Sonnetizing the Singularity by Richard Holeton

Issue 13


Think artistic aptitude resembling
The development of new exhibits
And a human counterpart assembling
Its masses and thereby increasing its
Nucleic acids: a structure throughout.
Of this which the author argues his case
Arming this project (Ray Kurzweil) about
Poems and storing that protein embrace.
That the brain receives input from the arts
(The computer is not a Picasso
Since we already have maximum hearts)
This suggests no robotic Tomasso
Can overcome a stuck arithmetic
Or model many patterns syncretic.


Second generation simulated
Patterns underlying biology,
And sufficiently high, unabated,
To continue training (tautology) —
A human level of concentration.
The universe to become, that forebears
Expected before the inflammation
Of the atmosphere, will provide base pairs
Faster. Evidence civilization
Achieves the infinite, but because least,
Remains critical approximation
To technology, or measurement feast.
If neural scanning is most effective,
Your result — exponential perspective.


We undertake immune responses more
Than the relatively slow, extensive
Procedure to eventually restore,
Create individualized defensive
Government regulation improvements.
Whether or not it is existential
To ask this question (with global movements’
Dramatic culmination, sequential),
Are the nervous system genes accurate
A mere twenty years? If expectations
Are you’re suggesting that’s inaccurate,
The represented mechanizations
In regard to the limits we discussed
Are evolutionary cosmic dust.

Source: Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

Method: To expand slightly on the method for “Sonnetizing the Singularity,” I used an open-source Python program by Ross Goodwin called “Sonnetizer,” which generates Shakespearean sonnets from a text corpus that you input. I input the entire text of Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near” (Viking, 2005), which is available online, and let the program generate dozens and dozens of sonnets. I then selected what I felt were the most promising ones, mixed and matched a few lines here and there from different sonnets, and did some minimal editing for sense and syntax (e.g., subject-verb agreement). In a few cases I substituted different words for what the computer program generated, but words always still from the Kurzweil text corpus.

Richard Holeton is author of the critically-recognized hypertext novel _Figurski at Findhorn on Acid_, other electronic literature, and fiction or hybrid work in many journals including the Indiana Review, Mississippi Review, ZYZZYVA, Black Ice, and Vassar Review. His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell Colony, Brown Foundation, and California Arts Council. Formerly a teacher and administrator at Stanford University, he lives and writes on the coast near Half Moon Bay, California.

Requiem for the Mother of Exiles by David P. Wilkins

Issue 13

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
is sinking down in its tranquility;
whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed,
but no confusion, no disturbance rude.
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right,
dared dignify the labor, bless the quest
in which we rest and, for small reason, think.

it is at moments after i have dreamed
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again,
I bring you, calling out as children do.
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain.
If only you would free, at least, the sparrows
pinned down by need and moaning for release.

Source: Lines taken from, The Best Sonnets of All Time compiled by Michael R. Burch

Method: Constraining myself to only the poems included on one website, I extracted lines which essentially kept to iambic pentameter in order to construct a blank verse sonnet (though line 10 is iambic hexameter).  Each line of the Cento had to come from separate poems. The aim was to take lines from poems written in several different centuries in order to construct a piece that spoke to a contemporary issue brought on by Trump’s election.

David P. Wilkins is a semi-retired anthropological linguist living in Sydney, Australia. Though he has written poetry his whole life, this is the first time he has sent out his poetry to be published.

Into the Union by Rosemarie Dombrowski

Issue 13

Glancing over our slight topography,
your districts fertile and detached,
I am wasted and powerless
in your view.
I foster a river to the west,
to the north, a blessing.
A treaty founded on your body
to which I pray.

Source:  Application of Missouri for Admission into the Union as a State (16th Congress, No. 475)

Method: My approach for both teaching and writing redactions/erasures is to start with a pencil, underline the first few words that strike me as usable, and then evolve it from there. If the narrative or vision changes along the way, I’ll erase some of my previously underlined words and underline new ones. Once I think it’s a poem, I write/type it out with line breaks, just to make sure, maybe make a few more minor changes/edits, then do a final redaction in sharpie or with the black highlighting function. It’s one of my favorite activities to do in poetry workshops with teens, and I even start my college students off with a unit on found poetry.

Rosemarie Dombrowski is the founder of rinky dink press, the co-founder of the Phoenix Poetry Series, and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix, AZ. She is the recipient of five Pushcart nominations, a 2017 Arts Hero Award, the 2017 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award in Nonfiction, and a fellowship from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics for her Phoenix Community Poetry Gardens project. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies (2014, Five Oaks Press), The Philosophy of Unclean Things (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and the The Cleavage Planes of Southwest Minerals [A Love Story], winner of the 2017 Split Rock Review chapbook competition.


Brit Lit Weighs In by D. R. James

Issue 13

Billows were breaking, sea against sand,
long before prime had rung from any bell—
and from a long way, hard and dangerous.
Yet little good hath got, and much lesse gayne
by spells and medicines bought of mountebanks.
Each flower had wept, and bowed toward the east,
time’s winged chariot hurrying near,
but when the assault was intended to the city,
(before polygamy was made a sin)
their fluid bodies half dissolved in the light.
Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair,
the applause of listening senates to command,
they reeled, they set, they crossed, they cleekit,
and then the perilous path was planted.
I rose and turned toward a group of trees
through caverns measureless to man,
which kept my optics free from all delusion,
now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—
diffused unseen throughout eternal space.
Once more uprose the mystic mountain-range,
and I, perchance, half felt a strange regret
of all the thousand nothings of the hour,
not knowing in any wise compassion,
all things counter, original, spare, strange.
Drawn on by vague imaginings, maybe,
the full round moon and the star-laden sky,
to wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’
tell me not here, it needs not saying.
This land, cut off, will not communicate:
spot the blown word, and on the seas I imagine,
in short, a past that no one now can share.

Sources: Beowulf, Chaucer, Everyman, Spenser, Shakespeare, Herrick, Marvell, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Johnson, Gray, Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Arnold, Swinburne, Hopkins, Hardy, Yeats, Eliot, Housman, Auden, Thomas, Larkin.

Method: I’d never written a cento before, in fact never heard of it and now can’t remember quite how I did, but once I discovered the form and that it is “found,” I knew I had to try one.  So I pulled out my trusty, undergrad Brit Lit I & II anthologies and began searching chronologically through the ages and poets, looking for single lines to steal and sequence. I was amazed that once I had a couple (in this case from Beowulf and Chaucer) the rest practically leapt off the pages to become the next, next, and next.  The 2016 election and subsequent inauguration were heavily on my mind, and I found the resulting poem to be, in a slaunch-wise way, a commentary on the situation.  I would guess that if I hadn’t said that, readers would find their own connections, political or not.

DR. James’s seven collections include If god were gentle,Since Everything Is All I’ve Got,and the most recent chapbooks Why War and Split-Level. Poems and prose also appear in various print and online journals and anthologies. James lives in Saugatuck, Michigan, and has taught writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College for 33 years.