Saturday 18 March 2023

States of Independence (2023)

I went to States of Independence in Leicester today. I caught up with D.A. Prince and Roy Marshall (both as charming as ever), and went to some talks. Most interesting was one about AI and creativity.

  • Simon Perril looked at the history of creativity, asking "Is self-expression all there is?". He mentioned Chatterton, Dada, Oulipo, Flarf, found poetry etc. I hadn't seen "Tree of Codes" by Jonathan Safran Foer. Curation, recycling, and re-contextualing have always been part of the tradition (moreso in pre-copyright times - often the norm). What happens when writers put together pre-existing phrases rather than pre-existing words?
  • Prof Tracy Harwood followed this up by showing milestones in the progression of AI - Lovelace, Turing, Deep Blue - then concentrated on art and writing. The art examples especially impressed me. Photoshop-like effects are where the style/content separation ideas took off. Some artists using AI describe the results as collaborations, which is fair enough.

Before, I passed an axe-throwing place near the city centre. After, I visited West End (Narborough Road) for the first time. I didn't know it existed. I've only gone along the Golden Mile before. I wasn't hungry but next time I am, I'll know where to go.

Sunday 5 March 2023

CB1 - Peter Daniels

Tonight Peter Daniels was the main act at CB1. He and I have had pamphlets published by HappenStance. There the similarities end - "Peter Daniels has won many prizes including the Arvon and TLS poetry competitions and has published several collections and pamphlets including two Poetry Business prizewinners". Performers often read from their phones nowadays. It was heartening to see that Peter read from real books containing multi-colour post-its. In the first half he read some of his translations of Vladislav Khodasevich. I bought "My Tin Watermelon", his 2109 Salt book.

The open-mic poems certainly had their moments - "Two years aren't enough to quench the why", "When the rain bongoed ... on the roof" etc.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Cephalopress Writers in Conversation: Alexandra Fössinger

Yesterday I attended a Zoom event featuring Alexandra Fössinger. There was discussion between poet and publishers with just a few poems, then a Q+A session. I think the format worked well.

She revealed that there was a significant backstory to her recent book, "Contrapasso". Does knowing the backstory help with appreciating the poems? Not especially, but I was interested to know that she had felt the need to conceal details, and distance herself from the story (by writing in English, etc). She said she hadn't realised that she'd concealed so much and had made an effort during rewrites to be less obscure, but she liked the idea of leaving areas that readers might get lost in. A difficult balance.

Whenever a poem is driven by intense emotion it must be hard for the poet to assess its effect on the reader. I don't trust my evaluation of such poems that I write, and am wary of sending them away - justifiably in most cases, in retrospect. But achieving that objectivity can take years. Might as well let editors make earlier decisions.