CAP - Baldwin, A Poem is a Machine to Think With

A Poem is a Machine to Think With, Sandy Baldwin
West Virginia University

Summary and Commentary
The title of this work takes me directly to this TED talk we watched in Dr. Berlin's class this evening. In this talk, Cindy Foley discusses academic disciplines as "being in service of ideas" and a focus on idea generation. The concept of literary innovation that Baldwin plays with, I think, goes well with this concept. Foley goes on to explain that her husband had a question: if paint died, could I be Dr. Frankenstein? Foley then says that the first attempt Sean Foley made at answering this question was to re-read Mary Shelley, as well as delve into many other forms of literature and art. In the end, Sean had an innovative artwork, built off of "itself", as Baldwin notes (3). Essentially, Baldwin's argument is that Alison Clifford's composition that we discussed yesterday in class and Sean Foley's artwork is a self-reflection of literary work - "itself", innovated.

Baldwin's review of Loss Pequeño Glazier’s “Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries.” She begins her review with the quote: “A poem is a small (or large) Machine made of words,” by William Carlos Williams. Baldwin advocates for the validity of the collection of essays. She makes a point to acknowledge that early readers of the work found Glazier’s attempt to define what innovative writing is, who/what fits within that canon was restrictive in nature. She recognizes that initial commentary on the collection of essays garnered a negative reaction because they gleaned on the idea that he was narrowly defining the concept which went directly against what he was trying to accomplish. Baldwin disagrees with those assessments and rather takes the stance that Glazier is committed to innovation, the use of diverse technologies, forms, and modes – which is reflected in his creation of and Directorship of the Electronic Poetry Center – but he also, as does she, recognizes that innovation will eventually be institutionalized and sees his work as contribution to that process and she outlines how he accomplishes that through the collection of essays.

This innovation, Baldwin argues, is catalyzed by the medium used.
      Glazier argues that innovative writing is
      marked by two central concerns: 1) it "offers the perspective of
      the multiple 'I'" and, 2) it "recognizes the importance of the
      materials of writing to writing itself, an engagement with its
      medium" (22).

Answering the call for a universal "I", digital literature should open up the I. In this opening to the multiple I, the medium must be engaged in ways which it is meant to be. Therefore, using writing code in digital poetry, as Baldwin discusses later in her text, is a way to play with the words through the medium of technology, furthering and introducing new I's. This innovation, I argue, parallels Cindy Foley's argument of idea generation.

Her title for the essay is a play on words and her commentary about the innovativeness and poeisis or creation of poetry through the lens of Glazier’s concepts. Poetry is seen a vehicle to transmit idea – or a machine. But the using the digital space is also part of the “machine” because it material and medium that is used to produce the poetry is a word processor and a machine within itself. Digital poetry can be seen as fitting within the tradition of poetry in the sense that the language is the same as what we view on the physical page, but it is innovative in the sense that the ways in which it can be transmitted/presented can influence and change the reader’s interpretation and internalization of the poem. This is quite evident in Allison Clifford’s interpretation of the E.E. Cummings poem “Sweet Old Et Cetera” Depending on where you position and click, determines how the poetry will be presented. There are different parts hyperlinked with that the text and it adds layers and texture that the written word on physical page cannot.

Think of Alison Clifford's composition with e.e. cummings. Her's is an example of innovative digital poetry. What do you think: does Baldwin's interpretation that literary innovation is rooted in self-reflection of "itself" disrupt the canon?

To what extent can digital poetry distract from the open interpretation of a text? Are poems meant to be seen in just one or convey just emotion? Is this a new way of presentation of text or an exploitation of technology in a VERY a very technological age?