Is it poetry?

(Since I am going away for the weekend, my blogpost is published a few days early.)

This time I am going to write about Pentametron, which is a poetry generator. The website seems not to be in use, so here is a link to the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/pentametron

The Twitter account was created in March 2012, and has since gained over 20.000 followers.

The poems usually consist of four lines where each line is a tweet of its own. All the tweets used are retweeted from other Twitter accounts despite the fact that Pentametron is only following two users. I am not sure how the account works, but find it quite interesting.

According to “I love e-poetry” (http://iloveepoetry.com/?p=48), Pentametron is made by Ranjit Bhatnagar and sifts through 10% of all Tweets, passing them through a dictionary for pronunciation (to find out what rhymes with what, I assume). The mechanism behind Pentametron sounds rather simple, but effective. Though when I say simple, I do not mean to say I know how it is done – because I do not (I would love to learn though!), I just imagine that the process behind how Pentametron works is very simple once you know how to set it all up.

Now that we know a bit about how this Twitterbot works, let’s move on to the big billion dollar question that Pentametron and similar bots raise: Is it art? Is it poetry? We discussed this a bit in class already, so instead of trying to speak of this in an objective matter I will write down my own thoughts about this.

So – is Pentametron poetry? Is it even art?

Well, traditionally speaking art, and the traditional genres of art (music, poetry, paintings, etc) were made to express feelings. Emotions which the bots cannot understand, meaning Pentametron contains no feelings. However, that does not mean the reader cannot feel anything from reading the poems. Therefore, emotions may be involved after all. Thus making the “emotions”-argument not valid.

Pentametron rhymes. Pentametron is (at times) cryptic. Pentametron opens for interpretation, at least to some extent. Pentametron produces poetry… But back to emotions, will the reader feel anything?

In my opinion yes – sometimes. Some of the poems made me feel emotions. Others did not (but maybe they made others feel an emotion and just not me?). What wakes emotions is individual.

“So over everything and everyone,
(they alternated roles throughout the run),
When will the lonely feelings go away?,
Up doing homework got a test today.”

This poem perfectly describes the life of a teenager- they feel done with the world, and lonely – and got no time to talk to their friends because they got homework and tests to work with. I think many can relate to this – meaning it will cause people to feel something.

So, is it poetry? Yes, one could say that – but not in the traditional meaning. Many of the poems does not really make sense, no matter how much one tries.

So, do I like Pentametron? Kind of. I find the technology behind it fascinating, but I am not really a fan of the poetry it results in. Which brings us to the question if I am a fan of poetry in general (because otherwise of course one would not like Pentametron).

Yes, I do like poetry. While looking for a more classic poem speaking of loneliness, to compare with Pentametron, I remembered this:
“By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,”
(taken from “Dreamland” (1844) by Edgar Allan Poe).

I think that Poe opens for interpretation on a completely different level than Pentametron. Though the loneliness in the two poems may not be in the same context, I still find the differences fascinating. Pentametron tells us of loneliness and being done with everyone, while saying they have to do homework, which means more isolation from friends (hence feeding the loneliness). Poe, on the other hand, does not explain as much what is going on – leaving the reader more freedom to interpret. Also I think Poe “paints” the poem better, by giving one pictures to imagine in ones head. However, Pentametron’s poems are more fun to read – and not as exhausting because one does not need to rethink and interpret every single line or even every word.

Is this a matter of taste? Quite possible. It is not fair of me to compare Pentametron to my favorite poet, because that makes the whole comparison so much more subjective. But then again, this is my blog – meaning I decide when to be subjective and when not to be.

Overall, Pentametron is fascinating – real poetry or mocketry (mock + poetry = mocketry. Yes I just made that up) does not matter as much because Pentametron is meant as a way of entertainment. However, is not all art meant as entertainment?

 

The discussion of what is art and what is not, of what can be considered poetry and what cannot, the discussion of what entertainment is or is not, the discussion of taste/subjectivity vs objectivity… They can go on forever. Therefore I am not going to expand more on them in this blogpost. Even though these subjects are fun to discuss, I believe there is no objective truth because everyone is different. We are all individuals. And there you have my final answer to whether Pentametron is art and/or poetry: it is up to each and everyone of us to decide for ourselves whether it is or is not.

Thank you for reading my blogpost. More to come!