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Testimonies

August 1, 2010
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As a brief respite from the sci-fi gnoetry, I was inspired recently to use The Words as a source text (if you don’t feel like clicking through, the text is essentially a rearranged red-letter version of the New Testament–that is, nothing but the words of Jesus.

I’m posting this now because I’m hooked on eddeaddad’s statement from this post: “this suggests an inverse relationship between effort of gnoet and the effort of the reader in terms of the construction of meaning.” Looking back at the progression of my understanding and use of Mchain and Gnoetry and their ilk, I can discern a fairly unhindered march from one end of the spectrum (placing most of the responsibility for creating meaning in the hands of the reader) to the other (into the hands of the gnoet). I don’t know why that is, exactly, but I suspect some part of my Burkean being, “rotten with perfection”, has a difficult time accepting such raw, “unordered” output as poetry.

I certainly feel, more often than not, a strong need to impose some kind of meaning, and I wonder if I shouldn’t at least exercise my will power now and then and let fly with something a bit more raw.

Anyway, on with it. These are two pieces I’m calling collectively, “Testimonies”.

1.

…and they think nothing of ten thousand
in the temple courtyards
and they betray the Son,
a living sacrifice;
the field is theirs.

You that truly loved me
,and I know who you are,
you forfeit your life but do not perish!

To the last,
through the miracles and hate
witness my hands
and be in peace.

I instruct you with sorrow,
for wide is the life,
but know this:
you shall love.
Why then, it is to joy!

I want to come back.
Stand firm, and in this
will the Son of the poor
come down
from the goodness of the Father.

Seek, and seek!
My life given to you,
feast and feast!

2.

My brothers,
come to these days!

The world worships blindly
and they become discouraged;
though the earthly rulers
will hurl you to the ground,
cease to be afraid!

The trial it signifies
is fulfilled in Him;
eagerly accept it–
let your heart be
filled with gladness:
the Son of Man is ours!

We were not created
for the earthly kingdom;
We are destined
for the other side of the path,
we know very well.
Be transformed!
Be perfected into one!

We possess a brilliant light;
therefore, we shine brightly.
Go then to those poor and kings,
as the sun.
We the laborers are few;
they know not what we worship.
Refrain from death unto life,
as the Son!


I hope to be back with some more sci-fi gnoetry sooner than later, but we’ll see. Summer is brutal, schedule-wise, so my time for this kind of thing is probably unlikely to increase until the school year rolls around again.

Oh, and in case you ignored Elshtain’s most recent post, make sure you read his responses for Nic Sebastian’s 10 Questions on Poets & Technology series; seriously, do it now.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. eddeaddad permalink*
    August 2, 2010 3:35 am

    Looking back at the progression of my understanding and use of Mchain and Gnoetry and their ilk, I can discern a fairly unhindered march from one end of the spectrum (placing most of the responsibility for creating meaning in the hands of the reader) to the other (into the hands of the gnoet).

    I’m hearing ya; I myself started out with “meaningless” sound poetry and slowly started adding narrative. I’m guessing that it’s a normal part of mastering a new expressive tool: you try out the range of what it can do. Mastery involves being able to intuitively and precisely control this author-reader meaning-making collaboration. i.e. sometimes you may want the “meaning” to be obvious, other times not.

    p.s. one of the fun things about new interactive language technologies like computational poetry is that it’s differences from traditional poetry generation and consumption highlights phenomena (like the above) that we can examine to better understand meaning in the general case. (i.e. how the reader, the writer, and the context combine to create meaning.)

  2. eddeaddad permalink*
    August 2, 2010 4:18 pm

    Summer is brutal, schedule-wise

    yah, that’s why I do this late at night. (unforunately last night my old lady made me turn off the machine before I could finish!)

    I certainly feel, more often than not, a strong need to impose some kind of meaning, and I wonder if I shouldn’t at least exercise my will power now and then and let fly with something a bit more raw.

    An harm ye none, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, ese. (I think Jesus said that, lol)

    but seriously, that’s one of the powers we have; to control the range of interpretations that are available to readers. I like to think of it in terms of affordances. given what we know of contemporary audiences, we can write something that provides affordances (things that allow readers to react in a certain way) that we think are more or less likely to be interpreted in a certain way.

    when we refrain from conscious authoring it works like this: rather than consciously providing affordances (points of interpretation) we allow the reader to find “meaning” where they may. if we use bigrams, there is likely to be:

    1. some “meaning” seeping through due to local lexical coherence (i.e. that the pairs of words may retain some meaning) and
    2. thematic coherence, if the number of source texts is small or somehow related (i.e. the set of “meanings” possible in poems derived from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is constrained in large part by the words contained in the original text.)

    so the reader will still be able to “find something” in the poem. in fact, they may be able to find many things.

    so I think there are two types of skills:
    1. being able to shape bigram-generated-texts into “meaningful” poems
    2. being able to produce texts that have no obvious coherence or “meaning”, but that are still open to a productive reading, which may be: finding multiple “meanings”, or finding a effect that has an effect but no “meaning” (eRogK7’s causing, as in perfection is an example of the latter.)

    of course I’d like to quantify all of this a lot more precisely, which is why I use quotation marks for vague terms. anyways, gotta tend to my kid, talk to ya later.

    -e.

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