Hello all! This past fall I spent a great deal of time working on a project for an English class called Medieval Proof in which I set out to build a text generating recurrent neural network with the goal of generating “literature.” It so happened that as I was doing this ChatGPT exploded in popularity and has begun to raise all sorts of ethical questions. As a physics/math/CS nerd just the challenge alone was motivation enough, but as someone for whom literature is a mainstay of life, this particular problem–that is, can a machine ever write literature–has a special importance because I believe it allows us to investigate the nature of literature. Moreover, it is crucial to explore the implications of the technology that I along with others doing similar work am helping to bring into the world.
i am nothing congealed fire flickering darkness bounded Infinite i am a voiceless voice crying into soundless space i am and i am not sacre-bleu the sky we cannot see the sea we cannot cross my soul i cannot lying there with you under the rubble the ash the water
Your name is Pepper, you are a little tortoise-shell calico cat. Four months ago you left your home in Pacific Grove & ended up miles away over hills & valleys, forests & marshes, streets & highways, in Carmel. You doubtless had to hunt— How did you catch? What did you catch? How did you escape the cougars, the coyotes, the sun, the wind? Where did you sleep at night? Under some pine tree nestled on spongy moss & pine needles? Or in someone’s dumpster, a gully, or a gutter? How much longer would you have been away for if that friendly neighbor hadn’t called & had your microchip scanned? Would you still be out there, one with the wild & with no cares in the world? Did you miss us? We certainly missed you. Yes, we often thought of you, lost somewhere between yesterday & tomorrow. We thought you were dead. Built a little shrine in the backyard. Of course what I really want to know is why. Why? One day you were here & all was normal: you ate your breakfast, watched the cars through the front window, went out for your afternoon saunter between naps on the newspaper. But you missed dinner. & breakfast. & dinner again. It was if the earth had somehow swallowed you up into the soil & the water & the air. But I won’t ask why. I ran away from home, too, once. Pepper, are you the same Pepper? Do you know yourself? Do you know me? Come, come— we’re having salmon with gravy tonight, just for you.
if the light streaked shadows on the wall if the rain fell like shards of glass glimmering shattering if to walk into that deep forest the grass the trees so thick no light can shine if there is no light no sunlight moonlight starlight if to walk & then to drag myself past the limit of my mortal chains if to gaze into that enveloping void if to feel the weight i cannot bear eased if to close my eyes the sea that morning when i could taste the honey of your smile if to be a bird if to catch that moment drifting in time if to hold on a second of eternity longer if to linger in the shadows dripping down the wall the night that gathers like dew in darkness
La Primavera I’ve seen the world end more times than I can count as I sit here watching the dripping sun melt into the bay I wonder what might be said of us many millennia hence & millennia upon millennia upon millennia upon millennia when the sun engulfs the earth in a wave of fire & after when every drop of starlight dries not with a bang but whispering what I wonder will be left of us our art our science our lies & loves our humanity somewhere drifting through space on a golden record a newborn baby crying into the emptiness of light
Tuesday, mid-morning: ersterbend three minutes that Cessna was in the air Low altitude alert. Climb immediately. called the air traffic controller [silence] [the plane] is experiencing an in-flight emergency. [silence] black smoke billowing the grey day three minutes to boil water in my tea kettle : the hissing climaxes to a scream that fades to exhale white vapor like blood from its silver body we don’t yet know why the pilot didn’t respond crashing into a home on a ridge & killing her her passenger & a dog my brother’s a pilot : it’s like driving on the wrong side of the highway — no experienced person would ever do such a thing an engine failure (that would need to be two for the twin engines) or communication the fog while he wonders why it happened i ask myself silently what they were thinking what i would think i think of Juliane Koepcke the girl who fell two miles & lived to walk away how her mother as the lightning struck LANSA Flight 508 gripped her daughter’s hand & said : Now it’s all over as the plane cracked in half & fell to the jungle floor what matters in that moment, in those final seconds of consciousness, when you know you will not walk away ? — i burned my tongue on my tea it must steep for three more minutes three minutes they didn’t have i watch my hot breath fading on a cold window out to this bleak summer day my dying bonsai (haven’t been able to water for drought) sprouted a green like gold white lily glowing in the sun turn away for a moment & it’s gone — sitting in a pool of thoughts unthought before the interminable silence of this moment breaks in the noise of the things i give my life to, broken building climbing twisting towards that light, the night that covers me — i couldn’t help but hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, Movement IV — all the light & pain, the twists & turns, the laughter, the love, the chords bleeding into one another ; Mahler’s final note, ersterbend, a life, a whisper, the day’s last breath, the sea, as crimson fades to black even Mahler could not hear : softly dying away
CLOSED: bear management in progress — from a sign on a tree near a bear trap in Ovando, Montana a night shrouded in darkness ; a tent in a town in wilderness ; a hungry bear in his territory ; who’s to say what deeds transpired in silence what light or voice or absence suddenly fulfilled or late night snack a crack or a crinkle probable cause (?) from silence, silence an argument from silence will hardly hold in a court of law (we cannot know; therefore it was) why that grizzly, that woman, that town, that tent, that night & the grizzly is guilty unequivocally irrefutably undeniably Lewis and Clark set in motion your tenuous fate : grisley — what’s in a name? (would that which we call smell as sweet) art thou grizzly grizzled grey- tipped hair art thou grisly gruesome ugly monstrous & George Ord sealed : Ursus arctos horribilis your species is horrible horrible horrible guilty guilty guilty it seemed only logical to kill the thing who killed the woman no trial necessary no Miranda rights no justice but death set the trap & lure a bear — any one of the myriad who live there will do — & ask the questions test the DNA later a bear i call you by Robert McClendon Ricky Jackson Laurese Glover Henry McCollum Leon Brown (when will it end? (in california white settlers killed them all)) is still a guilty bear in the eyes of a white cop proud boy America We hold these truths to be self-evident is a bear’s life worth less than those of those who killed it in the eyes of our Creator & We hold these truths to be self-evident : dump the 400 pound carcass of feral sinew & bone & spirit behind the dumpster in the empty lot to forget & brush it off like an unfortunate dream that never happened at all ; or carve out its holy insides & glass its eyes & stuff it with ragged newspapers & mount it on the wall as an effigy to man’s dominance over the earth & over itself to burn into Nature’s bosom blazing red the firmament on fire slowly falling in a night of quiet darkness : Oh, the humanity Oh, the humanity Oh, the humanity
Hello, again! I thought I would share a poem I wrote recently on the nature of the thing so elusive and oft-reified.
I study hard to get a flying A, take
Test after test and class after class:
But what is success?
I earn my degree with sacrifice, work
Shift after shift and job after job:
But what is success?
I rise every morning, check
Like after like and post after post:
But what is success?
I pass people blind to how they suffer
Day to day and life to life:
But what is success?
I sing my song to them, how they smile
Ear to ear and soul to soul:
For what, indeed, is success?
What is success — the thing that
Turns the wheel of progress
Onward — and to what end?
Hello, all! I wanted to express my warmest gratitude to all of you at the initiation of this bright, bold new year! Indeed, it is times like these when poetry can move, shape, and connect people from all over this nation and our globe — to heal our wounds and bind up our souls.
Therefore, I am sharing with you some of the poems I wrote over the course of my winter break; I have many more yet to come, and will post those individually in the coming future. Until then, enjoy!