Articulations and Compasses

Most methods for computationally calculating similarity among texts rely on statistical models of semantics, but meaning has always seemed like a secondary feature of poetry to me. (My lowest scores on standardized tests as a kid were always in the "reading comprehension" category.) The techniques I used to write Articulations resulted from experiments in designing methods to calculate text similarity that focus instead on phonetics and syntax. The book in its final form has two sections, both computational cut-ups of lines of poetry scraped in bulk from Project Gutenberg: "Tongues," a long prose poem where lines are arranged in a way that maximizes phonetic similarity from one line to the next, and "Trees," a series of twenty-five poems composed of lines that share syntactic characteristics. Compasses, a chapbook recently published in Andreas Bülhoff's sync series, consists of poems produced with the help of a machine learning model I designed as the next step in my exploration of phonetic similarity. In addition to being able to represent the phonetics of a text and find phonetic similarities among texts, this model can generate entirely new texts based on arbitrary phonetic representations. In Compasses, I used this model to generate new imaginary words that exist in the negative phonetic spaces between the names of members of well-known quartets.

from Tongues

The setting day a snake said: it’s a cane, it’s a kill. Is like a stain. Like a stream. Like a dream. And like a dream sits like a dream: sits like a queen, shine like a queen.

When like a flash like a shell, fled like a shadow; like a shadow still.

Lies like a shadow still, aye, like a flash o light, shall I like a fool, quoth he, You shine like a lily like a mute shall I still languish, — and still, I like Alaska.

Lies like a lily white is, like a lily, white. Like a flail, like a whale, like a wheel. Like a clock. Like a pea, like a flea, like a mill, like a pill, like a pill. Like a pall, hangs like a pall.

Hands like a bowl, bounds like a swallow!

Falls like a locust-swarm on boughs whose love was like a cloak for me. Whose form is like a wedge. But I was saved like a king; was lifted like a cup, or leave a kiss but in the cup the cup she fills again up she comes again.

Till she comes back again.

Till he comes back again. Till I come back again. Like mechanical toys. Like a pale antagonist. Like a beacon, like a star, not unlike a story compiled I too reckoned, like a boy, I take the cup you kindly reach, who smoke and sip the kindly cup, and give to each its purpose, like a king to work in — things had become difficult.

Taking up with her contempt, worthing is much taken; A King. They said. What King. Figuring, checking-up, testing all day, then I get drunk in secret on expensive liquor, giving and taking strength reciprocal, digging and sinking and drifting, and writing and thinking, and eating and drinking, and eternally thinking, and blinking, and winking, thinking and thinking of Johnny Glynn, catching and losing, gaining and failing, singing, and calling, and singing again, being and singing and singing and singing, singing: — singing and dancing, singing and dancing go! Singing and dancing as they go. Thus dancing on, and singing as they danced, and gazed on its swinging sign. Night-gowns rush dancing and exulting in. Singing and gliding and going — going in and coming out; going out and coming in.


from Tongues

Why, what is this. Thy wits and with Thee rich, take what Thou wilt away. Thy windy ways the wildest, and beset and bid me rise, and let me walk awhile with thee while the warm wind came and played with their hair as the warm wind came and played with their hair, in war and plague; but with them was the young the winds are out with the waves at play, one as the waves are at one with the sea!

Its waves are the waves of the sea, As the waves of the sea — and the waves of the sea of the waves. Of the wave. Of the week. Of the wheat of the wind, — drink of the wine: drink well of the wine; of the hazel will entwine, as the hull of the vessel fell in twain!

May stay the wings of the Loves that hover, the loves that love, the wills that will the same. The Love that leads the willing spheres of the little loves that fly of the little hands that play of little lives that pass is the leaves falling fast: as falling of the leaf; falling of the leaf, — come with the falling of the leaf upon it with the falling of the flesh, as the chaff in the stroke of the flail; that filled the chorus of the fray - a fig for the wrath of the sea!

He sang the song of the thief of the world, all the wealth of the world to the feet of The Spring. Into the war of the world and the strife of the throng; or if aught of the work of the wrong of the world be thine.

The whirl of the pool, and the break of the wave. With the hope of the brave and the wise. Wise with the wisdom of the heart, wise with the wisdom of the pure in heart. The wisdom of the pure, of the wisdom of the hero; the wisdom of the hills. Of the wisdom of the West. Of the freedom of the West!

Above the bosom of the wave, above the dome, above the sea, above the lake, above the trees: doubles the guilt of the crime; and the gulls above them cry, Out of the rings and the bubbles, and the rub-a-dub-a-dum rub-a-dub, rub-a-dee!


Trees #25

Drips the soaking rain,

Where the tumbling surf,

Relieved he many a racking pain,

Sentinel the ending line,

Waits the rising sign,

Anticipate a promised bliss,

And the slipping sea,

And the wilted thyme,

But a surrounding atmosphere, whereby

And the softly tinted cheek,

And the tenderly rocking mountain

Mark the nicely rounded paunch

There sometimes doth a leaping fish

When first the wandering eye

Far away the bounding prey

And everywhere the trembling air

And at last the crowning deed

And far away the spreading farms

Once again the twisted branches

Than ever yet the wondering voyager

Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem

Settle once more this floating isle!

How soft the falling dew!

How beautiful the setting sun!

Where wail the lost forevermore.


from Compasses


           marciar          vercious

      mars          merche          venus

                  arth           eanth



                kepten            seuterner

  neptune          ceuterne          saturn

           eurtuness           caurtines



              reanard           lonatelo

  raphael          lainalet          donatello

         machellen          michanello 



                 garfiel          machrill

  raphael          archele          michael

                    arsel          eischell