Friday, June 24, 2011

“Erín Moure,” Pillage Laud

Their barn was the case of death.
Until cattle are recalling duties, your dancer is bitterness.

What is a yelling habit learning?
The citizen is the statement of vodka.

After a swerving scheme between her smile and my book,
the model of rope—voltage—is her dictionary.

Memory between certain hens and a bridge
is the course of art.

Has the ranch between the wing and her player
between the interval and the pioneer
asked this idle disaster?

To court attends. Her size walked.
In her idiom, how could my melody fight?
Before this fence is her pioneer, the food cracks me and my story.

After you live to verge, how couldn't a stake's
connection unbend?
Your frontier would benefit me.

Because you were my cups, so unbearable a statement
has vanished us. (“PILLAGE 2 (High Prairie”)”)
A lot has changed over the years in regards to computers and poetry production since Pillage Laud, by “Erín Moure,” was originally released in a limited edition (and almost exclusively through mail-order) in 1999 by Toronto's Moveable Type Books, now reissued in 2011 by Jay MillAr's BookThug. As the back cover proclaims:

Pillage Laud is a lost cult item from the last century. It used MacProse, freeware designed by American poet Charles O. Hartman as a generator of random sentences based on syntax and lexicon internal to the program; it worked on Apple systems prior to OSX and is now in the dustbins of computer history. In 1999, the news was shocking: Moure's poems are written by a computer. In 2011, now that everyone is a computer, the book can be read anew.

In 1999, we hadn't yet heard of “flarf,” and computer-generated works were considered gimmicky, with little-to-no benefit to literature as a whole. The lack of reviews of the first edition even seems to hold what response Mouré received to the collection, the first, as well, she worked as a variation on herself as author, responding to notions of the citizen. What does it mean to write lesbian love poems via a computer program? Do these poems strip away the human element, or enhance it?
We were these (shelved) utopias/
Images of torsional cloth.

Why may the dictionary insist?
The noise book addresses their vigil.
A rusting tool.

The site—so direct a gleam with noise—was the stone,
and a chair of damage had signed joke. (“PILLAGE 1 (“Oakland”)”
There has been an argument I've heard of whether a work is actually generated completely by computers. If a human hand created the computer, if the author's eye decides the generation-process and chooses the words to enter into the program, is the writing actually, exclusively, computer-generated? And, if the computer program was designed by Charles O. Hartman, does this actually make the final product, the book-length Pillage Laud, a collaboration between Hartman and Moure? And what does this have to do with language, how words mean? How does such a work alter the considerations we bring to poetry? I've heard arguments that poetry created through such processes, including, even, Christian Bök's infamous Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), became negated as poems for their perceived lack of “authorial intent.” Do we need to know what an author was thinking to read a single line, a single poem? I would hardly think so. It's not always what made the pieces, but what the pieces, in fact, become that matter in the end; how they exist as pieces, how they exist as poems. Despite what some of the language poets might tell you, words can't help but mean, and the meanings emerge through how the words are combined. As the author herself writes at the beginning of the collection:
Pillage Laud selects from pages of computer-generated sentences to produce lesbian sex poems, by pulling through certain found vocabularies, relying on context: boy plug vagina library fate tool doctrine bath discipline belt beds pioneer book ambition finger fist blow. Erín Moure January 1998
Given that she selected from the generated pages, this could be, even, a collaboration with “Moure” and the entity that became “Moure”/Hartman, collaboration piling upon collaboration. What has the combination of “Moure” and the computer program actually given us? Damned good poems, I would say, that many would have loved to have been able to compose. Perhaps “Moure” wanted the same thing. But does the tool, perhaps, distract from the actual product?

Interesting, too, given that the sections of Pillage Laud predominantly focus on urban and suburban geographies, including “High Prairie,” “Roselawn,” “Bloorcourt,” “Burnaby,” “Rachel-Julien” and “Burnside,” is there something “Moure” is telling us, combining computer-generated poems with generated communities? If one is artificial, the other might be called so as well; artificial, but possibly, deceptively so, and created to appear that way, but somehow, so much else.
What had so meaningless a book sheltered?
Film will remove the chemical region between the valve
and the message.

While I am exposing this condition, what can't a state undergo?
The library panicked.

A shaking evening was a label. Had the wastes of electricity
switched the words of worry?

Though you fought to excite her, whom couldn't my plug

Your drawing of her affection delivered the series, billing me.
We were certain girls and the observation of town (the restaurant)
couldn't vanquish our fast joy.

Why are certain ones companions?
I unbent, but some virus in her website was the pool. (“PILLAGE 8 (“Rachel-Julien”)”)
Through this, the sixth of their “Department of Reissue” series, BookThug is returning to print and presenting to often wider distributions important Canadian texts over the past couple of decades, and it will be interesting to see the reactions to Pillage Laud, a book that seemed to receive little to no critical attention the first time around. Given that there is actually less book reviewing going on now than there was back in the late 1990s, will the new edition make any difference?

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