Delighted to be a part of this anthology, which includes a version of my essay “Shadow Texts,” first published in the summer issue of Witness. Here’s a link to the Amazon page and the anthology’s website…
I tried this exercise with my poetry students this semester and got some pretty interesting results.
- Choose an old draft that you just don’t feel good about.
- Visit an online translation site, such as this one: https://translate.google.com/ and paste your poem into the open field.
- Translate the poem into three different languages, then translate back into English. (Best to choose languages that use at least two different alphabets.)
- Incorporate into your revision the differences you notice in syntax and diction.
My collaborator and I are working toward a similar challenge with the Zombie Poetry Project, and I hear echoes of our long conversations when Harmon says “as system creators we want to be surprised too.” But, if all this stuff is at all interesting to you, you don’t have to wait for the day “computers may write poems out of their own intention.” There are some really cool language mapping and analysis tools out there with lots of potential for customization. Here is a fun one that has already proved very helpful to our project:
I consider it one of the happiest accidents of my life that I came to meet and study under John Matthias, whose work has been on my shelf now for almost exactly 17 years. I’d moved to South Bend in August of 1998, so that my first spouse, Emily, might begin the Ph.D program in Ethics at Notre Dame, and promptly sent a batch of poems to the Notre Dame Review. John passed on them, but called me up and encouraged me to apply to the M.F.A. program for the following year.
If most of us come to view our careers as a series of missteps, I still consider this meeting a shining occasion in which I stuck the landing. Talking shop with John has remained one of the supreme pleasures of my working life. It’s hard to imagine someone more scholarly but less academic, a writer whose work is so informed by his intellectual interests, yet made so uncomfortable by the university, though it was home for more than forty years. (Certainly, he has helped me stretch my writing in ways that continue to surprise me. My anagram project, for instance, began during my first workshop with John.)
This fall, it has been my privilege to assist John in readying his latest book, Six Short Plays, for publication. In anticipation of its release, I’ll link to an essay on John’s work written by another former student, Anthony Walton, in 2002. 13 years later, John’s still making summer out of winter.
To Emily Dickinson, whose poetry is a record of one of the bravest souls our species has produced!
She was also the first victim of my experiments with anagrammatic poetry, more than fifteen years ago now. I can’t get enough of her and teach her every chance I get.
Speaking of souls…Books have them, and here’s a brave one indeed: Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson.
A link to whet your appetite:
As prelude to the unveiling of the Zombie Poetry Project, I’ve collected a handful of poems which use selections from well-known prose works as victim texts. You can see them by clicking on the accompanying link or by clicking Zombie Poetry Project link above. I want to thank the editors at The Notre Dame Review and Map Literary for first publishing them.
Fascinating talk by Mandelbrot in the last year of his life on fractal geometry and finding order in immensely complex patterns…
So, it’s been a couple of years! But I haven’t been completely idle, and I encourage anyone interested to check out the sister site currently under construction, called the Zombie Poetry Project.
Soon, this site will allow readers to submit any English-language text into an open field, which will then be syntactically matched with sections of the 500-line source poem, “Zombie Ride-Along” to produce a new “zombified” poem of random length and lineation. The new poem will be added to the growing anthology archived on the site.
While the program isn’t up and running yet, the source poem is up on the site.