Leon Retief. Boekhou en poësie

foto 1poetry_competitions

Boekhou en poësie

“The ideal scientist thinks like a poet, works like a bookkeeper, and, all too rarely, writes like a journalist.”

EO Wilson.

 

een plus een …

niks te sê vir hierdie dag
want eintlik het ek deesdae
slegs ’n boekhouerkop
styf vasgeskroef op ’n nek
wat een plus een of twee of drie
se kant toe buig
vingers
wat die in of uit
op rekenaars moet balanseer.

niks te sê nie.
maar ek luister na Chopin.

ja, dit doen ek wel
met my boekhouerkop –
sy nokturnes minuskule kwiltstekies
wat fakture en kwotasies netjies inklavier
wat my dag se payouts so perfek laat klop.

o luister na die ligte
kasregisters van Chopin!

asof son soos klank die bome krediteer
asof hierdie winter sy laaste blare
uit konfetti-kringe waai.
en ek sien die eekhoring op die muur
sy stert wat optel aftrek wip en deel.

daar is wins in die natuur wil ek sing!
voordat ek weer onthuts onthou
van menslike verlies
wat begin by een plus een
dan twee of drie
en later tot die dood toe
geheel en al ’n miljoen te veel.

[Uit: Marlise Joubert, passies en passasies, Protea Boekhuis, 2007]

As ek reg onthou was dit Lina Spies wat gesê het dat daar nie so iets soos swak poësie is nie. Of dan woorde wat min of meer so iets beteken. Ek is nie in staat om daaroor met haar te argumenteer nie alhoewel daar tog seker ’n skeidslyn is waar goeie poësie die grens oorsteek na minder goeie digkuns – maar darem steeds digkuns bly.

Is daar so iets soos swak natuurwetenskap, in die sin dat dit steeds wetenskap is maar nie “goeie” wetenskap nie? Ek bedoel wetenskap hier nie net in die sin van waarnemings wat so korrek is as wat die meetinstrumente toelaat nie maar ook die teorieë wat rondom die waarnemings gebou word. Ptolemeïese kosmologie byvoorbeeld was beslis verkeerd in ag genome wat ons vandag weet maar daar was destyds geen empiriese of selfs eers teoretiese wyse waarop onderskei kon word tussen Ptolemeïese en die later Kopernikaanse sisteem nie. Dit was die beste wat destyds beskikbaar was, het net soos van enige goeie teorie verwag word voorspellings gemaak wat net so akkuraat was soos die Kopernikaanse teorie van eeue later.

Terwyl Ptolemeus se sisteem vandag tereg net as ’n historiese interessantheid beskou word en niks meer nie was dit beslis “goeie” wetenskap vir daardie tyd. Mens moet in ag neem dat daar niks mee verkeerd is as ’n eens algemeen aanvaarde teorie mettertyd verwerp word nie.Dit is per slot van rekening een van die basiese kenmerke van die natuurwetenskappe dat enige en elke teorie voortdurend aan ondersoek onderwerp moet kan word en dat daardie teorieë wat op die lang duur nie die mas opkom nie moet ondergaan.

Ptolemeus het sy teorie geboekstaaf in wat vandag beter bekend is onder die Arabiese titel al-majisṭī (المجسطي), verengels na Almagest, oorspronklik bekend as die Μαθηματικὴ Σύνταξις (nie dat ek nou Grieks of Arabies verstaan nie né, net ingeval iemand gewonder het) of in Latyn as die Syntaxis Mathematica.

Of Ptolemeus soos ’n joernalis geskryf het sal ek nou nie weet nie want ek het nooit sy Almagest gelees nie maar hy het beslis soos ’n boekhouer te werk gegaan met die noukeurige ontwikkeling van sy teorie se besonderhede. Daar was egter meer as net eksakte berekeninge (wat op sig self mooi kan wees) betrokke: ek het ’n sterk vermoede dat hy die siel van ’n digter gehad het: “ Wanneer ek die wentelende sirkels van die sterre opsoek dan raak my voete nie meer grond nie, maar sy aan sy met Zeus drink ek ambrosia, die voedsel van die gode.” Ek dink ek verstaan wat hy bedoel het want wanneer mens ’n wetenskaplike teorie kan begryp dan is dit aansienlik meer as net ’n kille versameling syfers of grafieke op ’n bladsy. ’n Mens (of dan ek in elk geval) kry inderdaad die gevoel dat jy in aanraking is met iets mooi en inspirerend, iets wat mens ’n “high” gee al het jy dit nie self uitgedink nie. En dis nie eers nodig dat so ’n teorie aardskuddend moet wees nie – dit moet maar net “mooi” wees.

Kopernikus, Newton en later Einstein se esteties meer bevredigende teorieë (sien die pas bevestigde gravitasiegolwe)  het Ptolemeus later gedemoveer tot ’n voetnota in die geskiedenis maar dit doen nie noodwendig afbreuk aan die bekoorlikheid van sy kosmologie nie, solank mens dit sien vir wat dit is.

Drie van die simpelste gedigte oor die natuurwetenskappe wat ek ken, tematies gesproke, is diè van Poe, Whitman en Keats.

When I heard the learn’d astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer
When the proofs, the figures, were arranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Deur Walt Whitman – of dalk moet mens liewer met betrekking tot bostaande gedig sê Walt Shitman. Dieselfde geld vir Poe se Sonnet to Science en Keats se Do Not All Charms Fly. Nie dat John Updike nou juis veel beter is nie:

Cosmic Gall

Neutrinos they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed – you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

Bogenoemde gedig moet ek byvoeg is geskryf voordat daar vasgestel is dat neutrinos inderdaad ’n baie klein massa besit.  Dit daar gelaat, so… wat probeer Updike ons nou juis vertel? Dat ’n natuurlike verskynsel kras is?

Terwyl “regte” digters darem (hopelik) meestal goeie poësie lewer is dit nie onbekend dat natuurwetenskaplikes ook hul hand aan die digkuns waag nie – meestal, moet ek ongelukkig byvoeg, met minder as gelukkige gevolge en ek het ’n sterk vermoede dat Lina Spies meeste van hul pogings heel tereg nie as poësie sal beskou nie. Die twee bekendste voorbeelde van beroemde wetenskaplikes waarvan ek weet was fisici: James Clerk Maxwell en Richard Feynman, laasgenoemde beslis een van die grootste teoretiese fisici van die vorige eeu. Hier is een van Feynman se, um, gedigte (ek kan erger voorbeelde noem):

Untitled

Richard Feynman

There are the rushing waves…
mountains of molecules,
each stupidly minding its own business…
trillions apart
…yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages…
before any eyes could see…
year after year…
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
…on a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest…
tortured by energy…
wasted prodigiously by the sun…
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea,
all molecules repeat
the patterns of another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves…
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity…
living things,
masses of atoms,
DNA, protein…
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land…
here it is standing…
atoms with consciousness
…matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea…
wonders at wondering… I…
a universe of atoms…
an atom in the universe.

Ongelukkig is dit so dat sommige waarnemings en teorieë in die natuurwetenskappe so min of meer vergelyk kan word met swak poësie. Daar is heelwat voorbeelde van wetenskaplikes wat teorieë die lig laat sien en wat mens alleen as “batshit crazy” kan beskryf – om nou ’n, vir my baie beskrywende, Engelse uitdrukking te gebruik. Alhoewel hulle in die minderheid is, moet ek regverdigheidshalwe darem seker een voorbeeld noem. Koue fusie sal seker in almal se gedagtes opkom maar na my mening kom die eer vir die beste voorbeeld toe aan professor Prosper-René Blondlot van die universiteit van Nancy in Frankryk.

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Prosper-René Blondlot

Wetenskaplike navorsing geskied nie in ’n vakuum nie en Blondlot se verbeeldingsvlugte, in konteks gesien, toon dat daar vir hom meer op die spel was as net persoonlike roem. Frankryk moes in die fin de siècle nog die bitter nederlaag van dertig jaar tevore teen Pruise verwerk. Dit, tesame met talle opspraakwekkende bevindings deur veral Duitse en Britse wetenskaplikes, het veroorsaak dat feitlik enige ontdekking deur Franse wetenskaplikes disproporsionele roem in Frankryk geniet het.

Blondlot het tydens sy eksperimente met X-strale klein variasies in die helderheid van boogvonking opgemerk en besluit dat dit te wyte is aan ’n onbekende tipe elektromagnetiese radiasie wat hy ter ere van sy universiteit N-strale gedoop het. Die strale se effek kon op fluoresserende skerms waargeneem word maar die effek was so gering dat die eksperimente in ’n pikdonker kamer gedoen moes word.

Blondlot se eksperimente is deur baie van sy eweknieë herhaal maar in die oorgrote meerderheid van gevalle kon sy resultate nie bevestig word nie. Veral Britse en Duitse navorsers het negatiewe resultate publiseer, terwyl die enkele positiewe bevindings grotendeels uit Franse laboratoriums (en veral uit Nancy) afkomstig was. Die hele aangeleentheid het later chauvinistiese kleure begin kry toe sommige Franse wetenskaplikes snedige opmerkings begin maak het oor Teutone wat weens hul dieet van suurkool en bier nie oor dieselfde diskriminasievermoë beskik as die meer verfynde Franse nie.

Blondlot_N-rays.foto3.

       “Waarnemings” van N-strale

Die dispuut is op ’n komies eenvoudige wyse opgelos deur RW Wood, ’n fisikus van Baltimore. Hy het ’n demonstrasie van N-strale in Blondlot se laboratorium bygewoon. Volgens die Franse wetenskaplikes het die helderheid van die boogvonk gevarieer wanneer een van hulle sy hand tussen die bron van die N-strale en die skerm gehou het. Die Amerikaner kon geen verskil sien nie. Sy oë is nie sensitief genoeg nie het sy gashere verklaar. Wood het voorgestel dat hy sy eie hand gebruik. In die donkerte kon niemand sien waar sy hand is nie en was daar geen ooreenstemming tussen die waargenome helderheid van die boogvonk en sy hand se posisie nie.

’n Demonstrasie van N-strale se “spektrum” het gevolg. Die strale is deur ’n aluminiumprisma gestuur wat dit, volgens Blondlot, opgebreek het in sewe golflengtes wat op ’n fluoresserende skerm sigbaar was. Wood het skelmpies die prisma in sy sak gesteek. Die Franse eksperimenteerders het doodgelukkig voortgegaan om die spektrum van die N-strale aan Wood te beskryf.

Wood het sy bevindings geboekstaaf in ’n brief aan Nature, destyds reeds een van die toonaangewende wetenskaplike joernale in die wêreld. Sy gevolgtrekking was vernietigend: elkeen van die Nancy-eksperimenteerders was “in some way deluded.” N-strale is onmiddelik tot vergetelheid gedoem.

’n Mens moet met Blondlot simpatie hê. Hy was eerlik, maar kon nie aan homself erken dat sy geliefde N-strale slegs ’n hersenskim was nie. Die verhouding tussen hom en sy laboratorium-assistente was een van wedersydse vertroue. Hulle het so vas aan die professor se genialiteit geglo dat hulle onbewustelik die resultate wat hy wou hê gereproduseer het terwyl Blondlot hul resultate (en sy eie idees) sonder enige voorbehoud aanvaar het. Dit is seker maar ook op ander gebiede buite die wetenskappe so.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman.

Blondlot het in 1909 afgetree. Na sy dood in 1930 het sy dokumente getoon dat hy jare nadat hy amptelik die tuig neergelê het steeds eksperimente op N-strale uitgevoer het. Ek vermoed dat daar nogal ’n ooreenkoms is tussen Blondlot en sommige (meestal selfgepubliseerde) digters…

Wood het belangrike bydraes op die gebied van optika gelewer alhoewel sy naam vandag skaars meer bekend is. Hy het graag die inwoners van Baltimore laat skrik deur na ’n reënbui in waterpoeletjies te spoeg terwyl hy ongesiens ’n stukkie natrium in die water gooi. Suiwer natrium ontplof met ’n helder geel vlam wanneer dit met water in aanraking kom. Hy het ook twee wetenskapfiksie-romans geskryf asook ’n boekie kort versies gepubliseer en self die illustrasies geteken. Hier is een rympie:

The Parrot and the Carrot you may easily confound,
They’re very much alike in looks and similar in sound.
We recognise the Parrot by his clear articulation,
For Carrots are unable to engage in conversation.

Robert_Williams_Wood.foto4

Robert Williams Wood

Physics

How many suns
will cross its coign
before the last
freeze? What
pennywhistle
spun its point
on the glass
breeze? Whose
airs are loosened
in the pane
like miniature
degrees, where
breath condenses
into rain
among the apple
trees? Here
tesserae
have turned to earth,
here blossoms may
attend to birth
as sun becoming
leaves; here
branches seem
to lead the glass,
whose scenes compose
as seasons pass,
the lifetime, piece
by piece…. A sphere

       *

Begins and ends:
suppose, as glaciers
drop their catch,
as memory’s
a ragged seine,
as grain by grain
a dead morraine
the sky is softly
sifting ash,
as constellations
each rescind
to embers, umbral
lees—alas,
the crown lens
will surely tear
to end the long,
sweet refrain
of sun to moon
to sun again,
of E from M
C2—
and then what breath
once shaped the pane
may lose itself
(we pray) in airs
our children, too,
had breathed in time,
and theirs, and theirs.

       *

If oracles
recall in riddles
orreries
in orreries,
the quantum of
the apple’s arc
the piper’s tune,
the dancer’s turning
crown of sonnets
in the dark
by starlight ground
between the querns
spun wither shins
of dawn and dusk
to wreathe a green
and weathered earth—
it’s moonshine, love,
and loneliness.
Do loony jigs
unwind the suns?
Might jugglers drop them
every one?
Are seeds resewn,
or tales respun?
When pipers stop
to play the bones
the very stones
are left undone.

       *

To please the Sphinx
all life unreels
through black magnetic
stone-strewn fields
where pitchblende blinks
its slow decay
tic-tic-tic
de-lightedly
by alpha, beta,
gamma, delta—
time dilates
and starlight bends
in gravity
like roundelays.
All light, partic-
ulate, licks out
one way, in waves;
electric clouds
expand in spheres
whose uncracked shells
concentrically
unrecalled
across the parsecs
and the years
ring out, shift red
(like Hell), disperse
the edges of
the universe—

       *

Eclectic quarks
a dish collects
to parse into
initial text—
miraculous,
exotic sky!—
a Book of Kells
whose quirkish tale
in optical
if stale effects
is mirrored in
the lemur’s eye,
as through the hatchling’s
candled egg
comes first light to
the cockerel—
As Sol dissolves
against the clock,
and seismographic
needles track,
and continents
incline to raft,
uranium
sines off to lead
or raindrops pock
a full carafe
to lilypads
inside the head—

       *

Assymmetries:
no wave contracts—
a tracer’s seam-
less, sequinned O,
or stoned window’s
cataract—
What echoes in
the ears of bats,
frail globes of light
colliding back?
Kaleidoscopes
reshuffle shards,
toc, starred;
tic, intact—
let’s retrodict
the apple’s fall,
the reel’s hiss,
the needle’s spin;
the pin-gears on
the color wheel
feel artificial
after all;
let’s kiss the dice
behind the eyes
and finish this
where it begins—
the empyrean’s
synchesis:

       *

Now ask why seasons
follow sequence,
green to red
or red to blue,
while life re-seeds
back through the snow
like pattern bleeding
into hue;
how particles
of colored sand
sift back a shaman’s
circling fist,
as first riddled
suns-at-seed
spun out this creaking
artifice—
Would sonnets turned
at light speed
cooper square
in their vitrines?
Or meter’s super-
sonics trace
a breath against
a mirrorscape
where starlight’s slow
as clotted cream,
and every scheme
anticipates?

       *

A stich in time:
where earth has cooled,
antique tectonic
shelves awash
in tepid seas
whose milky chyme
has knit such spiral
molecules
as struck off copies
of themselves
(O miracle!)—
and what’s occurred
but stray elec-
trical discharge
between some cloud
and neaping tide
still arcs inside
the notochord….
Who knows when first
aortic arches
registered
an ocean’s surge,
or slipped awake
or stirred asleep;
how many tides
had ebbed until
the tiny seahorse
heart could leap?

       *

And here Odysseus’
dazzled seas,
his charts, his quilled
geodesy:
where suns have fallen
grain by grain—
according to
what codicil?—
like yellow pollens,
sill and pane;
where Coriolis
forces cause
the cosmic dust
to curl down drains
whose gravities
call back for us
across the years,
like sea to rain….
Where, streaming tails
of phosphorus
dead-center through
the Ferris whorls
and net-work of
the window’s seine,
white moons like minnows
slip its sash
into the seiche
inside the brain—

       *

A seer’s odd
sensation: say
why dawn should follow
each saccade,
Charybdis’ widened
irides
contract again
from west to east,
a narrow-waisted
fall of sand
or hollow winestem
once released
between two fingers
of what hand,
its syrinx sounding
centuries….
And here the Masters
of Lascaux
pinched out an earth
and shaped a sky
inside a mountain
years ago—
time out of mind,
we say—just so,
rebounding echoes
fade to rhyme
across an inch,
an age, and die—

       *

Of course he’s blind,
whose achromatic
lenses frame
his myths around
a perfect scale
of azimuths
and measured time—
touch the braille:
a moth wing brushed
to prism’s flame,
a telescope’s
collapsing torch
astronomers
routinely scry,
or pipers, jack-tars,
all the same:
to ask true numbers
of the night,
to know the cauter
of the day—
one star resolving,
silver, high,
another disk,
another, then
a cataract
of viscous light,
a stack of coins
against the eye—

       *

And what attractive
force is this?
Coincidence,
et cetera—
full moons inset
and stacked like plates;
the planets nested
flat as spoons—
a satyr-play.
Ah, love, instead,
let’s study love;
it’s getting late.
As geomantic
curvatures
may cup the clanking
cosmos in,
a sparking censer’s
pendulous
and fragrant arc—
as space depends
on fob-chains which,
if charmed and real
are wholly im-
material—
then we, I think,
are amateurs,
and life a mys-
tery to feel:

*

If jugglers are
geometers
and pennywhistles
cost a dime;
if planets on
their abacus
click back to us,
tic back, because
the open skies
in memory
are perpendic-
ular to time—
one purple night’s
a gemmary
of all nights figured
by design
across our sleep
in ores as rare
as any dust-motes
in the mine
of empty space—
an orrery
whose imperfection
in the mind
of which jongleur
you’ve married (who?)
reflects in these
beriddled lines:

       *

As ephemer-
ides of blue
and red and green
are held apart
caparisoning
simple truth
seen bending through
the prism’s bars—
as light unrav-
elling reveals
such orreries,
ascending, starred,
as unify
into a field
where dream dilates
and glass extrudes
and sonnets draw
like taffy through
a compass-needle’s
eye—this chart
is scanned in light
of you, of you,
the physics he’s
accustomed to,
the gravity
against his heart,
whose art again
begins for you.

 – Richard Kenney

© Leon Retief / 2016

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10 Kommentare op “Leon Retief. Boekhou en poësie”

  1. De Waal Venter :

    Leon, ek het jou stuk baie geniet. Dit is onderhoudend geskryf en propvol interessante inligting. Dankie hiervoor.
    .
    Daar is ’n rykdom van onderwerpe wat aangeroer word, maar ek wil net iets sê oor ’n paar van die aangehaalde gedigte en die begrip van “goeie” en “swak” poësie.
    .
    ’n Australiese linguis, Michael Dalvean, het ’n rekenaar-program, of mens moet eerder sê, ’n algoritme, geskep wat Engelse gedigte se matevan “professionaliteit” vasstel en dan ’n punt toeken.
    .
    Ek haal hieronder aan uit Dalvean se akademiese geskrif wat beter toelig wat die “Poetry Assessor” doen.
    .
    Hierdie “Assessor” het heelwat opspraak verwek en die vere het alle kante toe gewaai. Sommige akademici en digters is hewig verontwaardig en gekant teen die “meganiese” manier waarop gedigte se waarde geskat word. Ek dink ook daar bestaan tans nog geen algoritme wat ’n gedig se waarde kan bepaal soos ’n mens dit kan doen nie. Maar dit bly ’n interessante oefening.
    .
    As mens mooi daaroor dink: gebeur dit nie dikwels dat een kritikus se oordeel radikaal verskil van andere nie? Die menslike oordeel is blykbaar nie onfeilbaar en op ’n vaste, eenvormige skaal gekalibreer nie.
    .
    Die “Poetry Assessor” kan deur hierdie skakel bereik word:
    http://www.poetryassessor.com/
    .
    Dit is wat Dalvean onder andere te sê het.
    .
    Ranking Contemporary American Poems – Michael Dalvean
    Introduction
    .
    The purpose of this paper is to examine what distinguishes a “professional” poem
    from an “amateur” poem. The central idea here is that professional poets are more likely than
    amateur poets to have grasped the basic skills associated with writing poetry and have
    therefore been able to produce poems of lasting quality. Amateurs, on the other hand, are less
    likely to have mastered the basic required skills and are therefore less likely to have produced
    work of lasting quality.
    .
    “The application is designed to determine whether a poem has the characteristics of a professional poem or, alternatively, an amateur poem. The methodology used is described fully here:
    .
    https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/9722/5/Dalvean_RankingContemporary2013.pdf
    .
    As an indication of how to interpret the placing of the poem on the scale, Sylvia Plath’s poem Crossing the Water scores 2.53 indicating that it shares more characteristics of a professional poem than an amateur poem. On the other hand, John Laws’ poem There are so many Things scores -2.05 indicating that it is closer to the amateur end of the spectrum.”
    .
    Hier is die tellings wat ’n paar gedigte wat Leon aanhaal, kry by Poetry Assessor”.
    .
    “Untitled” deur Richard Feynman – -0.0
    “When I heard the learn’d astronomer” deur Walt Whitman – 0.9
    “Cosmic gall” deur John Updike – 1.1
    .
    en die “professionele digter” Richard Kenney, kry die hoogste teling met sy gedig “Physics” – 1.7
    .
    Net om ’n tierboskat in die hoenderhok te gooi, plaas ek hier ’n gedig van die skaduagtige, sku digter-navorser, Phlip Mercator, wat tans in die Kalahari navorsingswerk doen.
    .
    Hierdie gedig kry 4.8 by die Assessor.
    .
    Do mosquitoes dream of electric sleep?
    .
    A mosquito was constructed
    out of very tiny parts;
    circuits embedded in nano chips,
    powered by a battery
    the size of a hundred molecules.
    .
    The guided mosquito flies
    into a dark bedroom,
    sensing the infra-red
    shape of the man.
    .
    It alights on the man’s forehead,
    extrudes a proboscis
    and penetrates the skin
    to siphon up a tiny
    amount of blood.
    .
    The robotic mosquito
    follows its homing beam,
    carrying the genetic sample.
    .
    Back at base the blood is scrutinised,
    tested and cultivated.
    From this another man will be grown,
    identical to the sleeping man,
    but his bitter enemy.

  2. Leon Retief :

    Dankie de Waal. Ek moet beklemtoon dat ek beswaar het teen die tema/inhou van die gedigte deur Shitman, Poe, Keats en Updike, nie teen die “professionaliteit” van die betrokke gedigte nie. Jy noem dat een kritikus se mening radikaal van ‘n ander een mag verskil en dis beslis waar. Ek dink die beste voorbeelde wat ek nog gesien het is die kritiek wat soms gelewer word op opera-uitvoerings. Mens kry soms die indruk dat jy van twee verskillende produksies lees. Jy het so paar jaar gelede reeds van Dalvean se algoritme melding gemaak, ek het toe sommer vir die aardigheid “Roses are red” ensovoorts deur die algoritme gestuur. Ek vergeet hoeveel punte dit gekry het maar dit het nie goed gevaar nie. Ek dink Feynman was gelukkig om 0 te kry.

    Nogtans, ek wonder oor daai algoritme en dit het my herhinner aan iets wat ek onlangs gelees het deur ‘n rekenaarwetenskaplike oor ‘n kongres wat hy bygewoon het en waar ook verskeie postmoderniste teenwoordig was (die kongres was in 1991). Hy het as satire ‘n nuwe inleidingsparagraaf vir sy voordrag geskryf wat bestaan uit ‘n totale betekenislose woordeslaai, saamgeflans uit woorde en frases wat die vorige dag deur die postmoderniste gebruik is. Ek het die betrokke paragraaf gaan optjop in reëls om daarvan ‘n “gedig” te maak en dit deur die algoritme gestuur.

    The essential paradigm of cyberspace
    is creating partially situated identities
    out of actual or potential social reality
    in terms of canonical forms of human contact,
    thus renormalizing the phenomenology of narrative space
    and requiring the naturalization of the intersubjective cognitive strategy,
    and thereby resolving the dialectics of metaphorical thoughts,
    each problematic to the other, collectively redefining
    and reifying the paradigm
    of the parable
    of the model
    of the metaphor.

    Dit het 3,8 gekry.

  3. De Waal Venter :

    Dis groot pret, Leon 🙂 Ek wonder of kritici veel meer akkuraat is as hierdie “Professor Blik”.

  4. This is an interesting discussion. However, I would like to emphasize that the Poetry Assessor is designed to hep editors. The idea is that, because most poetry submissions do not get read due to the sheer volume of them, it would be good to have a method of quickly identifying those that are most likely to be of high standard. Thus, given a of 100 poems, at least one of which is likely to be of lasting value, we can reduce this number to as many the editor has time to read. Perhaps the editor has time to read 10 poems. We therefore run all 100 through the Poetry Assessor and select the highest 10 scoring poems to read. Of those ten, the ones that are merely random text or obvious parodies, we eliminate immediately on reading them. Of those remaining, the quality is likely to be higher than the quality of the 90 that we did not read.

    One other point worth mentioning: the system is calibrated on poems by amateurs and by ‘professional’ poets. You can generate a high (or low) score by typing random text. However, this does not mean the system cannot recognize a good poem. As an example of how important it is to use a device in the manner for which it was designed, consider measuring the heartbeat of a dog with a device calibrated on humans. We would come to a very unreliable interpretation of the coronary health of the canine. We would not, hopefully, criticize the heart monitoring machine. Similarly, the Poetry Assessor is calibrated on poems and the scores generated are only interpretable where poems have been used to generate a score.

    I hope this helps clear up some of the debate.

  5. De Waal Venter :

    Thank you for your input. I presume you are Michael Dalvean?

    Last year, when I compiled a selection of my poems for publication on one of my blogs, I used the Poetry Assessor in exactly the way you describe. I selected only poems with high scores. Some, however, I rejected because I thought they were not up to scratch. On the other hand, I included some poems with lower scores because I thought they had merit.

    My wife had not read the explanation of your algorithm’s procedure, and she theorised that “originality” was one of the factors that was taken into “consideration” when a poem was evaluated. (The words in inverted commas need to be defined more precisely, but I leave that to the reader).

    I explained to her, as best I could, that it was not the case, and that other factors, like shorter words, more commonly used words, words with fewer syllables tend to increase a poem’s value according to the algorithm.

    This sounds a little counter-intuitive. Should a poem not be “profound” with wonderfully complicated and “fancy” words? Evidently not 🙂

    I like to translate poems by Tomas Tranströmer, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz and others. Their poems tend to contain few elaborate words, rather words that I can find in a simple dictionary.

    Another poet whose work I like very much is Billy Collins. What a pleasure to read his clear, reader-friendly, yet insightful and sometimes profound poetry.

    Note the lines:
    “But the morning light is only the first line
    in the play of this day–”

    Original, fresh, visual and powerful. Yet, mostly words of one syllable.
    This poem is given 2.1 by the PA.

    ………

    The only day in existence

    Billy Collins

    The early sun is so pale and shadowy,
    I could be looking up at a ghost
    in the shape of a window,
    a tall, rectangular spirit
    looking down at me in bed,
    about to demand that I avenge
    the murder of my father.
    But the morning light is only the first line
    in the play of this day–
    the only day in existence–
    the opening chord of its long song,
    or think of what is permeating
    the thin bedroom curtains

    as the beginning of a lecture
    I will listen to until it is dark,
    a curious student in a V-neck sweater,
    angled into the wooden chair of his life,
    ready with notebook and a chewed-up pencil,
    quiet as a goldfish in winter,
    serious as a compass at sea,
    eager to absorb whatever lesson
    this damp, overcast Tuesday
    has to teach me,
    here in the spacious classroom of the world
    with its long walls of glass,
    its heavy, low-hung ceiling.

  6. Interesting. I should point out that 2.1 is quite a respectable score for a poem.

    The issue of profundity is a difficult one. The main issue is, how do we measure profundity?

    I should point out that the Poetry Assessor is calibrated on contemporary American poems. For a 400 year perspective across the English speaking universe of poetry you might find it useful to look at the following:

    http://art.sagepub.com/search/results?fulltext=Dalvean&x=0&y=0&submit=yes&journal_set=spart&src=selected&andorexactfulltext=and

    -M

  7. De Waal Venter :

    Thank you for the link. I’m following it up.

  8. De Waal Venter :

    This is one of the many definitions of “profound”:
    adjective, profounder, profoundest.
    1.
    penetrating or entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge; having deep insight or understanding:
    a profound thinker.

    One could possibly conceive of an algorithm that could thoroughly examine a subject, that “entered deeply”. But to my knowledge, there is (yet) no AI device that can think the way humans do, and that could therefore achieve “insight” and “understanding”. It seems profundity is beyond the reach of the Poetry Assessor at this point in time.

    And it is not all that easy for a human being to identify profundity. My profundity could be your hackneyed phrase. Take the following lines from the Collins poem:

    “I could be looking up at a ghost
    in the shape of a window,”

    I declare those lines profound. The concepts of the (dim) window and a ghost are so cleverly intertwined and lead into many different avenues of thought. This is what I call a “poeson” – a series of connected concepts that run “deeply” into various idea levels.

  9. Maria Snyman :

    Woes heerlike stuk lekker-lees Leon! Dit het my ‘n rukkie geneem om hierby uit te kom, maar is ek nou baie bly ek kon ‘n momentjie afknyp daarvoor.

    Wiskunde, die wetenskappe, boekhou, musiek en die digkuns.

    Kinders word nie meer metrum in die digkunsklas geleer nie. Toe ek dit Vrydag vir graad aggies (die ‘slim musiekklas’) wys (via Vernon Scannell se “My dog”), was hulle heeltemal verstom. Ja, digters tel vertel ek hulle (o.a. n.a.v. Daniel Hugo wat homself as ‘n lettergreepteller beskryf), soos musikante, soos wetenskaplikes, soos boekhouers. Hulle tel en gebruik woordeboeke, om woorde te kry wat kan inpas. So, kan julle nou sien hoekom julle taalklas net so belangrik soos julle wiskundeklas is?

    Nog vyf dae van skoolgee oor (dan is dit eksamen) en dit is dan ook die laaste keer wat ek met skoolgee uithelp. Ek rui die kinders teveel op met my styl van klasgee en dan maak hulle my doodmoeg om nie te praat die spanning oor die lawaaierige klasse wat my slapelose nagte gee nie.

    “wat begin by een plus een
    dan twee of drie
    en later tot die dood toe
    geheel en al ’n miljoen te veel.”

    Wonderlik!

    So ook:

    “as light unrav-
    elling reveals
    such orreries,
    ascending, starred,
    as unify
    into a field
    where dream dilates
    and glass extrudes
    and sonnets draw
    like taffy through
    a compass-needle’s
    eye—this chart
    is scanned in light
    of you, of you,
    the physics he’s
    accustomed to,
    the gravity
    against his heart,
    whose art again
    begins for you.”

    Ek sien Poetry Foundation vertel van Kenney se digkuns dat: “Such poetry is not afraid of having intellect, or requiring it”.

  10. Leeon Retief :

    Dankie Maria. Ek sou nogal graag by een van jou klasse wou insit. Wat gaan jy doen wanneer jy nou klaar is met skoolgee?
    Indien jy belangstel kan jy gaan naslaan oor poliwater, nog ‘n voorbeeld van wetenskap met ‘n minder as gelukkige uitkoms alhoewel dit langer as N-strale geneem het om tot ‘n konklusie te kom en daar darem ook ‘n mate van regverdiging was vir die aanvanklike hipotese. Poliwater laat mens natuurlik dadelik dink aan “Cat’s Cradle” deur Kurt Vonnegut waarmee jy seker bekend is en waarin “ice-nine” voorkom. En net vir die interessantheid, daar bestaan twaalf verskillende kristallyne vorms van waterys maar net om jou gerus te stel: die een bekend as ys nege kan net bestaan by temperature onder -100C.