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Spencer Short
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I lost a prior comment, but the gist: I think there's a gulf that we need to be careful with re: information systems and the work of folks like Claude Shannon. Eliminating redundancy in that context is necessary for compression. Because we tend to think of information through the lens of utility, we forget that more information actually creates uncertainty due to our cognitive limitations (hence our use of heuristics). In our context, though, predictability may be thought an important component, a means of balancing out "surprise." Poetry - at least from one perspective - intentionally invokes "excess" meaning. That excess may not just be indeterminacy, but it puts it at odds with the kind of delivery system Shannon envisioned, I think. Anyway, fascinating stuff. Thanks for this.
(Oh, and no - nothing on conservation that I recall. Sorry! The book is good, but it's not particularly well organized, and the thesis is uncertain. That said, it's full of great stuff. Including a great digression into Babbage, his Analytical Engine, and Byron's daughter, Ada.)
Right, Jordan. I think there are important distinctions to make. For instance, in the framework I identify above, we're really talking about information systems, and attempts to compress information vehicles as far as possible. Because we usually think of information through a lens of utility, we have trouble getting our head around the idea that, in most cases, absent a narrowing context, more information actually creates uncertainty. This is why we create heuristics. The key, then, is to find some kind of balance. Rather than novelty-for-novelty's sake, poems may attempt to find some balance between surprise and familiarity. Playing into cognitive limitations. Endless novelty (and endless information) is, in the end, endlessly exhausting.
I'm a huge fan of Separation Sunday. Though - and feel free to disagree - Stuck Between Stations is really only the second best Berryman-wagging song of 2007-2008. For my money, John Allyn Smith Sails, off of Okkervil River's Stage Names takes that prize. Though, in those years, Finn and Sheff were pretty much duking it out for top-of-the-rock-lyricist heap.
"J.H. Prynne, “Difficulties in the Translation of Difficult Poems”: It is these features that make prose discourse quick and relatively easy to read without too much semantic hesitation: we mostly know what to expect, from one sentence to the next." I've been thinking of precisely this idea (though not breaking it off into prose/poetry) since reading Gleick's book Information: the information theory-based idea that randomness carries more information than non-randomness; the attendant idea that being able to guess what comes next makes something redundant. It certainly frames a strong argument for a pure obscurity. And yet I'm not entirely convinced.
For those interested, this is a pretty interesting interview that Mlinko did with Ian McGilchrist regarding neuroscience, cognition, poetry and stuff.
Frankly, I wish this were longer - I can't think of two (can I say young-ish?) poets I'd rather spy on while they discuss issues of difficulty and generosity. Particularly through the lens of Hill. Trifecta. I'm a little surprised at your restraint - no need to work through your Seidel differences?
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Feb 16, 2012