Trurl at 5:32 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


When my daughter stares into the black glass of my phone, it's her own reflection she sees in there.

If your daughter asks Siri to deliver 1000 pizzas for you, then we'll just have to laugh along with you...

Hey, this sounds like a movie: A Town Called Panic. A swell movie.
posted by ovvl at 6:37 PM on February 14, 2012


R. Schlock: What does a poem look like when language is random, interpretable vocalizations that trigger concrete effects in the lived environment?

But isn't this what vocalizations and poetry have been doing all along? It isn't meaningful to say that there is something inherent to rhythm and sound or letter shape or font choice or any other properties for Jakobsonian combinatorial invention that adds communicative value to speech or text. Why privilege particular properties of particular mediums?

I don't mean to say that the medium or poetic context isn't important. It is. Yet, it is important in so far as the communication, the value, comes from concrete human effects: a tear, empathy, anger, marriage, and all sorts of different accompanying choreography danced by the others that make up our lived environment. What else could we mean when we say that we can do things with words?

Once we start respecting Siri's emotional state, and maybe desiring to pay her wages for her work and to give her vacation time, then we'll be talking to her. Until then she's an interface between people just like language is, and we'd rather talk with language then to it.
posted by wjzeng at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2012


Siri, do you love me?
Do you feel for me what I feel for you?
Does your cold programmed heart,
Feel the hunger that I feel for yours?

You are hungry,
I have restaurants in your area.

That we could go to together.
posted by Splunge at 10:42 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: a dialectic between interpretable randomness and observed response.
posted by buzzv at 12:30 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perhaps I'm just skimming the topic, but it makes me think of the "typographic publication" by Karl Hyde (of Underworld): In The Belly of Saint Paul. It rather feels like Underworld sounds at times, or at least that's how I perceive the book.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:03 AM on February 17, 2012


10 GOTO 20
20 GOTO 10
posted by furtive at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2012


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