Margaret Rhee

Automated Poetics

The children and poetry

I visited Cambridge Elementary School earlier this year upon the invitation to give a poetry reading to a group of very sweet and deeply sensible young children in the fourth grade. After I read two poems, the students let out small sighs and when asked by their teacher Ms. Martin how they felt, exclaimed “That was so beau-tiful! Poetry makes me so calm! I love poetry!”

It may not have been the first time they heard poetry before. Poetry is seemingly everywhere. On billboards, on television screens, on radio broadcasts. But it may have been the first time they heard a poem read to them. What’s significant, and I don’t mean to suggest that these children loved my poetry in particular, is the sense that the rhythm, the terseness, the enjambments of poetry, offered a type of language and experience. It is true that my first book Love, Robot is a science fictional tale of a world where robots and humans fall in and out of love.

:) Emoticon automates affect

I start writing this lecture after class. I’m following what the poet Mary Ruefle writes in her book Madness, Rack, and Honey (2012) about how, upon being required to deliver standing lectures to graduate students, she opted to write them out instead of providing spontaneous, informal talks. She writes, “I preferred to write my lectures because I am a writer and writing is my natural act, more natural than speaking.” I am following this impulse to write into the questions and materials at hand. 

I start writing this lecture after class. I’m following what the poet Mary Ruefle writes in her book Madness, Rack, and Honey (2012) about how, upon being required to deliver standing lectures to graduate students, she opted to write them out instead of providing spontaneous, informal talks.

A poem as a machine?

Nearly baroque machine embroidery

William Carlos Williams wrote in his introduction to The Wedge (1944) that “[a] poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words”; or “poetry is the 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.”[1] A poet and physician, Williams is most known for plums, the everyday, and minimalistic, rhythmic meter and lineation.