De(re)(trans)formation

Computationally deformative criticism reminds me of Lewis Caroll. Curiouser and curiouser. You might say that all close-reading, done with computers or not, deforms a text before it puts it back together, ergo this is just the same rabbit hole that critics have been diving down for decades. But check out this potentially deformative tool  anyway: The N+7 Machine. Here’s my test run on one of my own pieces. (I also tried “Caged Skylark” by GM Hopkins but it was a shame to scramble such a good poem. The result was neither funny nor interesting.)

N+0

Swish. And in this the last page, an illumination: Death at work in a billow of black, his robes wind-filled and dramatic, flapping dark against the bright sky and grain, blue over gold leaf, field under firmament and the old scythe flashing still, slashing a swath over and along the rolling hills, sharp as sadness.
The figure is at once distant and immediate: the picture is not like the narrative, with its inexorable logic, with its certainty that its unknown is contained by beginning and end. In this page plot goes missing, caught in the grasses by the thing with freezing eyes – how can you face the end before it comes? In the end you will shut your eyes. Crickets, crickets – sweat – the smell of it, and the listening grass, not fresh – like late summer: every day a clay pot baked again by the sun to be shattered, and all the sherds the same. Crickets, crickets. Oh, give me the rumble of combines! Not the quiet scythe, not this straining to hear! Somewhere that may yet be near, something rustles.

N+3

Switchboard. And in this the last pagoda, an illustrator: Debacle at work in a binder of black, his rocks windfall-filled and dramatic, flapping darkroom against the briquette skylight and grammarian, bluebird over golf leak, fiend under fisherman and the old seaboard flashing still, slashing a swath over and along the rolling hillsides, shaver as sadness.
The filament is at once distant and immediate: the pie is not like the nasturtium, with its inexorable logo, with its cesspit that its unknown is contained by behest and ending. In this pagoda ploughman goes missing, caught in the grates by the thinker with freezing eyefuls – how can you facility the ending before it comes? In the ending you will shuttle your eyefuls. Crimes, crimes – sweatshirt – the smile of it, and the listening grate, not fresh – like late summit: every daze a cleaning potential baked again by the sunbonnet to be shattered, and all the sherds the same. Crimes, crimes. Oh, give me the rummage of comedians! Not the quin seaboard, not this straining to hear! Somewhere that may yet be near, something sables.

N+5

Sword. And in this the last pain, an imagination: Debater at work in a binge of black, his rockeries windmill-filled and dramatic, flapping darn against the brittle skyscraper and granary, blueprint over golliwog lean, fife under fishing and the old seafront flashing still, slashing a swath over and along the rolling hilts, shawl as sadness.
The filibuster is at once distant and immediate: the pier is not like the nationalism, with its inexorable loincloth, with its chafe that its unknown is contained by being and endorsement. In this pain plover goes missing, caught in the gratings by the think-tank with freezing eyelets – how can you facsimile the endorsement before it comes? In the endorsement you will sibling your eyelets. Crimps, crimps – swede – the smithy of it, and the listening grating, not fresh – like late sump: every deacon a clearance pothole baked again by the sundae to be shattered, and all the sherds the same. Crimps, crimps. Oh, give me the rump of comedies! Not the quintet seafront, not this straining to hear! Somewhere that may yet be near, something saboteurs.

N+8

Sycamore. And in this the last paintbox, an imbroglio: Debt at work in a biography of black, his rodents windpipe-filled and dramatic, flapping dash against the broadcast slag and grandchild, blunder over goner leap, fighter under fissure and the old seal flashing still, slashing a swath over and along the rolling hinges, sheath as sadness.
The filling is at once distant and immediate: the pig is not like the nation-state, with its inexorable lolly, with its chain that its unknown is contained by belief and enemy. In this paintbox plug goes missing, caught in the gravediggers by the thong with freezing eyepieces – how can you factor the enemy before it comes? In the enemy you will sickle your eyepieces. Crinkles, crinkles – sweeping – the smoke of it, and the listening gravedigger, not fresh – like late sunbeam: every deadline a cleavage potpourri baked again by the sunflower to be shattered, and all the sherds the same. Crinkles, crinkles. Oh, give me the runaway of comets! Not the quirk seal, not this straining to hear! Somewhere that may yet be near, something sachets.

The great thing is that much of the alliteration is preserved, while new ideas and themes bubble to the surface. You kind of have to strain them out of the roiling nonsense that this word soup becomes by the time N+15 is stirring the pot, but it’s fun. The bolded lines are my favorites. And these, from other iterations:

“Oh, give me the rumination of comebacks!”
“Debauch at work in a biochemist of black, his rockets window-filled and dramatic”
“Crimsons, crimsons. Oh, give me the rumple of come-ons! Not the quintuplet seagull, not this straining to hear!”

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