"Frost, Corey" wrote on UBPoetics Friday 10 January:

Here's a quote from Christian Bök —author of the Oulipo-influenced Eunoia — "We may exalt the poets of the future, not because they can write great poems, but because they can program devices that can write great poems for us." (ubuweb)

I dig Bok's Eunoia myself and all, but don't you think that this is a "somewhat" naive and very American-culture-bound viewpoint? That poetry can be modeled, calculated, "produced" (and commodified and reserved for certain classes over others)? Or maybe it will become true, but only at our very own expense?

I'm speaking as a programmer AND as a poet. Oh, and as a dummy.

So many people seem to be working hard to reduce people to machines while elevating machines to the status of people. (See Figure 1 below.) 2053 will be glorious year because people and machines will finally be equal! And yet people will not be equal among themselves.... Making people less wonderful and machines too wonderful. Which will be the function of a priveleged few PEOPLE. Somewhere in that model is someone trying to *sell* you something, some bag of goods that you might not want, that will *lessen* you, *reduce* you, once you get it off the showroom floor and take it home.

It's all very PT Barnum while being disingenuous about it, don't you think?

  people                                     machines
-----------                                   -------------
    |                             / \
    |                              |
   \ /                             |
                people = machines
   / \            |
    |             |
    |            \ /
-----------                                   -------------
machines                                     people

2003                 2053                     2103

Figure 1. The Bright Shiny Future of Humans and Machines

But then maybe Bok is right...so many people are ready to "give up the ghost" and just have it over with, you know, hail the programmers as the poets. And forget what poetry is. But then so many people have indeed forgotten just what it was that got them hooked on poetry in the first place.

Computers don't get inspired. They don't feel chills in their spines.

Programming is about cogency, completeness, rules. Poems have no necessary relationships with any of those features of a programmatic system. The funny thing that has everyone fooled is that the most rule-bound poetry (such as codework, algo-produced "poems") often appear to people to look the most chaotic, the most free.

In a hurry to get the next new thing, to be at the vanguard of some revolution. Magazine covers, anthologies, one's work labeled as "ground-breaking."

What about intelligibility? Readability is itself more and more of a bad thing for some reason. And then poets wonder aloud why they're marginalized just as they're marginalizing themselves in the most basic of ways, by communicating constantly while communicating nothing to no one. The only thing there is gestural content, content that only says, "I'm following the algo-trend too."

I think if anything the most interesting poetry happening is the work that appears to have picked up much of the formal innovations of the Oulipo folks and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E while utilizing such formal tools to SAY something. Something that people can't see directly under their noses.

What's more relevant to poetry?

a. What a poem does.
b. How a poem feels.

While there is much to be said for procedure, I'm much more interested in the tension between procedure (rules) and the violation of procedures (rule-breaking). No machine can do that or even conceive of such a thing. It's so contradictory that a Turing machine wouldn't know what to do with it. Everyone's running to the ends of procedure because it's hip--it's a fully celebrated word that gets "educated" heads nodding without reflection. But what about breaking the rules, about surprises? Or about the dullness of what is produced by rules?

Machines are most interesting when they fail in a sea of success and people are most interesting when they succeed in an ocean of failure.

Man is already cyborg. The question is, do we recognize the difference between man and machine, each's strengths and weaknesses, or do we move from being cyborgs to being machines and lose our fleshiness and our souls/spirits/vitalities altogether?

I think that the viewpoint espoused by Bok has a shelf-life, that it faces some amount of reckoning, that it will eventually be subject to contextualization and review.

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