Orkney Mash-ups

On the train home from my trip to Orkney and the highlands, I fed the contents of my travel diary into Gnoetry, along with Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Orkney-centric collection of lyric poetry The Dancers Inherit The Party. Here are some of the results.

From where I sit,
at the end of the bay –
a great hunk of otherwise.

What are these little birds, oh girl of mine?
Art is a question of toast.

I see no sea,
the foam,
the swell
is there,
the great
one, two,

The hairs are on his toes! she says,
then he: they’d tie them up and glower.

oh dear, how your cold sad face
leans on the glass of necessity.

a lack of chain stores,
little hills, a wee scotch burn
and a simple girl

Meanwhile he is brown,
and I do not remember
all that I mumble.

All the boats in the fields as they settle.
All the drawings in your skin.

I remember what Engels said: freedom is the found among the rain.

Sometimes, all it takes to make a memory is to say – what a hill!
Sometimes, all it takes to make a memory is to wipe their wires.

This piece came to me:
a line, scribbled in her
dear and silly scrawl. I like it –
that’s why my heart settles in

its slow descent. Yes, it’s something
to have your skin.
Here and there’s a crooked stamp –
it means a kiss, and so it reads like this.

Am I
an awful man? This
cat’s on the

trail, there’s violence
in the rain.

Art and
poetry are the
keys to the

town. You
and everyone is

A lot of the evening sun
goes down. A writer

writes his beautiful.
Then the old man grows

inside his ears.
We have to eat.

Quite by chance –
a thunderstorm
in Gaelic!

a lack of

chain stores,
little hills, mist shops,
mist shops, mist

shops, mist shops,
mist shops, mist
shops, old and slow,

did buy
myself a kind of


2 thoughts on “Orkney Mash-ups

  1. These are amazing pieces; it must be interesting to read your own thoughts reimagined by the machine through the lens of Findlay. Did you find the results a more accurate representation of your trip?

    • Thanx for your comment, I’m glad you liked them. Certainly they were a lot of fun to make/discover. It was a really interesting process because I’m so intimate with the source texts (having written one of them, and extensively studied the other) so more often than not I’m able to trace it back to the source (and possibly better able to see the ‘novelty’ as a result). And yes, they seem to capture some strange disembodied essence of the trip – the kind of pastoral-ethereal vibe I got from the place and that Finlay, for his part, did his best to mythologise. I like what Gnoetry does with the lyric – there’s a kind of ostranenie that somehow brings you closer to the pure poetry of the thing. A lot of Finlay’s early concrete poetry constitutes an attempt to reanimate traditional poetic themes in radical new forms/idioms (cf. the redness of Gertrude Stein’s rose); I see a lot of similar potential in Gnoetry and other text generators.

      I love what you guys are doing over at Gnoetry Daily and Beard of Bees, by the way – it’s really inspiring. I’m giving a paper at the University of Durham (England) on the subject next month – I’ll mainly be focusing on JanusNode, but will discuss Gnoetry and Gnoetry Daily at the end too. I have little/no programming knowledge, but I’ve been considering the phenomenology of reading interactive poetry generators (i.e. reading not just the poems, but the interface too). I’d really like to discuss the subject with you – drop me an email if you’re able, and keep up the good work! Cheers, Calum

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