crappin' on about the inconsequential, found poetry, Me and my opinions, new ways to procrastinate, people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry, Published work, the writing process

Published (sort of) : “Writing meanness like flourish”


This is very late, but I just a couple days ago I came across a poem of mine that was published back in 2008 as part of a 3,785-page, 3,164-poet anthology called Issue 1.

Except when I say “poem of mine” what I mean is “NOT a poem of mine”, which is to say that it had my name on it, but those two words were the only ones that I could rightfully lay claim to. The others were:

Writing meanness like flourish

Of meanness
Like a right
A length
At a peculiar steering-wheel

Which is to say that it seems I was lucky enough to have had my name plucked from the interwebs as part of some kind of five-years-old-and-counting experimental poetry hoax thingo perpetrated upon – let’s say – poetry itself by poets Stephen McLaughlin, Gregory Laynor and Vladimir Zykov, and programmer Jim Carpenter.

Turns out they used a computer program to generate a bunch of poems (they can do that these days – or those days, rather) and then attributed them to a whole bunch of poets – some quite famous and some also quite dead – and then published it online and waited for the self-applied google alerts to start pinging.

Given the useby on this one, I don’t have much to add to the experiment that hasn’t been better and more concisely said elsewhere – I thought this post by Barry Schwabsky at The Nation said it well. Jim Carpenter himself also weighed in once the dust had settled a little, pointing out that the anthology was intended as a parody, not a hoax, which is interesting. And some enterprising individuals put together a collection of the blog posts and other responses to Issue 1 in Issue 2, which is available to download and trawl through at saidwhatwesaid.

Probably what I can add to the mix that nobody else can is how I felt to be included (so to speak). To be honest I was flattered. I’m guessing that the raw material for the poems came from the internet, and so I choose to take my inclusion within it as indication that I have a significant enough online presence to warrant placement alongside the other however many other poets also “included”. Which is nicer than not being included, I suppose.

As to my thoughts about the poem I got attributed to me, I find generative poetry more interesting in the process than the end product. I’m more likely to read and enjoy the methodology whereby the poems were created than I am to read the anthology itself, which I wonder whether it could have made the same point with half as many or one-tenth as many or even twice as many poems/poets. Experimental poetry often feels to me like thought experiments put into practise. You don’t really need to actually put the cat into the box with the vial of poison to get your point across.

And would it have killed them to have programmed the sucker to put the titles in title case?

I’m not sure what this poem actually means either and though I understand that’s the point, I do like a little meaning in my poetry, so given that this is kind of one of my poems, I can certainly have a crack:

I like the idea of meanness as a right. It makes me think of the lack of empathy inherent in the way people try to justify and excuse things like rudeness and hate speech using the aegis of freedom of speech.

I also like the image of a length of something (a length of dowell, say, or a plank of wood) leaning up against a freestanding steering wheel of some kind, maybe a three-on-the-tree stick shift from an old FJ Holden, a steering wheel not attached to anything, standing upright on its exposed steering column, torn from its housing and divorced from its solitary purpose, completely incapable of steering anything at all.


For those who might be curious what Mr. McLaughlin is up to these days, he’s putting together Into the Field, a podcast hosted by Jacket2, which seems a good fit for his apparent contemporary experimental poetry maven thing.

I’ve had a listen to the episode featuring Astrid L’Orange and Eddie Hopely and it’s got a pleasant, chatty tone and a nice format involving readings from the poets followed by interviews with them about technique and such. The poetry in that episode not so much (for me at least), but I am enjoying their chat about methodologies an composition. I’ve only listened to that one episode so far, but I’m keen to hear some more.

Gregory Laynor is still poeting along. He has a website with not much on it and there are poems of his out there here and there, like these ones about pencils and crayons and these ones all called “From the Deleted Poems of Gregory Laynor“.

Vladimir Zykov seems to have been the visual artist of the crew. There’s not much on him online besides a blog with two links on it and a very sporadic twitter account, so it’s hard to say what he’s been up to.

Mr. Carpenter went on to produce more generative poetry, releasing an 18,000-page collection of poetry (again with the overwhelming) by Erica T. Carter (which is a pseudonym for the Electronic Text Composition project or ETC, the name of the software he used to create the poems in Issue 1) before moving on to other (presumably non-generative-poetry type) things

Finally there’s the question of what to do with this poem I’ve been gifted like a wee orphan on my doorstep whose prospects are uncertain. I’m inclined to take the little creature under my wing and try to raise it up proper, though as yet I’m not sure what that might entail.

My first thought was to send it out for consideration, but given that it’s already been anthologised its chances are a little reduced by contemporary preferences for first publication rights.

I might think about including it in my next collection manuscript – whenever that fabled beast might choose to rear its hypothetical head – or at least including Issue 1 in my publication resume (would anyone ever notice?).

Maybe I’ll use it as the starting point for a new poem. It’s a small thing – maybe it just needs a little TLC to come into its own.

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