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Gnoetry & Ego

September 14, 2009

There is no way, of course, to exorcise ego/intent from the poetic process; however, at least within the context of the almost universal understanding of ego in relationship to composing poetry, Gnoetry sets the ego at a remove. There’s no other way to account for the kind of reactions—pro and con—to Gnoetry. No matter how much Gnoetry might, in fact, mimic purely human poetic composition, the software is still understood as circumventing “originality,” “creativity,” “individuality,” whatever synonyms for “ego” (das Ich) people can muster.

So much of contemporary American poetry is predicated upon the social fiction of a unique, individual, proprietary “self,” that in poetry might be deemed “style” or “voice.” This includes, I think, poetries that claim to set the self aside, but in fact only play with the idea of the self, like so many recent intersections with procedural verse, such exercises as “flarf” and the poetry program ETC, which is so infused with the architect’s intent that the end-user has zero wiggle room. There’s an ego-bound anthropic principle at work regarding the relationship between technology and poetry: here’s a quote from the recent book of so-called “techno-poetry”:

“The central question is to subvert the technological language, transforming it into a technopoetical language. This way, the culture doesn’t surrender to the technology, but it receives the poet’s intervention, which turns the technology into another form of poetic communication. These procedures become, then, a poeticizing of computational technology.” (Jorge Luiz Antonio)

Why is it so often that the poet is somehow repairing the damage of technology, waving humanity’s flag against some perceived dominatrix? I would argue that Gnoetry poeticizes us by given us pre-poetic language to consider, and either allow or deny. Gnoetry is not at the expense of humanity or the ego—it’s just another way to engage the ego that in many ways side-steps the mad meaning-making machine that is our conscious mind. The central question is not to engage in any subversion of “technological language” (whatever that is) but to notice that poetry is already technical—the application of certain principles of sense onto a linguistic medium. And anyways, all words are human—no need to put the human back into them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. erogk7 permalink
    September 16, 2009 2:49 pm

    "Gnoetry sets the ego at a remove." This does describe how it feels to write with Gnoetry. It disrupts the standard linear relationship in poetic composition of poet -> poem -> reader. What it ends up as is a loop, something like poem <-> poet-reader (a wreader, perhaps?). The author is the reader of the work (at a remove from its authorship) as he/she composes it in a way that keeps the ego at a distance, because the author does not feel solely responsible for the work; it does not emerge from within him/herself. I find the term collaboration is not even quite right, either, as the resultant poems do not feel like they belong to me and another collaborator, but in many ways belong to no one but themselves. What I do end up owning (or seeing as mine, my input) is the work and energy of the process. This makes it akin to improvisation (returning to that concept) in which everything comes down to the "groove," the moment and energy of performance in which the performer(s) becomes subsumed in the music, the act of musical creation. I think my work with Gnoetry is at its best when I have this type of experience, when revision is kept at a minumum and ideas are allowed to emerge from the screen almost effortlessly.

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