Markovian Parallax Generate: On digital writing and poetics

Working Towards an mchain Poetics I – Bruce Andrews

Posted in Poem Response, Poetics by Eric Goddard-Scovel on June 26, 2007

I’ve been finding a lot of poetry that reminds me of the Markov chain output lately, or at least gives me a similar impression. As far as a poetics of the Markov writing process goes, it could be any number of things depending upon what the author wants to do with the programs output. Some qualities of the output, though, along with choices made about what type of material will be put into the mchain script, do nudge one towards a more experimental kind of poetry.

Bruce Andrews’ Divestiture – A uses a delineated format and a highly frenetic style that jumps from word to word so much that determining the “subject” of any given “sentence” is pretty pointless. I should say it just isn’t the point: the speed of it seems to be more to the point. Connections, associations, a barrage of messages and broken messages strung together: these seem to be the heart of this work. It does read in some ways like a Markov chain output with a very diverse selection of input texts, though it’s much more controlled than that. I’m not much at reviewing, or saying what I think I want to say about a book of poems, so check out the description on the UBU Editions website via the link above.

Here’s an example of one of the poems, or sections, or paragraphs, or whatever it is that they should be called:

Dear World, fuck off advice ingredients, empty swing. Studies show that couples who try to avoid arguments tend to average higher happiness scores. Sizes carried, class analysis, men’s consciousness-raising, medieval robbers, no one seems to know how many. There are freshly dug graves, but children were buried together, driven to obscurity by the unconscious need to cover up the defects of the argument. ‘I’m a knee fetishist,’ sit up, arching the back a little, the transformation of a worker into a mere hand. Noises? Smells fresh but doesn’t linger = semen disinfectant, 20kilos of heroin; if I had lost the race, I could start over, but by winning I get to race again. Eat letters! Excavations, soft minimals, ELITIST INTENSITY — institutions no more than the barricades of repression clapping his twists. Great foster argument; crabbing which count mere heart shiver joints. Kick out stiff rubbed slow far fell crib. Was eagerly — presses. Violent Crimes by Young Girls on the Upswing Across U.S. without the oppressive shadows of our protective images intruding. Clocks spike pupil visa — goes to Africa on Vacation, Returns with Bride He Bought from Tribal Chief. It’s like giving your whole body a facial.

In terms of an aesthetic, I can tell there is a lot of material in here from news and advertisement sources. An impression I get from reading this is that these poems are displaying the overloading jumble of messages our minds are cluttered with during each day in our media saturated culture. A deeper thing going on here obviously has to do with the language itself, which is very cut up and dissociated. As I said of the spam messages that led me into the world of computer generated text, the poems here have a freshness to the language that I think comes from the alien contexts that they are placed in. History, headlines, heroin, homicide and handjobs all come together (no pun intended) to form a slew of references that are more delightful to my senses than dizzying. This kind of work can be read dozens of times and still yield a new response from a reader who is willing to keep an open and awake mind attended to it.

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