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Wednesday 11 April 2012

horses see in the dark
see in colour
see dark as dark colour
see we
who we are
like colour in the dark
dark is their colour of horse

I didn't write this poem.
Here's another one I didn't write:-

a glass of wine
a glass of red wine
red in the sun
the sun red in the wine
wine warms in the sun
warmer than sun
spills like the sun

Nobody wrote them. They were written by a poetry machine a friend has spent two years tinkering with and is not yet quite "there".

To you and I it would be a computer program, but no, he insists it is a poetry machine. For him the difference is crucial, for his project is an attempt to do for poetry what many artists are doing - or have done - in other realms: to focus on process and to be true to the process of creation. His idea is that the poet might imagine himself as a robot with a soul. The robot (poetry machine) knows only a given process and remains faithful to it, but the artist recognises the lucky accident (for example) and can seize upon it.

The two examples above were produced back to back. He inputs two or three words to give the machine its theme or subject. He can set other limits - line length etc - but in these two cases didn't. The fact that they were produced back to back - he says - explains the fact that they both are concerned with colour. (The word "colour" was input for the first one, along with "horses" and "dark".)

I will come back later to say how this has struck me. First I would like to hear what others think. For now I will only add that I have been thinking for some time about whether an approach based upon process might have anything to offer the poet. The example that has bowled me over has been that of David Nash and his sculptures which are the result of a total focus on process. see here


Mishilicious Mishi said...

Aww I want this Machine like right now! LOL..Well jokes apart..I think machine cant feel like humans too.poetry is the language of expressions and only Humans can understand that..so why bother involving a machine in the process?:)

Brian Miller said...

oh, i kinda like the second....but why do you need a machine to write poetry? and where is the heart within it beyond what is programmed...so is it a false heart...will i be able to feel the words and what when i find it a lie...but we all like our short cuts...might as well short cut actually feeling and reflecting on something too...

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

They are interesting but seem to work only in that kind of odd, slightly random way of Gertrude Stein--a rose is a rose is a rose, but without the wit.

I am sure good things can come out of it, but putting the right words together can cause ironic combinations that are interesting, but you would then need a very discriminating editor to pick out which ones actually strike some deeper chord (among the randomness.)

I think the process might work better on a visual level with sculpture or photography or painting. There it could be a bit like blowing up a detail of something. That's always somewhat interesting--more or less so, depending upon where you put the frame.

I actually thought at first that both poems, including the middle section were part of a poem written by you which was going to go somewhere else about --I don't know--finding poems, or nosing them out, or something.


Ps - thanks as always for your kind comments.

pps - you could probably do similar things by taking some random texts, especially good texts and shaking up the words a bit. k.

Brother Ollie said...

a rare machine

Dave King said...

I don't think I explained it well enough. The idea is not to get the machine to write poetry and make poets redundant. It is in part an illustration and in part an exploration of what can be done by being true to a process - even if you are a machine with no soul. Enter the poet who might take the process idea from the machine - but adds the soul. (If I can put it that way.) It is basically what David Nash does with wood - though he needed no machine to cue him in. (I'm not evangelising for this idea, just pondering.)

Jim Murdoch said...

The first poem is good. Not so crazy about the second. In both cases I would want to polish the piece up afterwards and I have done what when I’ve applied similar methods to creating a text. Both are rough but seeing the two together it becomes more obvious that they have been created by applying some kind of algorithm. As a way of sparking of ideas though I think it’s got a lot going for it.

Jenny Woolf said...

Funnily enough they were quite interesting, because they combined words in unusual ways. But I don't think it has much to do with real poetry which is not just empty manipulation of words/ A good poem always has something interesting to say.

I would put it on the same level as those artists who create art based on exact reproductions of random stuff. Fine, but often it's more interesting to look at the random stuff yourself. So it might be interesting to own a poetry machine like this, to kick start ideas - perhaps - but not interesting to read what it produces. At least, not after the first few goes.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Enthralling... but a robot with a soul makes the soul instantaneously predominate in my view and annihilate the robot making a person out of it, at least this is what I feel even if...the world is multifarious and nobody can exclude that anyhting can happen.

PattiKen said...

Hmmm, fascinating. I rather like the first poem, and had you only posted that one, I might have thought this poetry machine had a bit of "talent." But with the two back to back, I wonder if it isn't something on a one-trick pony.

Ygraine said...

If only my brain would work as well as this machine!
All too often I sit in front of a blank screen with plenty of time to spare and not a single line will come to start me off.
Then when I have no time they seem to crowd in.
To have inspiration to order would be fantastic!

Mary said...

I guess his effort is admirable just to see what a machine can do. But truly I don't want to see what a machine can write. I want to see what a human with a set of experiences and a heart and a soul can write. I wouldn't pay 2 cents for said machine.

Windsmoke. said...

Not sure about a machine writing poetry :-).

Dave King said...

Hi, A warm welcome to you. It's a good point you make about the involvement of feeling. This I think is the idea's weak point. I see the machine - if it has a value - as a spinner of ideas, not a producer of the finished product. Thanks for giving us your thoughts on the subject.

Yes, some good points well made. Nothing here with which I could disagree. Thanks for saying them.

Thanks for this, especially for your second para, which seems to me to be getting to the kernal. I do like the Gertrude Stein comparison, though. The final point on mixing up the texts has been quite exhaustively tried by members of the Oulipo group. here

Old Ollie
Indeed - though maybe I should have stressed that it is not exactly perfected yet.

Yes, I'm with you in preferring the first. I feel I could take that and make something of it. You are correct in surmising that there is an algorithm. In fact there are several and the operator can select or leave it to the machine to select - as here. He is, though, very cagey about his algorithms and how they work, and wouldn't be drawn. I very much saw it as an ideas machine.

Yes, I begin to think we are reaching some sort of synthesis. Reactions are very much on the same plane, I think. Thanks for your giving your thoughts. The point about having something to say is good, but I suppose this is what - with luck - the machine's outcomes might spark.

Yes, you are right. Once you admit soul then soul must predominate. I would see the product of the machine as raw material for soul, if you like to put it that way. Either that or it has no future.

Your last remark was in fact my initial response to it. In fact, I even wondered if it was a trick in the other sense being perpetrated on me. There is a carry over from one poem to the next, definitely, unless the operator blanks it or switches to another algorithm.

You too? Been there, bought the t-shirt! I often end up writing at a furious rate, because it all materialises after a long pause, just as I have to do something else.

Understandable. I can see that many poets would not want to make use of it, but some might.

I'm also not sure, hence the canvassing of opinions.