Markovian Parallax Generate: On digital writing and poetics

Discontinuity, Metonymy, and the “real”: Hejinian’s essay “Strangness” (Part 2)

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Goddard-Scovel on April 10, 2008

Hejinian takes the essay into deeper territory about halfway through.  She is one of the few people that I have read or known that examines dreams and sees not just a randomness or complex interpretable metaphors for our problems, but takes seriously what the implications of dream-life and experience have on our understanding of the nature of waking reality.

Exploring the distinction between the reality of objects in the world and the unreality of objects in dreams (including the unstable sense of self in dreams), she moves into philosophical territory by stating that

This is true only until our examination of the “real” is such that its components too are dispossessed of their obviousness and necessity. [Objects of sense] are, at least in my experience, not so much decontextualized as arrested, until the entire universe of context seems to implode into them, abandoning the observer. (147)

As a Buddhist, I can’t help but see the similarity of this to the goals of insight meditation, which seeks to reach a state beyond this object/subject imposition upon reality.

The compositional method (“trope”) that she hopes can best describe (or arrive at) this state in writing is metonymy. [The Wikipedia entry will give you some sense of what this method is.]  What she says of the metonym and its application returns again to selection in the writing process:

Metonymy moves attention from thing to thing; its principle is combination rather than selection. (148) [emphasis added]

Metonymy moves restlessly, through an associative network, in which associations are compressed rather than elaborated. (149)

A metonym is a condensation of its context. (149)

Hejinian is proposing that the strangeness that metonymy brings to the context of objects in a poem adds to a poem’s realness: reality is not “real” unless it has this certain strangeness.

[I]t is exactly the strangeness that results from a description of the world given in the terms “there it is,” “there it is,” “there it is” that restores realness to things inthe world and separates things from ideology.

She concludes with this proposal:

An evolving poetics of description is simultaneously and synonymously a poetics of scrutiny.  It is description that reaises scrutiny to consciousness.  And in arguing for this I am proposing a poetry of consciousness, which is by its very nature a medium of strangeness. (159)

There is of course a great deal of vagueness to what a “poetry of consciousness” might be, but what is important here is consciousness and strangeness are essentially inseparable, and that description and scrutiny should not seek to avoid the it for the sake of clarity, but to embrace it.


Blog Plans

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Goddard-Scovel on June 15, 2007

This is my second blog. My first, What Light Already Light, is hosted on Blogger. It’s become more of a personal type blog. It’s title was borrowed from one of the first of a series of spam poems I wrote in 2006.

I plan for this blog to be different, I suppose more “serious” in nature. I plan mainly to explain my full process of using Markov chaining to generate material for poems. This process will be broken into several stages, which I will use as headers for these posts:

The Markov Chaining Program: Development info and settings for the python-script that I am using in this process.

Source Material (input): This will consist of news articles, blog posts, and any other texts that will be used as input for the Markov chaining program. I will give full citations of each source, although I am using them without permission. I do not forsee any issues arising from this, as the final draft of a poem generated by this process rarely resembles the source material in any clear way.

Program Output (raw): The unedited output from the Markov chaining program.

Program Output (selected): My selections from a session(s) of the program.

Poem Drafts (dated and numbered): All drafts with their date of completion and their series order.

Poem Final Draft: Which may or may not be published here. I’m not sure yet.

Poetics of this Process: I’m still questioning the many issues of authorship, etc. that this process brings up. Am I truly the author of these poems, whatever that is defined to be; and how original is this work / process, and does this matter in the end? This category will also address the question of why I find this process fruitful and enjoyable as one of the several ways I write a poem.

Along with all of this, I also plan to post and respond to poems by other poets who seem to be working in a similar aesthetic, or just something I come across that catches my interest. Links to these poems will be provided when available. I hope to invite other poets that I persuade to try out this program to join the blog with their thoughts and work as well.

Note on this blog’s title: “Mindless Carnage & Wonder At Death” are the characters in a recent poem I wrote entitled “The Children’s Army.” It was composed through the Markov chaining process I am explicating in this blog.