[-empyre-] A poem is a small (or large) machine

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Sat May 6 13:59:32 AEST 2017

"The imagery of mechanical efficiency and "perfect economy" is intriguing.
How might Charles Bernstein's metaphor of a poetic "engine idling" contrast
with that? (I'm thinking of Ming-Qian Ma's discussion of that idling image
and Bernstein's poetics as "postmodern counter speed.") What would the
machinery of a poetics of inefficiency look like?"

Hi Susan, Chris,

When Bernstein is saying that a poem should be like an engine idling, he is
saying that a poem is a machine that does not act like a machine. Isn't the
next step to say a poem is not a machine.

At the heart of a poetics of inefficiency lies a substantiation of
time,making time visible by slowing it. Time becomes duration. Duration is
against flow, i.e., inefficiency. My last poem *Animals of Dawn* deals
exactly with this issue by exploring the nature of the delays in *Hamlet*
in carrying out the avenging of his father's murder. Hamlet lives in a
different time dimension than the other characters.

Going back to the issue of modern architecture and Rem Koolhaas's *Delirious
New York* on the development of the New York grid and the building of
skyscrapers. One of the key points in the book is that one essential
concern of city planners and architects in New York City was maintain an
efficient traffic flow. The shape of the buildings had to accommodate
itself (like a cog in a machine) to the necessity of this flow. Poetry
should be against flow (clogging the traffic, so to speak) or, as Jack
Spicer's poetics of the serial poem says, writing should be "against the


On Fri, May 5, 2017 at 2:04 PM, Funkhouser, Christopher T. <
christopher.t.funkhouser at njit.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> naturally, or perhaps i should say cyborganically, following these threads
> with interest & appreciate the expansiveness. imo, the Williams quote/poem
> is good, of course, but somewhat overused. the poem i chose as epigraph to *Prehistoric
> Digital Poetry* (written by Canadian Lionel Kearns), in favor over
> anything else, refers to WCW & takes it further, relevant to this
> discussion. pasted here, probably dis-formatted
> “The poem is a machine,” said that famous man, and so I’m building one.
> Or at least I’m having it built, because I want something big and
> impressive and
> automatic.
> You see, people will stand in front of it and insert money, dimes or
> quarters,
> depending upon the poem’s locus.
> Yes the whole thing will clank and hum and light up and issue a string of
> words
> on colored ticker-tape.
> Or maybe the customers will wear ear-phones and turn small knobs so the
> experience will be more audile-tactile than old fashioned visual.
> In any case they will only get one line at a time,
> This being the most important feature of my design which is based on the
> principle that,
> In poetry, “one perception must immediately and directly lead to a further
> perception,”
> And therefore the audience will be compelled to feed in coin after coin.
> Now I admit that the prototype model that you see on display is something
> of a
> compromise, as it has a live poet concealed inside.
> But I assure you that this crudity will eventually be eliminated
> Because each machine, I mean each poem, is to be fully computerized
> And so able to stand on its own feet.
> —Lionel Kearns, “Kinetic Poem” (1968)
> On Fri, May 5, 2017 at 1:22 PM, Margaret J Rhee <mrhee at uoregon.edu> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> "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."
>> I'd like to start a thread about this quote by WCW, that Mike raised here.
>> A friend the Mexican poet Hugo Martinez, remarked we should replace
>> machine
>> with machete.
>> "There must be something hardwired into its machinery--a heartbeat, a
>> pulse--that keeps it breathing." -- Ed Hirsch
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> Dr. Christopher T. Funkhouser
> Program Director, Communication and Media
> Department of Humanities
> New Jersey Institute of Technology
> University Heights
> Newark, NJ 07102
> http://web.njit.edu/~funkhous
> funkhous at njit.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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