Sunday, August 23, 2009

Decapitation Classic

Decapitation Classic is an exercise in automation: a clash of classic and modern, of human and machine. It's about filtering the words of old through the machines of new: through Google Translate. Each 'poem' here is compiled by taking a lengthy stretch of a classic of literature (or some other public domain source) from Project Gutenberg, filtering it across seven languages' worth of machine translation to create a mass of text: half-meaningful, half random. I then sift through the end result for phrases and clauses that take my fancy: in truth it's 'poetry' only because it looks like poetry, and it's 'written by me' only because it's me in control of the final process. It's equally written by famous novelists of centuries past, and more than either it's written by faceless technocrats who work for Google.

The value of the result is, of course, up to you as the reader. I certainly make no claims as to its value or aesthetic success. It just is. But here you have it - a series of what may or may not be poems and that may or may not be written by me... notes beneath each will indicate their ultimate origins and the particular languages they have passed through.

Note: the title 'Decapitation Classic' is itself an example of the process, as I took a brief factual description of the process involved (something I've forgotten like "literary classics translated and cut up into poems") and translated it through a series of languages. What resulted was "Decapitation Classic" - a name, then, that has precisely as much meaning as any of the contents here.

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