Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Links It's funny.  Laugh.

Darwinian Poetry: From Bad to Verse 274

For those who say design cannot take place through the process of selection, behold: Darwinian Poetry. Cull the prosaic or nonsensical snippets of text, reinforce the rest, and, slowly... genius? Guess we'll find out. Yes, the poems actually have sex.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Darwinian Poetry: From Bad to Verse

Comments Filter:
  • by FryGuy1013 ( 664126 ) * on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:27AM (#6529575) Homepage
    Having sex? And this is posted to slashdot? I doubt many readers here will have experience in this area.
  • by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:29AM (#6529581) Homepage
    Looks like machines have replaced all poets by 2003. They can spew meaningless junk that noone wants to read with the best of them.
    • by flogger ( 524072 )
      Not only is poetry machine driven. Take a look at This [elsewhere.org] Post-Modern Research Paper Generator.

      Go ahead and read it...It looks just like the garbage I had to read and write in college...

      Then hit the reload/refresh button.

      More useless machine driven garbage.

      As an added bonus, If you are in college and you need to impress that good looking Literature TA...then print off a copy. She'll never know.
  • Sick of it (Score:5, Funny)

    by Snoopy77 ( 229731 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:30AM (#6529584) Homepage
    Many /. readers are already sick of hearing about other people having sex. Now our only refuge is mocking us, rubbing our face in it, cause even poems have sex! Am I not prettier than a poem? I guess not.
    • by bigberk ( 547360 )

      Many /. readers are already sick of hearing about other people having sex.

      In case you aren't, here are some ways to get laid:

      • Find a nice girl and date her a long time
      • Find a girl that wants to be wild and fulfill her fantasy
      • Find a confused girl and work quickly while she's still baffled
      • Find a slut and do shots with her (while you cheat)
      • Find an artsie girl and read shitty poetry to her that you found on /.

      Oh wait -- that last one probably won't work.

  • by RidRash ( 660853 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:32AM (#6529592)
    Darwinian Poetry
    Welcome to Darwinian Poetry! The goal of this project is to see if non-negotiated collaboration can evolve interesting poetry using (un)natural selection.

    Huh?

    Ok, here's the idea: starting with a whole bunch (specifically 1,000) randomly generated groups of words (our "poems"), we are going to subject them to a form of natural selection, killing off the "bad" ones and breeding the "good" ones with each other. If enough generations go by, and if the gene pool is rich enough, we should eventually start to see interesting poems emerge.

    The cool part is that YOU are the arbiter of what constitutes "good" and "bad" poetry. Once you start, you will be presented with two poems. In all likelihood they will both be abysmal pieces of nonsensical garbage. That's ok. All you have to do is read them both and pick the one you find more appealing, for whatever reason. Your decision might be based on a single word that you happen to like. It doesn't matter. Just pick whichever one strikes your fancy.

    Once you choose a poem, your vote will be recorded and two more poems will appear. Keep doing this for as long as you like, and definitely come back frequently.

    Over time the poems picked by you, and I hope by thousands of other people, will interbreed and more and more interesting poems will emerge. It could take a while. Weeks...months...I don't know. It all depends on how many people participate, and how often.

    Keep coming back, for (I hope) the population will evolve steadily, so each day could bring increasingly interesting poems.

    That's it. Just click on the "Get Started" link below to dive right in. Or click the "Get Report" link to find out what the current highest rated poem is, as well as to see other statistics.

    THE HOW IT WORKS PAGE:

    How it Works
    "Many poems were butchered in the making of this site."

    The Darwinian Poetry software relies primarily on a mechanism called "crossover", similar to the process that operates on chromosomes in biological evolution, except that here the basic genetic units are words rather than nucleic acids. When the program sees that there is room in the population for new poems (because some unfit poems were...um...culled from the herd) it randomly chooses two surviving poems to serve as parents. These two poems are then crossed over, producing two new offspring.

    Here is an example to illustrate. These are two poems that I just grabbed off a test version of the site (color coded for convenience):

    forest storefront semifinished decrees confirmed
    scheming he congestive curdles refulgent
    sceptered not of miffs syncretism
    lose the but longer floor

    the of but judgeship the
    forty troweling him sufficing lysolecithin
    of from when esurience they
    rest timely wounded the perpend

    If these two poems were chosen for breeding, the first thing the program would do is decide how many "snip" points to use. Currently this number ranges between one and five. Let's say 2 came up randomly. Now each poem gets randomly cut in two places. Note that this is different than biological crossover in that the cut points vary between the parents. Whereas real chromosomes need to maintain a constant length, our poems will evolve in length as well as content.

    forest storefront SNIP! semifinished decrees confirmed
    scheming he congestive curdles refulgent
    sceptered not SNIP! of miffs syncretism
    lose the but longer floor

    the of but judgeship the
    forty troweling him SNIP! sufficing lysolecithin
    of from when esurience SNIP! they
    rest timely wounded the perpend

    Now the software performs the crossover operation resulting in two new poems:
    forest storefront suffcing lysolecithin
    of from when esurience of miffs syncretism
    lose the but longer floor
    the of but judgeship the
    forty troweling him semifinished decrees confirmed
    scheming he congestive curdles refulgent
    sceptered not they
    rest timely wounded the perpend

    That's
    • by Aropax20 ( 636154 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:54AM (#6529684)
      The samples above could almost pass for vogon poetry which is, of course, the third worst poetry in the universe

      O freddled gruntbuggly, thy micturations are to me...

    • Q: In the example you used, both new poems still suck. Doesn't seem like evolution to me.

      A: That's not technically a question, but it's true: breeding two poems won't necessarily produce a better poem. In fact, if either poem is any good to start with, it will probably produce a worse poem. But sometimes something better will be produced, and such offspring will tend to survive a long time, producing many more offspring. Evolution is all about preserving those rare beneficial developments amidst a sea of f

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:35AM (#6529601)
    Only on Slashdot Read of poems having sex While still I get none
    • by flogger ( 524072 ) <non@nonegiven> on Friday July 25, 2003 @02:11AM (#6529753) Journal
      Let's format this a little better:

      Only on Slashdot
      Read of poems having sex
      While still I get none


      Not bad. Now lets take another one:

      While reading bad stuff
      thought about the creative:
      Was a waste of time.


      Ok, that isn't good, but let's through them in the sack and see what pops out...

      While reading slashdot
      Read about creative sex
      While still I waste none.


      My head hurts now. :-)

      • There was a young poet from essex
        Who tried to get poems to have sex
        He generated 'em random,
        mutated and culled them,
        But then we went and slashdotted his competer

        Anybody got a mate for a lonely limerick?

  • by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nkNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:35AM (#6529602) Homepage
    I say interesting and the more I played the more I realized that this is in many ways better than the stuff that I had to read in english class.
    Another advantage is that no teacher could ever ask;
    What was the authors motivation in writing this particular poem?
    I hate that Question
    • > Another advantage is that no teacher could ever ask; What was the authors motivation in writing this particular poem?

      Yeah, but I bet I could have written an essay that answered it!

      Everything I know about bullshitting I learned in English class. I once got an A on a pop quiz essay about a poem I hadn't even read; I just extrapolated from the title.

      If they taught more literature classes in business school then those MBAs would be a lot better at explaining their scandals away, and maybe not get cart

    • Another advantage is that no teacher could ever ask; What was the authors motivation in writing this particular poem? For male human poets, I'm betting the answer is pretty much exclusively "to be able to get beautiful women into bed" ;)
  • by KU_Fletch ( 678324 ) <bthomas1@noSPaM.ku.edu> on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:35AM (#6529604)
    The front page is still functioning, but the applet is down for the count.
  • by clambake ( 37702 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:39AM (#6529617) Homepage
    "It was the best of times... It was the BLURST OF TIMES?!?! Stupid monkey!"
  • by deuist ( 228133 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `kcocyanayr'> on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:40AM (#6529622) Homepage
    By process of natural selection, we have just eliminated the weaker servers by use of what ecologists call "The Slashdot Effect." Appearantly, only the stronger servers such as the mighty Google can produce further page views.
  • by Magic Thread ( 692357 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:40AM (#6529625) Homepage Journal
    I rather doubt any good poetry will actually come out of this. It seems to me that two good poems with parts interchanged at random "snip points" will be statistically very likely to become bad poems. A more advanced system is probably necessary before anything worthwhile will be produced.

    The idea of having people vote on which poems are best is a good one, though. Maybe the same principle could be applied to other computer-generated word stuff.
    • I rather doubt any good poetry will actually come out of this.

      That's exactly the idea. 99.99% of whatever comes out will be pure shite, but as time goes on, the theory is that the content of some will improve.

      It's why it's called "Darwinian". Random mutations producing almost total garbage, but rarely producing something worthwhile, which is allowed to survive.

      I think it's an interesting experiment, actually.
    • by devphil ( 51341 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @03:08AM (#6529927) Homepage


      ...is that you have to have faith in a stochastic process.

      Now, I haven't looked at their code, so I don't know what the selection fitness criteria are. Obviously humans play a part in selection for survival; selection for reproduction seems to be completely random -- and that's okay.

      But, assuming that the selction mechanism isn't completely asswacked, I feel sure that some "good" poetry will be eventually produced. ("Good" in the eyes of the same people who made the selection choices, of course. If you never vote, you have no place to complain.) Why do I feel this?

      Because I have faith in evolutionary programming. It's remarkably good at solving problems with a nonlinear fitness landscape. Finicky local minima, discontinuous fitness evaluation -- all that nasty stuff that kills traditional problem-optimization algorithms, and tends to show up in all the "interesting" problems -- genetic approaches are all over that stuff. It isn't completely random, of course, and that's the saving grace. That's the part that we have faith in.

      Yes, as you say, two good poems interchanged at random snip points will statistically be likely to become bad poems. But bad poems die. (Again, assuming the selection mechanism isn't horked over by a sixth-grader who votes for anything containing the word "boobies" no matter how poor the poetry.) And there will be lots and lots of poems. Most of them will be bad. They die, and over time, eventually, statistically, the good ones gain an edge.

  • I believe 2 monkeys can do the same job in half the time.
  • ... and we all know how well that worked out. Yeah, I know the process is a little different, but the notion that art can come from voting is as silly as thinking democracy pushes the best leaders to the top.
    • are the frequency of voting and the degree to which the democracy is indirect.

      When democracy is direct and frequent it tends to work pretty well (eg Slashdot moderation).

      When it is infrequent (vote every X years) and/or indirect (you vote for someone, who then represents you when voting) it becomes less effective.

      As far as the best leaders not getting to the top the problem isn't democracy, the problem is that there isn't enough democracy.
  • So.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by whiteranger99x ( 235024 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:44AM (#6529647) Journal
    can anyone tell me the Prose and Cons of Darwinian Poetry? :P
  • by SystematicPsycho ( 456042 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:47AM (#6529660)
    Genetic Algorithms and Genetic Programming use the principles of natural selection to evolve solutions to problems that hopefully get better and better.
    Dadaism [bergen.org] "A western European artistic and literary movement (1916-23) that sought the discovery of authentic reality through the abolition of traditional culture and aesthetic forms."

    Here is an example Dadaist poem [bergen.org] -
    People who can't develop a taste
    for the primeval
    but rather wrangle in this world
    and in their noseless faces
    daily brush and paint and lacquer
    three abundant heraldic
    stylized moustaches
    one above another.


    Now, let's find something in between, jwz has just done that - DADADO [jwz.org]..

    DadaDodo is a program that analyses texts for word probabilities, and then generates random sentences based on that. Sometimes these sentences are nonsense; but sometimes they cut right through to the heart of the matter, and reveal hidden meanings.
    ---
  • by Jonboy X ( 319895 ) <.jonathan.oexner. .at. .alum.wpi.edu.> on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:50AM (#6529667) Journal
    I'll bet that "have sex" link on the right side will be seeing some action...
  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:52AM (#6529679) Journal

    To qoute; The goal of this project is to see if non-negotiated collaboration can evolve interesting poetry using (un)natural selection.



    Darwinism is all to do with natural selection, while this is un-natural selection. It's about breeding poems, nothing more. That aside, I must say I find the idea interesting, and the end result can't be worse than what a lot of modern poets spew out (these days, it seems like "art" is defined as what the selfproclaimed artist manages to sell).



    For a true darwinistic approach thought, it ought to be possible do analyze a heapload of poems written by humans, derive a handfull of rules as to what defines a 'good' poem (lenght, avrage lenght of words etc etc etc) and write a program that 'culls the herd' strickly on basis of those rules, ie: the 50% of the population which come closest to fullfilling the rules (best adapted to their enviromant) are allowed to breed and give rise to the next geneartion, at which point the process repeats.

    • No, no, no. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You seem to think that it isn't 'natural' selection if humans pick the poems. But there is nothing wrong with having humans do it. In fact, it's the most interesting thing they could do with this. The evolutionary environment, in this case, is determined by many human minds. This psychosphere or whatever you want to call it is unpredictable and dangerous, just like real jungles.
      • Re:No, no, no. (Score:3, Interesting)

        But it isn't natural selection if the selection is made by a sentinent beeing. By your logic, you might as well call the process that took a wolf (a wild predator, beutyfully fit to savagly tear elks into tiny bits) and turned it into a chihuahua (a teeny little thing most suited to be put out of it's misery) for a natural selection.

        My statement stands. Evolution is unguided by intelligence, breeding is guided. Thus, this page of poems has nothing to do with evolution, and all to do with breeding. Off cou

        • I don't think this is guided in the breeding sense. If you breed something you have a concrete goal, a certain colour fur, increased longevity.

          In this case the criteria for selection are not defined. Intelligence may play a part in an individual selection but the environment the poems live in is not directed by any one intelligence.
          • It hardly matters. True Darwinian selection is (necessarily) unguided by the input of any intelligence.

            It is precisely this confusion of `no one intelligence' with `no intelligence at all' that (IIUARC) gave rise to Darwinism in the first place, though...
            • Sexual selection (Score:3, Interesting)

              by mestar ( 121800 )
              Not true.

              Lately it is becoming clear that sexual selection is playing a much greater part than previously thought. In fact, Darwin himself had this in his work, but was largely ignored later, probably because it was about sex.

              It is logical. To have children, you must both survive AND reproduce. In the second part of this, the largest influence in your success is in the hands (or better say minds) of the opposite sex. The human instance of your opposite sex does have intelligence (although it often doe
              • Perhaps you have a point (although the question is: why do such things attract mates?). In any case, the fundamental question: is this biological evolution, or a justification for biological evolution; remains untouched. Even sexual selection relies on having at least mammals in the first place.
        • Well, OK, let's play semantic games. Evolution is a process which selects the most fit individiuals. Bioevolution is a subset of evolution where fitness is determined by survival and reproduction in the physical world. Breeding is a subset of evolution where fitness is determined by humans based on their goals and ideals. Darwinian Poetry is both evolution and breeding. I do completely agree with your insistance that bioevolution and breeding are distinct, because bioevolution does not depend on intell
        • Re:No, no, no. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by aziraphale ( 96251 )
          > you might as well call the process that took a wolf (a wild predator, beutyfully fit to savagly tear elks into tiny bits) and turned it into a chihuahua (a teeny little thing most suited to be put out of it's misery) for a natural selection.

          How many wolves have you ever come across? Okay, how about chihuahuas?

          So, who's to say the wolf is fitter?

          The way I see it, the gene in ancient proto-dogs that said 'when a human being takes you in and feeds you, and occasionally asks you to have sex with another
  • Fortunately Safari kept a snapshot of the report page. If you're interested, here's what it looked like just before the slashdotting: (By the way, does anyone know if Tomcat will recover on its own, or do I have to pay a visit to the server and restart things?)

    --David

    Darwinian Poetry

    Code as Art [codeasart.com]:Poetry [codeasart.com]:Darwinian Poetry [codeasart.com]

    Generations (Avg)4.502 Total Number of Poems6969 Top Ranked Poems#2496 where ghost sleuth with lingo
    of the long with helicopt bodies
    where eyes tore devilish covered

    #4951 your vic

  • Prose (Score:5, Funny)

    by tcdk ( 173945 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @02:00AM (#6529710) Homepage Journal
    In all likelihood they will both be abysmal pieces of nonsensical garbage. That's ok. All you have to do is read them both and pick the one you find more appealing, for whatever reason. Your decision might be based on a single word that you happen to like. It doesn't matter. Just pick whichever one strikes your fancy.

    I like it!

    Could somebody please add this to the /. moderation guidelines?

    Oh, wait...
  • Sex!! (Score:2, Funny)

    I don't know about the rest of you, but i just clicked on "have sex" straightaway. I don't even know what the article is about yet, I just opened it in a new Safari tab to type this while it loaded.
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by zobier ( 585066 )
    If you find Darwinian Poetry a worthwhile idea, PLEASE tell your friends about it; this is only going to work if many, many people participate.

    Or not at all.

  • Typing away with one hand and fapping away with the other.
  • Interesting, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nucleon500 ( 628631 ) <tcfelker@example.com> on Friday July 25, 2003 @02:28AM (#6529823) Homepage
    In sentencnces (and even poems), words have complex interdependencies, and sometimes even meanings. So instead of evolving a poem, it would be better to evolve a poem-making machine.

    I see two possible designs: One is to evolve many simple, deterministic algorithms which produce one poem when run. This is most similar to what Darwinian Poetry does, evolving individual poems. The other approach is to evolve a smaller population of algorithms with access to an entrophy source, which produces many different poems. I think the latter approach would lead to machines with a basic, ingrained understanding of what makes a good poem.

    So what I'd do is make virtual machine, neural network, or cellular automata, with access to a random number generator, which somehow outputs indexes into a word list. Each time the page reloads, two machines from the population would be run, and their output presented, and the user would select the best one.

    Unless the algorithm allows for the individuals to understand what they write, it's little more than a bunch of random paragraphs moderated by a bunch of random people. Hmm.

    • by searleb ( 168974 )
      exactly what I thought. In a sense the poems are just mixing words through breeding (much like you breed dogs to get shiny fur). What it doesn't do is mutate the words, or the way words are chosen, over time which would allow some movement in the "gene pool". As it stands, the poems can never get better than what was initially in the pot to begin with. Training a neural network poem generator would be interesting, but more easily accomplished by training it on a dataset of Norton's Anthology of Poetry.
  • had ogden nash read this tale of digital darwinery
    he surely would have lost his wits.. then retired to a whinery
  • do not a poem make.

    Probability is a deceptive thing, because although a million monkeys with typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare, it's just a theoretical probability which is different to an actual likelyhood.

    This is the nature of "np-hard" problems (as I believe they're called) - you can't beat the odds.
    • Probability is a deceptive thing, because although a million monkeys with typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare, it's just a

      theoretical probability which is different to an actual likelyhood.

      Okay, I was going to mod you down, but I thought I'd respond instead. The only value in any theory is in its ability to model reality.

      In this case you seem to be basing your understanding of probability on a trite statement (a million monkeys...). The number of possible English strings as long as Shakespea

  • ... and I was studying to be a poet, driven by dreams of fame and fortune. "Learn Meter", my teacher told me, "understand the rhythm of the soul", he repeated as he hit me over the knuckles with a 2 by 4 when I miscounted my syllables. And now, after ten long years of poet school, I find that I have been replaced by a machine! Not any machine, even, but a mere Pentium 600!
    Perhaps one day we will be able to meet, my machine opponent and I, for a final match. Yes, the machine has sex, and I have not, but I have drugs, and that is a lot. The crowd will decide: is poetry the expression of my purely human soul, or just (as I always suspected before my teacher beat the idea out of me) a jumble of pretty words?
  • Cobralingus, by the british sci-fi author jeff noon (www.cobralingus.com) Text mutation engine, he wrote a whole book with it called Needle in the Groove, and parts of his collection of short stories Pixel Juice are written with it. Kinda fun to play with, but like the page posted it mostly constructs nonsense.
  • ... Shouldn't it be the RULES used for generating poetry that should be altered rather than the poetry itself? Just like it's the human genotype rather than the phenotype which is subject to mutation and crossover.

    Then, once your poetry generating algorithm was perfected, you could have all the poetry that you want. ... um, not that anyone actually wants more poetry.
  • /. effect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kelz ( 611260 )
    Well at least he takes his Slashdotting like a man :)

    *snip from website*

    Well, it's happened: I've been Slashdotted. Which I suppose is good news. But the poor little 600 mhz pentium under my desk hosting Darwinian Poetry can't handle the strain. Connectivity may be bad until the Slashdot crowd backs off. Sorry.

  • by frankjr ( 591955 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @03:52AM (#6530054) Journal
    There's no way 'evolution' can form a poem, from the looks of it.
  • by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Friday July 25, 2003 @04:15AM (#6530111) Homepage Journal
    Syrver! Syrver! burning bright,
    in the colos of the night,
    What immortal ping of DDOS
    could crash thy fearful RAID array?

    A happy Vogon, am I. Sorry, Blake [tuffydog.com].

    • Little User who made thee
      Dost thou know who made thee
      Gave thee logon & bid thee hack.
      By the watercooler & o'er the back;
      Gave thee clothing of delight,
      Softest clothing bought online;
      Gave thee such a tender type,
      Making all bloggers gripe:
      Little User who made thee
      Dost thou know who made thee
  • bad to verse... oh, how we laughed!

    magnifique!

    \a
  • darwinism? (Score:2, Funny)

    by SKPhoton ( 683703 )
    now that it's been /.ed, i'll bet we will slightly skew the results for the "good" words and "bad" words. i can see it now. "We have noticed a 400% increase in the number of poems created including penguins and oddly enough, the letter 'C'".
  • The story in which Trurl builds an electropoet is possibly my second favorite Lem story (after the one about the machine which did Nothing)

    • Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
      She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
      Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
      Silently scheming,
      Sightlessly seeking
      Some savage, spectacular suicide.
      -- Stanislaw Lem, "Cyberiad"
  • Well, two very successful species are the Norway Maple and the Norway rat. Let's try crossing them ....

    Since the site is slashdotted, I don't know, but it seems to me the experiment is doomed unless poems are constrained to mate with nearly identical poems. Otherwise you're likely to do the equivalent of mating cats with yeast.

    In fact, I expect that to work you'd have to start with a limited number of something like "bacterial poems" and allow them to acquire complexity through mutation and mating. H
  • by b-baggins ( 610215 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:34AM (#6531281) Journal
    Of course this will work, but all it will prove is something we've known for a couple of thousand years: Selective breeding will bring out desired characteristics.

    What this study does NOT address:

    Irreducible complexity. We already have the groups of words. Well, where did they come from? How do we get the group of words in the first place? We can't do selection on the words until we have the words, so, how do we get the words?

    Intelligent design. Intelligence (namely the humans running the model) is determining what we start with and is determining what the desired results (what constitutes acceptable survival),

    Cost of mutation. There is no attempt to factor in mutational "drag" if you will. All mutations are either considered neutral, or beneficial. The reality is, most mutations are HARMFUL. Any mutation which does not directly improve the organism, will almost certainly harm the organism, greatly increasing its chance of death. If the mutation rate is too high, the species will die out (known as Haldane's dilemna).

    Informational Loss. Nearly all mutations result in a LOSS of information, in this case, the elimination of a word. Once the word is gone, how will it ever come back?

    So, this little exercise is nothing more than a cute gimmick that blind adherents to evolution as the source of all life will point to, smile, and say: See you idiot creationists, one more thing to prove your stupid, unthinking mindset wrong.

    But the reality is, it won't prove or demonstrate anything other than the time-tested truism that trial and error will eventually get you what you want.
  • by gobbo ( 567674 ) <[wrewrite] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday July 25, 2003 @10:39AM (#6531868) Journal
    Since this isn't 'natural' selection, but cultural, what are we really measuring with this process? I mean it's good unclean fun, but randomly seeded geek poetry will wind up being just that, no illusions, right?

    Initially, the snippets remind me of unedited "l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e" [princeton.edu] poetry from the late '80s, but I suspect they'll be verging towards formal and stylistic standards like R.Frost or ee cummings, since that's what people got in school (and usually remember). I don't have faith that this will wind up with anything like the avant-garde direction that the newness of the generation technique suggests is possible.

    There's a good tradition of last century's poets experimenting with generation techniques. Bryan Gyson and William Burroughs played with cutups, and someone's even automated the process with TextBlender Pro [fourthworld.com] (disclaimer: haven't tried this one). I had a gas with this idea, and once had a month off so sequestered myself with a typewriter (yeah I'm getting old) and source texts by Buckminster Fuller, Nietzche, Attar, and some histories of WW2, in order to generate some centos [reference.com] for fun and non-profit (never published, needless to say).

    William Carlos Williams claimed [upenn.edu] that poetry is a word machine:

    • To make two bold statements: There's nothing sentimental about a machine, and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words. When I say there's nothing sentimental about a poem, I mean that there can be no part that is redundant.


    • Prose may carry a load of ill-defined matter like a ship. But poetry is a machine which drives it, pruned to a perfect economy. As in all machines, its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character. From: Williams's introduction to The Wedge, in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams
    Anyway, the Darwinian P. reports indicate that the process has a long way to go. So what will literary critics (before their descent into hell) claim about the validity and category of these poems? Is it just one more disintegration of the canon that comes with the post-post-modern post mortem? Will the poems stand the test of seven layers of meaning? O machine, wax!

  • by Lux ( 49200 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @01:53PM (#6533758)

    Interestingly enough, prior to the whole "theory of evolution" thing catching on, the Darwin family already had a claim to fame. Erasmus Darwin, Chuck's father (or was it grandfather?) was a moderately successful poet. A lot of his stuff is reportedly pretty lewd too. So I guess this stuff is just coming full-circle in a weird sort of way. :)

    -Lux

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. - Voltaire

Working...