What Machine Is Poetry?

Fragments of an Interview (of Sorts)

by Loss Pequeño Glazier

26 July-7 August 1996

Fragment 1


italicized-"faulty text"

see ambient transmission...

Implacable pressure individual word

nor factor of its essay's plangent

technological writing finds its

shortened by speed's excess

prescribes the next case sensitive

frame interval back to LIT so that's

science vita as temporal release

Presumed oneself lost as at

anagram of lexis should not

moebius strip chain of linked

emend hot links simmer on grill

have turned set spills into

routing so trajectory across

the Atlantic call it bullish poets

television effect figurations desert

have gotten lost (this is the disk)

both netted and offline turn on its

immunely dancing platforms

last year previously asymptotic

in olive phone calls ring your Iberia

pre-Raphaelite relation to decadence

in anthology. Never thought to find

in effect "you get what you ascii for"

to French trends and illustration

another nine Dutch poets revisiting

then in its custom prescribes that

swoop across the road as continents

transmit say a gathering to honor

Pacific write against this point

cross-current, visible vs. physical

extended serial sequences, beyond text

and voila`! hence antho-, ana-, autho-

got faults "mendum" gears affix

for public consumption into Veracruz

Anatolia's dry sting of books then

radio drift, deep inflected tones fit

forget to send even-rendered domain.

Q. What Machine Is Poetry?

A. It is interesting that you choose to start the interview with a question that, shall we say, less astute interviewers might have lead up to? But since we seem to already be down to the nuts and bolts of it, let me begin to answer by reading directly from some relevant notes:

He was instructed on the rudiments of poetry. It was handed down to the writer in this way: that in an environment characterized as "the oral", there was no fact of intervention. ("intervene," a cutting or severance.) In this pristine arena (remember that in these times even wrestlers undertook their sport in the nude), the poetics of it functioned in relation to tissue and muscle. Resonance, inflection, tone were related to a tightness in the throat, a penchant for volume, physical strength, stamina, the feel of a same-sex sweaty body against yours.

If we follow this to the next logical step then, what becomes relevant is where the first machine "gripped" the storyteller's craft. That is, once an instrument was at issue, the story became not a story but an extension of the instrument. Equivalents had to be set up for color, tone, exasperation. The way (back to that wrestling image) there is a moment before the competition begins, where one wrestler crouches on all fours and the opponent kneels next to him.

On the textual level, take the exclamation point as an instance. Is there such a thing as an exclamation point in oral "telling"? No, the story simply exclaims. It is a physical action. But once the instrument is involved, the graphical symbol takes on a status of its own. From the graphical exclamation point, the next possibility that arises is of course the double exclamation point. Then the triple exclamation, and on and on, until you get to such an extension of exclamation that the narrator, in an oral parallel, could thrown himself under a train and it would not match the machine version of the story.

Thus at a certain point, there is no longer a need even for the story. But of course you know this. You are well established in this "field".

Q. You have detailed in your writing, most notably in your "Occlusions" essay, rather concise history of the writing machine, including the cut-ups of Burroughs and Olson's sense of the typewriter as a scripting mechanism. In this vein-and I know this also resonates with your spin on "the buffer" in your poem "Direct Contact" which you read here in Manhattan not long ago, you have spoken of the computer as a step back. I wonder if you'd clarify?

Q. I think it's actually rather clearer in this passage:

The sea is a scroll but also a typewriter knob

"Yup. 'Found' poems lever this issue wide open"

That's why the button on the right that slides in its track

The cans didn't have labels. They were simply metal

translate. Of that duo, drop Verlaine & substitute Percodeine-

Especially, if you "watch" the way the "lever" works here!

But back to the issue of clarifying. (Is clarity what Danes achieve on butter boats?) That admittedly rather incendiary remark comes from the fact that the physical impression is hardly physical at all. In fact, being on the level of the electron, it could be considered more metaphorical than anything else. So provisional! Mutable! What's engraved here? What's stamped? What's pressed into material? And if the materials are of interest, then what materials exactly are we talking about? This may be the greatest challenge yet for any art that may wish to express something about its own material presence. Pollack's famous statement hardly holds water when you're talking about standing in a bunch of electrons that represent something you might have typed…

Q. But the computer is certainly a writing machine!

A. Not in the sense that most people think.

Q. There can't be any doubt that it's a mechanical device to assist you with writing.

A. No. You FORMAT on it. It's a word formatter.

Q. There's no writing whatsoever done on computers?

A. I didn't say that. I said that the way a computer is usually used has little to do with writing. There are, by contrast, definite areas where the computer and writing merge. Take for example computer-generated text. These are programs that will take a given input and produce an output. Usually, this produces writing that is non-narrative in character, to say the least.

Or what about search engines? To me this may be one of the most under-appreciated sites of interaction between humans and machines. Take any search engine. Put in a term. Just pick one. Say you're on Alta Vista and you type in "machine". The results are mind-boggling. What you get told is your search retrieved about 700,000 items matching some of the query terms and that you are being given the "best matches first". Hmmm, does that raise red flags with anyone anywhere? Does the fact that you could never look at 700,000 items send shudders of information anxiety through your bones?? If not, pal, I'd suggest you get in synch with our neurotic society! So you're standing here on the edge of this immense vertical stack of information. (Which, if released could simply drown you.) (Get it, "'Found' poems lever this issue wide open"? And the reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls?) In any case, it's more information that you can shake a stick at. Nonetheless, you begin. So you look at the first page of results. It includes (and please, the point is that you should read this as a paragraph. That's one of the points here):

Ultimate Machine Co. The Ultimate Suspension Hub. The Ultimate Suspension Hub:Ultimate utilizes a huge 17mm 7075-T6 aluminum axle with oversized bearings.

Ghost In The Machine. Spirits In The Material World. Words and music by Sting There is no political solution To our troubled evolution Have no faith in

Connection Machine Software Conversion of a Navy Oceans Model. Contents: 1. Introduction 2. Background 3. Data Layout 4. Software Structure 5. Conversion...

Securing a Solaris 2 Machine. Introduction: This document is just to get you started; it is not exhaustive. The Computing Service offers the advice in ...

MWM. Monkey With the Machine. This site is maintained by Big Jeff for the benefit of anyone interested in the MWM phenomena: fans, imitators, and music...

Machine Photo File. Team Photos. The Machine at St. Patty's Day, SC; Top Row, L-R-Charles Kandziolka, Pete Sharma, Paul Russell, Vlad Proeteasa, Rich Fritsky, Craig...

Why The Amazing Hot Nut Machine is The Perfect Business Opportunity. In 1986, vending celebrated its 100th anniversary in the United States. The next...

Sound Machine Sound. Published Songs. The Empty Clown. Steel. Chain Lady. Kingdom of the Flies. Hopefully, sound bites will be available in the next few week s.

The Time Machine. Amazing Time-Lapse. Cutting edge, motion picture special effects used by television networks, advertising agencies and film studios...

Album:Sister Machine Gun/Torture Technique. Invalid IP Address. Session Restarted. Emusic Features | What's New | What's Hot | Essential Picks | Help | Check In.

Q. You're not going to tell me that the juxtaposition of these phrases in a seemingly random output is supposed to define something, are you?

A. Does a McDonald's hamburger wrapper define anything? Try opening a fast food chain and selling hamburgers wrapped in identically printed wrappers, you clown. I think you'd soon hear a knock on your door.

But yes, search results. A first observation. Did anybody experience an amazing time-lapse here? Diderot ring a bell? I mean, one of the whole foundations of handing out infodope was the crowning "achievement" of its "logical" order. Now I'm not saying that's the be all and end all. But, if you just wanted a simple definition or idea about what a machine is, that's not what you're receiving here. This is just random bits of stuff. Like reading scraps of graffiti after a parade. The equivalent, for those within our educational system, to coming to class each day and one class you learn about Greek philology, the next the Battle of the Bulge, the next Pluto, the next the mating habits of ants, etc.

Of course you could call this writing and you could call this learning. And I might agree. The point is that from a practical point of view, this is as about as close to searching as is combing an Oregon beach for driftwood.

Not only is there a whole lot of it, but the fallacy in the assertion that you can put in a search term and get it, is that you don't really know what you'll get. Furthermore, you could never look at all you got. So you take what's at your feet. In short, no matter what you type in, unless you have the strength of some long-haired cyber Samson, you get something else and that's what you end up taking home.

Q. This is a rather off-the-wall example.

A. OK, let's take something closer to home. Your precious "writing" machine itself. What about machine errors? I would go so far as to say that the present era, the 32 bit cosmos, marks one of those thresholds like the obelisk in 2001. Computer programs are starting to include more and more "robots" and "wizards" and these are like personifications of the machine running all over the page. Take Word 7.0, for example. The program inserts a "B." after paragraphs beginning with "A." and an "R." after paragraphs beginning with "Q." [Especially noticeable after transcribing this interview!-Ed.] The program keeps tripping you in your most creative frenzy all the while chiming "Just trying to be helpful!" It's like Jefferson needing to dip the quill in ink after writing "We the people." (I'm being facetious. Of course he had to dip the quill in ink after each line. Don't you think that annoyed him?) A common misapprehension about machines is that they help you do something. Machines actually get in the way of your doing anything. The primary compact, in fact, becomes between you and the machine. The task you set out to do becomes secondary to your negotiations with the machine about how to do it.

Q. You're not actually trying to say that a machine doesn't help you complete tasks?

A. I'm just saying to watch the subtleties of the interaction-and watch out for the 17mm 7075-T6 aluminum axle with oversized bearings. The help you are receiving may be helping you right out the door. Say the computer is like a vending machine. Usually it gives you what you want. You get a cold can of soda just about every time you try. But it's those times it swallows your money-and you just happen to have already put two aspirins in your mouth that are rapidly dissolving and you are there in a public hallway pounding on its glimmering red surface and howling like mad-that you find you've actually entered a dialog with it as a machine.

Q. How would you sum up your approach?

A. Very simply.

Fragment 2

Artist's Note

Loss Pequeño Glazier

(Excerpt from an Interview, 2/2/97)

Interviewer: I find myself somewhat shocked that you actually consider these files to be works of visual "art".

Glazier: Well, it doesn't surprise me, I suppose, that you are shocked.

Interviewer: You don't have a defense?

Glazier: Think of it this way. From whatever pole you wish to case the idea of "poetry", at some point one account of such an activity has to do with words (images) moving (projected) through time. My thought is this: if words/images are taken as say "cells" of images, then using available formats, GIF among these, they can move, be altered, progress.

Interviewer. Isn't this just some reductive kind of animation?

Glazier: No. It is more akin to scoring or choreography.

Interviewer: And you intend these images to be *serious* works of visual art?

Glazier: Well, that's not up to YOU to judge. If it were, God help us all. The point is that these are compositions. They consist of individual parts conceived with a whole in mind. They move within a given set of circumstances: that twenty-something-inch glowing plane of dead air some call Nirvana. They alter themselves on the screen within a given set of possibilities. It is a performance - in its own medium.

Interviewer: You don't propose the GIF is a medium akin to oils or pastels!

Glazier: Indeed I do, pendejo!

Interviewer: What about the unpredictable lag time? Depending on the viewer's connection and browser, the frames of your images could take a variable amount of time to shift, poke, do their thing. In fact, some of the more bored of us on this planet might never know a "work" *moves* if their connection happens to be a pill. They'll just click and pop off somewhere else.

Glazier: This is supposed to be a rebuttal? None of your objections hold. You see, here there is a similarity here to the printed poem. Some may get a poem right away. The pacing, speed of reading, rate of moving through the pages is always variable. And what if you open a book and see a reference to some Greek urn; don't you think there are folks out there who might immediately pop off somewhere else?

Interviewer: But a work should not be factored by an outside set of circumstances!

Glazier: No? I suppose your own socioeconomic tacky baggage set isn't external either? Don't forget that even if it is on canvas or chiseled from stone, it is also subject to a set of limitations. There's something rather lovely about the work moving right past you. I also like the fact that once a frame displays, the reader can't go back without starting over completely.

Interviewer: I just think you should be more forthcoming about the limitations of these works - and the flaccid permanence of this so-called "medium".

Glazier: If you've got a modem, you've got a medium. If you can read language and have an ability to sit and watch, they'll open up with something more than the screen first presents. Put down your bags and stay awhile! I find these moving image works, interestingly, akin to the kind of thing I did as a youth, drawing on cards and flipping them to get an "narrative". Or always knowing anything said in English could be said with more dexterity in Spanish. Or the way the colors on murals at Cacaxtla color your image of all of Tenochtitlán. Or how about designing an image to clothespin to the spokes of your bike? Or in the arcade, like those antique, moving picture machines you'd get to watch for a dime. Simply under sail. Materially, as absorbing.

Fragment 3

A. Most strikingly you hear about "what the Web does" "what it brings into your homes" "to children" etc. What's amazing is that it is not an IT. Although much of it does qualify as a communications medium, chat, live video, and moos, most of it simply function as publishing. It is a means of publishing that carries its own instantaneous delivery system. Thus it's not " look at what the web does" but "look at this published matter that's made it into our hands." If you think of it that way, you realize that it's not SO outrageous. People have print collections of pornography and people have neo-Nazi pamphlets in houses that don't have a computer. It's the SPEED of delivery and circulation that makes the difference.

Q. You're NOT denying the Web makes such things possible?

A. Do you actually listen or do are you merely formulating your next question while I speak? What's interesting about these contested kinds of information is not whether they are Heaven's Gate pages or Penthouse online. It becomes really interesting when you wonder what such advances might offer to presently underrepresented genres - poetry among them.

Q. Changing the topic for a moment, I wanted to ask how it is you compose and does that compositional process differ within what you call "Web writing".

A. It is with a genre like poetry that we begin to see an interesting - rather than merely sensational - instances of the power of this medium.