I usually do something to mark National Poetry Month, so here we go again.
In the 2021 edition, we talked about form, structure and experimental works. While that post didn’t share any examples, I did recommend a number of poets whose work I was reading at the time. The post prior to that I shared some of my poems, and wrote about which of my influences or life experiences led to the inspiration to create them. One of those posts was before my first collection was published, and for this blog I’ll try for a bit of both approaches with some examples from Counterfeit Collective. So, to start off, here is “New Words” inspired by a Robert Frost poem, but contemplating what happens when an idea inspired by an old poem takes a new form and collides with technology.
A poet once walked by a place
and noticed windblown papers
from days past piling up outside.
He knew he must have read some
of the words they contained
on other days in another place,
but he also recalled the days
he had missed the paper,
only talked about the weather
or by chance hadn’t seen
another living soul.
Nowadays when I read the poem,
I wonder, where do the new words go
when our will-o’-the-wisp gazes
scroll past them on whatever device
we have handy while we wander
our attention past
everything around us,
fast becoming relics of an age
we can’t see passing until it’s gone…
There is no corner of the Internet
where all the news articles and
blogs, editorials and advertisements
can be blown by the wind into
piles of memories waiting to be
clipped or recycled
The most commented upon comment
or retweeted tweets are as
ephemeral as any other that
were never liked or shared
Where do any of them go
when we power off the PC
or drop our phones
or find the host has vanished?
Perhaps now they have come full circle;
they were all always just words on a page,
but now that pages are not necessarily things
we can hold in our hands, but ideas
that require other ideas to access,
we may be right back where we started.
Needing scribes and translators
just to scribe and translate
what everyone was thinking and saying
on these virtual platforms
that will inevitably really crumble
as stone tablets did before them.
With all these ideas that need
other ideas just to be able to
parse the data and cast these
hieroglyphs onto our screens,
how theoretical are we becoming?
All those words on stone
that could be deciphered
were dutifully translated
and discussed on paper.
Now everything on paper
is being translated into
the matrix where everything
we know is electrified
Our new words
will need new scribes,
to carefully sweep away
the dust of code and formats
caked over digital fossils
and the scrawls of sentience.
I hope it’s as messy
and haphazard as the last
few leaps of evolution…
Even if only virtually so.
It is a little ironic that this poem is available only in the ebook format in Counterfeit Collective, and you literally cannot access it without an e-reader! If that collection ever sees print, it will be the first time this poem ever appears on a printed page. The formatting looks a bit off in this block quote, but the words are the words. “The scrawls of sentience” is one of my favorite bits in that one, but there was a lot of good wordplay in the piece.
For a more spare idea, here is one poem that came from a challenge I made up one day. It’s called “threes” and that was the challenge idea. Three words. Three lines. Three stanzas. Take that as your structure and try to paint a picture. It can be about anything, but those were the rules, so this is what I came up with on that day:
A longing gaze,
looking to nowhere
often these days
what minds wander
why wonders mind
where none ponder
They aren’t real–
things we want
We are real.
That one reminds me of e.e. cummings. It can’t elaborate beyond the third word, so it naturally is a little limited in what it can convey. It is still possible to create a scene and make us think though, so that one actually made it into the collection.
To keep to that theme of “threes”, here is one last example. My editor liked the title of “sCrying” so at least one person is fond of my puns.
You don’t know where it started
and you don’t know where it’s going
but the genies are out of the bottle,
the rumor mill has disincorporated
and our social lives are evaporating
into a kaleidoscope of mirrors.
Back in the day we had to show up,
find the most happening place,
work the room, show some grace.
Now there is no room, it’s nonstop
from every angle in cyberspace
that magic once reserved for cinema
We don’t know where it’s going
and we don’t know if it can be stopped
All the world’s a stage, it was said
when plays required you to attend.
Now illusions sustain themselves,
with every hack at the helm
and every actor in the lead.
If the sage of his fabled cave,
or the bard with his vaunted quill
could see the Paragon of Animals
vie to go viral in an outbreak,
sharing his licking the toilet seat
with the world watching the world
wondering what will break the spell…
But we don’t know where it’s going
and they don’t know if it can be stopped.
That one also was pondering technology and its impact on us and our society. It an illuminate, or obfuscate. It creates more stages for presentations of anything at all, which can lead to more opportunities for connection, or it can be fragmented and awkward in a dozen ways on myriad platforms. Recently, I found out that this website and all my posts were part of training an AI, which was not something I opted in to do. In the future, if we set things up correctly to opt out of such things, that only works on ethical participants in this world wide web. Any of the probably many, many unethical operations will likely still scrape the site and take my words and the words of any other website, blog, forum, or other social media to instruct their budding artificial intelligences no matter what any of us might think about that. We need to set some standards to discourage that kind of thing.
The other day, I saw a campaign announcement video. Someone in the media commented that it seemed to them to be the first such campaign video aimed directly at the “Tik-Tok generation” in its editing. It was very fast moving, with lots of different footage from various scenes, so I can see where they are coming from in that description. And then, their political opposition released a response video…featuring mainly AI generated video. I’m not going to get into their content, or who I endorse, or anything like that…but I will say that Tik Tok itself and some of the trends and things that did go viral was what inspired “sCrying” among a couple other poems.
These technologies are amazing, and how we use them is very telling. It’s like the light and dark sides of the Force. One is using words and images to inspire connection, creativity and encourage others to get involved, either in the cause, or to create things as well. That’s where the poetry is. The other side is using AI to do your homework for you. Or write your song, or generate video for your commercial so you don’t have to. The quick and easy path to the Dark Side, is using this tech to stifle creativity, to avoid paying artists, cinematographers, editors, to discourage connections by generating dystopian imagery to fill the viewers with fear, anger, and hate. It’s damned easy to tell which is which.
I hope you have read some great poetry in this National Poetry Month. I know I’ve seen a lot shared in different places on social media and in forums. Some of the poets I’ve been reading this year include Leonard Cohen, e.e. cummings, (as always!) Langston Hughes, Edward Arlington Robinson, Herman Hesse (a favorite novelist) and many others. See my previous posts for those I’ve read and recommended. Go write some yourselves!