Sunday, May 21, 2023

plunder and reveal

It just happened that this week I have been editing and laying out three chapbooks that are appropriative in nature. One is Catharine Bramkamp's Unconscious Words, poems plucked and molded from bestselling novels from the past decade or so like Game of Thrones and Gone Girl. The other is Colleen Alles' collection of poems found in Jane Eyre, Reader to Tell You All.  The third is Erika Lutzner's chapbook of centos Think of a Have Made of Glass, All the Bees, Theoretically At Least, amazing centos created from the lines of older and newer contemporary poets like Plath and Sexton and, blushingly, even me. I am a fan of these kinds of poems--centos and blackouts and related forms.  Appropriated and re-worked texts. I have written my own (from Plath) and published quite a lot of chapbooks through the dgp series that include them. Obviously, as a collage artist, most art feels like appropriation in some way (though you should always credit your sources and be honest about your process, especially in writing.)

And of course, AI springs to mind, especially as I embark on training for the project I've recently signed on to that is supposedly supposed to help AI be a better poet. Exciting and slightly horrifying. Because AI is all appropriation (the bad kind with no credit, which complicates things.)  The very worst a bot could do would be to go off and start penning centos, stealing lines of poetry, but I am not sure even this is something a bot could do well without dissolving into chaos. My news feeds are above with Hollywood writers strike talk and their fear (totally founded) that studios will try to write scripts without them. While they can fake an undergrad essay, I seriously doubt they could write something as multi-layered and complex as the better series or films, or hell, even the shitty ones.  But, good lord, they will probably try...Though most blockbuster films are shit writing anyway, so now it will be chaotically shitty writing.

I was thinking of this intently earlier today as I brainstormed cover ideas for Erika's book, under the direction of looking for something related to fishbowl and bees (which were her ideas given to me as I started the design process.) I thought the bizarreness of it might be a good candidate for AI, which may give me something I could at least use as a foundational image or point me in a direction anyway. While some of the more graphically oriented ones were interesting, I would up going a more traditional collage route using a hive background image among the licensed ones in Canva, some bee clip art, and torn paper. The results were nicer, and far more in line with the book's tone, than the AI-generated images. But I keep thinking about how AI could be useful in a design standpoint (the creation of covers being kind of different from my own artistic visions when it comes to my own work.) But then, who are you plundering?  Who are you stealing from?  Licensed stock images are one thing, but living artists are another. 

But then again, I also know people who will say that all art is appropriated and influenced by what came before, on a scale from the actual words or images themselves down to style and influence, which is also kind of true, nothing new being under the sun. I also like to think that poetic egos are always searching for self-expression--for identity--which while it may use other words and influences--still strives to create something entirely new. Ie, the bots can write all the poems they want, but the poets should know better.

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