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From a Preface…

December 28, 2009

This is from a preface I wrote for a collection of Gnoems:

Her Social Frame was composed using Gnoetry0.2 and should be thought of as a three-way collaboration between Edith Wharton and her text The Custom of the Country; Jon Trowbridge and his code; and Eric Elshtain, the end-user. Gnoetry belies the myth of individual creation and, hence, eliminates psycho-drama from the act of reading. The resulting ‘a-ha!’ when reading a gnoem is not based upon an epiphany gestalt, but is born out of the elegance with which Gnoetry finds poetic solutions to a poetic problem: how would Edith Wharton do things with renga?” (for the full chapbook go to

Given the amount of an author’s voice and style that survives Gnoetry’s stochastic processes, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to imagine that one is writing in collaboration with a particular author (though all this may be an issue for more experienced ‘pataphysicians than I) as if one went back in time and ask Conrad to interrupt his work on Heart of Darkness and jot a few sonnets, or paid Wharton a few bucks to write with syllables in mind.

In terms of attribution, I agree that appending the term “end-user” to the human controller of Gnoetry makes sense.  On Beard of Bees we early on defaulted to “(End-user name) and the Machine” as co-authors and have rarely strayed from this attribution.  It tells only part of the story, but tells a good piece of it:  “the machine” is not just the Gnoetry software, but the poetic principles at work (say, ala Williams’ “poem as machine” jag) and the larger culture in which the gnoetic utterances could make any sense whatsoever.  Truly, ALL poems should be attributed to machines–no one author ever writes something.  At a conference a few years ago, I read an essay on Gnoetry just after someone talked at length about the LANGUAGE poets’ move away from the self and ego.  But whose names appear on the covers of those LANGUAGE books–even the ones made from other people’s texts???  Gnoetry makes poet-less poetry; not an absence of poet, but conscious and meaningful multiplication of poets.

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