Machine Poetry

My polit­i­cal the­o­ry of poet­ry is fair­ly straight­for­ward: poet­ry is the most prim­i­tive form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Poet­ry is the cre­ative use of a lim­it­ed resource. So the non­sense that comes out of mouths of any­one learn­ing the vocab­u­lary & syn­tax of a new lan­guage is also, clear­ly, poet­ry. As the lim­i­ta­tions of lan­guage lessen, the need for cre­ativ­i­ty lessens, peo­ple opt (typ­i­cal­ly) for the most com­pre­hen­sive method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

What a mar­vel the first bird must have been!

I’m going to test this the­o­ry by teach­ing a machine to write poet­ry. I hypoth­e­size this will be much eas­i­er than teach­ing it the intri­ca­cies of typ­i­cal speech. This is a fair­ly easy sup­po­si­tion for me to make, as most machine-gen­er­at­ed texts already read like they are a new lan­guage. I have no idea how long this is going to take, but I’m start­ing here: Machine Learn­ing Mas­tery. Once I can swing the ham­mer cor­rect­ly, I’m going to start my dig­i­tal child pound­ing on the 1000 most com­mon words in Eng­lish.

If I raise it up as it should go, maybe it’ll even take over Poet­ry 4 Free duties.

Practice

I did not let my son hug me
because he did not ask

I watch him with the other
children practicing Gong Bu

spindling limbs learning
those constant corrections

then Ma Bu aches their legs
these bodies young horses

grown eager
he quick bows and

runs to hug me, again
I refuse him

because he did not ask
first first

of all the things
I don’t want to do is

not hug my son
he has always been

both archer
and arrow like me

he is a wreck of tears and
fire Kung Fu he says

calms his mind he
needs a hug and

when I ask
he refuses

we are never at war
we are more at work

in wilds full of errant wind
chamfering together

our best honest voices
learning to ask the ground

with each fresh step
how best to walk upon it

Free Poetry for Shakespeare

The Cleve­land Pub­lic Library asked me to come do Poet­ry 4 Free in the East­man Read­ing Gar­den on a cou­ple of dates this sum­mer as part of their cel­e­bra­tion of the Fol­ger Shake­speare Library First Folio exhib­it.

I had fun — it’s been a cou­ple of years since I was down­town writ­ing poet­ry on the fly for folks, but I pret­ty much took right back to it. I wrote 11 Shake­speare-inspired poems in 2 hours. Folks could either give me a favorite pas­sage, or pick from a few that I had select­ed.

Por ejem­p­lo:

Some folks had no idea who Shake­speare was, and oth­ers relat­ed hor­ri­fied anec­dotes from col­lege. A few peo­ple just grabbed a quote and took off with­out let­ting me write a poem for them. Every­body seemed like they were hav­ing a good time.

When the Cavs Won It All

What will I remember about today,
in this city
that takes every punch,
unflinching, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
standing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I'll remember
that this day is like
every other day
this city working doubles
while you slept on it
this city skipping vacation
to get the job done
this city, laconic, intractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of redemption
where we always welcome our sons home

Today, today
is for 
                YOU 
to remember:

this city can always say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, exchange 
blood-stained grins
and sing loudest for the unsung.

You had forgotten
what we've always known
Cleveland is the city
filled with champions
and tomorrow, 
we get back to work.

When the Cavs Won/Lost It All

About a week ago I was con­tact­ed by Bill at Fox8 who had remem­bered my pre­vi­ous Fox8 appear­ance about my Poet­ry 4 Free project. His idea was to make a piece about how Cleve­landers were react­ing to the Cavs being in the finals & he want­ed me to come up with some­thing that would help tie it all togeth­er. I think he did a great job con­sid­er­ing he had to plan the piece to work for vic­to­ry or defeat. Cleve­landers tend to be good at that kind of plan­ning. Here’s the piece:

I also antic­i­pat­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of need­ing two out­comes. My full poem is below. I only gave a cou­ple of hours to it, so it isn’t as revised as I would like, but I knew it was going to be a small part of a larg­er whole, so I tried to struc­ture it for both coher­ence and reor­ga­ni­za­tion. I only had to change the first line of the last stan­za to change the tone of the poem. Effi­cien­cy!

What will I remember about today,
in this city
that takes every punch,
unflinching, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
standing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I'll remember
that this day is like
every other day
this city working doubles
while you slept on it
this city skipping vacation
to get the job done
this city, laconic, intractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of redemption
where we always welcome our sons home

Today, today
is for 
                YOU 
to remember:

this city can always say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, exchange 
blood-stained grins
and sing loudest for the unsung.

You have forgotten (or) One day you'll learn
what we've always known
Cleveland is the city
filled with champions
and tomorrow, 
we get back to work.

Lauds

This morning, my dog and I caught God
trying to sneak through the city like
a man skipping Mass in search of a drink.

He still filled the sky and his steps were
like the echoes of an empty hallway.
My dog just wagged her tail but I

shouted at him:
I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN!
He didn’t turn, just created a dirty rabbit

which he threw over-shoulder at my dog. 
I don’t know if my dog or the rabbit was
more surprised. The rabbit dissipated 

using natural rabbit-magic, and when I
looked, so had God. The city whispered
an antiphon: Kýrie, eléison.

Public Square

Walk to Public Square,
while you live, and sing
the victims

roughly shoved between
lath and beam - the dead women -
sealed in walls, scratching
under the floor of Imperial
Avenue. The Seymour attic decade,
three women in chains 
a half mile from my home
the raped child's rape child
on the same playground as my son

sit down on Public Square
while you live, and sing
the victims

your fingers in the holes
left by one hundred and thirty-seven
police bullets 
your body policed upon the
asphalt so hard it stops
your twelve years of life
split open by a police sidearm.

stand up on Public Square
while you live, and sing
the victims

of men
of police
men
of institutions of
men, whose words
are worse than silence.

stand up on Public Square
and tear it down.