A poem becomes a self-organizing model of the media and a mind’s neural networks.
Each new electronic/digital medium through which we communicate has become a critical new partner in the evolution in language.
Poetry today is working hard at looking at, often trying to resolve or unpack issues arising out of the confluence of the mind, the media, and the metaphorical design and patterned structures of language.
Ultimately, for the poet as well as the reader, some assembly is required.
A poem becomes a self-organizing model of the media and mind’s neural network, algorithmically and heuristically creating the paradoxes, fallacies and insights, the planned and unintended thoughts and feelings.
We are all only beginning to understand the degree to which the electronic media – for better or worse – alters and shapes our thought processes, our language and creative decisions and reach.
The effects in our writing show up as:
changes in presentation expanded narrative styles
new structure of works enlarges vocabulary
increases in distractions broadening of uses for technology
expands multitasking blurs digital divide of writer/reader
imagery shaped by search engines content added from search engines
modular reading/writing habits modified syntax, punctuation
fragmented phrase/sentences quicker research time
digital memory vs. neural memory fragmented ownership
technology as teacher technology as ‘the muse”
For better and worse, technology has become the ultimate disruptive heart of modernity.
What might all of this mean?
With electronic media available, everything is possible within the poem, which means an infinitely variable array of probabilities in both content and form are a keystroke away.
Learning how to reorganize itself to read from a book, the brain must now learn to reroute the same neural circuits as it reads from the desktop, laptop, handheld.
Technology has been helping the brain to research or communicate. How is the brain responding to that technology?
You can be guided by or you can guide the media you use by materially expanding the range and reach of your interests.
Electronic media urges upon the brain a new choreography to language.
In poetry, adaptations in response bring changes in compositional pace and spacing of diction as well as in its syntactic sequencing and stride.
Maneuvering in grammar and punctuation is more intricate, stylistically varied and narratively sophisticated.
The resulting slide and pivot, pause, leap and momentum of the poetic line take on the appearance of a more nonchalant control whereas the actual outcome is often far more technically controlled, complex and rhythmically exact
Today, poetry from the technologically enhanced brain is a data-river, feeding on and into every aspect of human experience.
It wraps its way around each bend, continues to flow, though never depending on the same solution it finds a place to slow and rest, then flows once more forward into the quick white cataracts and sulphur blue pools of the poem.
Inside it there is only the way forward, with no way of return. It constantly renews and feeds itself by the waters of its source and those joining with it.
The data-river is always moving ahead, distracting itself in tributaries, then gathering together the substance of its past, the momentum of its future, the evidence of its flow.
Throughout its path and direction, the signatures of its presence, the shores and bedrock of its being are the measure and evidence of its additions and subtractions.
Stand in the river. It is always changing around us. It meanders. It becomes an emblem of the continuous mind, an eloquent extension of what you think is where you are going:
the data-river a periodic and anti-symmetrical self-induced distortion meanders inside the will of its own nature retaining no obvious sense of shape though freely fine-tuning its method drifting downstream according to the direction of a slope where ripple ramble loop and roam bend and flow within the average mean curves of oscillation or amplitude and yet the mind immersed as it is on a path of which little is known also knows itself as a medium often at times indifferent and unmeasured where riffle range chart and pool will modify its scale of change knowing what plan its course will take will likewise shape an outcome where word after word appears and disappears the continuous mind thinking in a geography of thought chasing a vanishing point of no return no longer obvious or self-evident
It is always changing. It is a change in complex systems or organization, replacing former ways of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking, composing or configuration.
Tune in for my next poetry post on Friday, April 12 when we'll look into, "Poetry’s Curve Towards Infinity"
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Edward Carson, writer and photographer, is twice winner of the E.J. Pratt Medal in Poetry and author of Knots, Birds Flock Fish School, and Taking Shape, as well as his most recent collection, Look Here Look Away Look Again. He lives in Toronto.