I once wrote a poem that I titled ‘Reputation’. It reads, in part:
Sorting through stones,
large flat ones,
the dry earth scraped away.
It’s soothing until
I wonder what to do.
I could strike a stone
against the rocks near the wall.
The impact is hard.
The momentary effort.
It’s all-consuming, it seems,
It appears that a small storm has broken out about an ‘anthology’ just recently posted on a site called ‘for godot’ (and while I’m obviously aware of the reference, I keep thinking ‘fergeddit’ when I read the url).
My first reaction, and it probably still is, was laughter. It’s a joke, a stunt, a conceptual art/writing thing. Here are 3,785 poems by 3,785 poets, all with the same names as nearly 3,785 poets (apparently a few names appear more than once, and I think it’s agreed a few of the names are pisstakes and a few are names of people who, to anyone’s knowledge, have not written poems). Because, just as obviously, the poet named, for instance, ‘Jill Jones’ who is writing this comment, ie little old moi, didn’t write the poem in the anthology. Although I pause at that statement. And not just because I am well aware there are other Jill Joneses in existence. But there is something in the poem that could have been written by me – in other words, it’s possible the bot that was used to compose the book (in other words, my immediate and continued reaction is that these are obviously machine-generated poems) found some words/poems of mine and came up with the poem, or version, in the anthology. Anyway, I’m claiming the poem, unless ‘the real Jill Jones’ wants to make a stoush of it. (And is anyone really going to sue anyone else over this? – c’mon Ron, really, surely yr being iwonic).
But, you see, a lot of people are outraged. ‘Stolen identity … ruined reputation … childish prank … crap poems … shock horror … mortified of Marrickville …’ etc. It’s quite clear that it’s a prank, a joke – on us actually. It’s also about the internet. If you’re out there, you’re out there. It’s about writing – who is doing it and how are they doing it, as well as who’s reading it. Does our writing seem machine-like? Does that matter? A lot of questions there.
David Prater makes some interesting comment on aspects of this:
“Therefore, in the Australian context, we find the names of John Tranter and Laurie Duggan but not John Kinsella, Robert Adamson or Les Murray. Pam Brown appears, naturally, right before Alexander Pope. Jill Jones, Cassie Lewis and Chris Mansell also make the ‘list’. Mansell, for one, has since reacted strongly against the hoax, via comments on the official anthology ‘page’.
Even closer to (my) home, the inclusion of US poets like Andrew Zawacki and Adam Fieled alongside their Australian generational counterparts like Michael Farrell, Derek Motion and Ivy Alvarez seems to me suggesting even further that groupings such as these, which can be made, form part of a vast, amorphous network.
These poets are interconnected by their use of IT not merely in order to communicate but also to incorporate network potential into their own writing practices, and therefore engaging in Flarf or computer-generated poetry or spam poems or whatever.”
I’m wondering about all of that. Not all the names included have blogs or websites, there appear to be some people that are miffed at not being listed (what is the 'reputation' people are really worried about?), and there are strange ommissions and commissions, but I think it is something like that. Interestingly, the Australian writer, but not a poet, Kerryn Goldsworthy also, apparently, has a poem in the anthology.
The anthology itself. Well, I’d defy anyone to read the whole thing, but no doubt someone is doing just that. It appears to have a certain sameness about it (the machine-y thing I noted), a product no doubt of the algorithm used (or whatever, I’m no techie). Many of the poems are sprinkled with seemingly random similes, and that gets irritating (which is a lesson, so much poetry being chockers with such stuff).
The Jill Jones poem begins:
What are we to
. make of this corn, glad, unprepared,
. . lonely as this
. . . door? …
Maybe it’s not what it appears to be. Or maybe everything is appearance, apparently. Like, as if …