by Myriah Stubee
Annotating, marking up, commenting, writing in the margins...whatever you call it, marginalia has been around for as long as there has been writing. Students don't often like it, professors don't often give them a choice, and many avid readers don't even think about it anymore. Whatever your opinion about writing in your books, there is no doubt that it adds layer and nuance to the reading experience.
by Leslie Martinelli
A few years ago, I read that Encyclopedia Britannica no longer would be printing encyclopedias. Add that to the list of things from my childhood that no longer exist. Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-progress. Where would we be without air conditioning, microwave ovens, and cell phones? And some of those extinct items deserved to go, like cars without seat belts and manual typewriters. But every now and then technology interferes where it doesn't belong, and I just have to say: Stop! Enough!
Encyclopedias are a case in point. Those printed volumes held many fond memories for me. The first set to enter my family’s house came by way of a door-to-door salesman. That set caused some conflict between my parents. My father had warned my mother time and again not to let salesmen in the front door, let alone buy from any of them. They were, he said, like seagulls - once you fed one of them, you couldn't get rid of the flock. Our house was testament to that caveat; we owned a top-of-the-line vacuum and enough brushes and cleaning products to supply the whole neighborhood. My mother stood by her latest purchase, though. As she saw it, that set of encyclopedias was an investment in my and my brothers’ educational futures.
by Michael Nusspickel
Multi-modal art has been gaining popularity among artists for the past decade, and it would be hard to argue that video games aren’t a means of creating a multi-modal experience for an audience. Within the genre of video games exists a niche sub-genre that logically should be the answer to many writer’s problems with choosing a medium, but it has barely been noticed (if at all) outside of the gaming community: the visual novel.
Visual novels are novels that use visual and audio cues alongside text to communicate their content. A mix between graphic novels, video games, and pure prose, the visual novel allows a writer to have a product with visual art as an integral part of the storytelling but without sacrificing one’s prose for it. Text is delivered through speech boxes, backgrounds and characters are drawn, and sound and music add to the experience. Visual novels offer everything a graphic novel does, but with the ability to ignore a graphic novel’s layout limitations on word count. They originated in Japan but have been around for well over a decade at this point, so the question becomes: how come they haven’t caught on with Western writers?
by Andrew Bates
There are certain unspoken rules amongst aficionados of media. One must always have a personal list of at least ten favorite works to call “the best” when called upon by others. When topics such as Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey come up, they must immediately refute them as terrible and trite. Using your cell phone in a dark movie theater is sacrilege. The arguably most important rule, and the one that is most common amongst media absorption, is that one must not reveal important dramatic turn of events.
In other words, tag your spoilers.
by Christi Fox
Among many tools available to fiction writers while working on a project is a writer’s workshop. Workshops are available in many different genres, including poetry workshop, fiction workshop and creative non-fiction workshop, just to name a few. As a graduate student, pursuing my MA in Writing, I’ve taken a number of workshops and in my own experience they’ve been useful to some degree but there were times when they’ve led to nothing but frustration due to battles among workshop peers as to what should or shouldn’t be in the piece I was currently working on. This led me to ask the question, are workshops helpful or harmful?
The writer’s workshop is a community of writers willing to share their work with others in order to provide and receive useful feedback on their current pieces. However, when we say “useful feedback,” how much is truly useful? What can the writer really use from the feedback given? Two sources that touch upon this topic are the online resource, 12 Writing, and William H. Coles from Editor Opinions Blog, a Companion to Story in Literary Fiction. Both of these sources discuss how to learn from a workshop and avoid an unnecessary sense of failure. Some workshops never instruct a writer on what they are doing right, leaving the writer to delete even the best parts of their work. I’ve experienced this first hand in one of the very first classes that I had in my master's program: the poetry workshop. Since I was a child, writing poetry has always given me a sense of security and pride, until my first workshop, when my pieces were completely ripped apart by some while praised by others. Those who ripped apart my pieces never once gave a bit of good feedback, which caused me to feel like, no matter what I did, those people would not be happy and I tore myself apart in continuing to try.
Cross-genre (before it was cool)
Genre seems like a rote device, four solidly identifiable modes of writing: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama. But long before writ- ers added hyper- links and embedded video to their work and called it mul- tigenre, tangible changes were un- derway to subvert rigid methods of expressing oneself. From gothic fiction to the invention of political science, writers were more inventive than any traditional view might hold.
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Google Poetry, Authorship, and Copyright
In October 2012, a poet named Sampsa Nuotio created a site called “Google Poetics,” which posts submissions by poets from around the world, each of which is created in a nontraditional way. Each submission is derived from Google’s autocomplete suggestions, which appear when any Google user is typing in a search phrase. The suggested searches are predictions about what a user might be searching for, based on common searches performed by other users:
The suggested searches can form a unique and sometimes moving series of phrases that read like poetry: they demonstrate poetic repetition, show a particular mood or theme, and evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. A recent example from November 5, 2013 demonstrates how these poems can be very moving. The first line shows what the poet typed, and the following four lines show Google’s suggested searches:
The result reads like a poem, with the repetition of the phrase “Though I” as a way of contrasting the different lines. It has the tone of a poem, speaking about love and death, which are common themes in poetry. It even makes the reader consider the deeper meaning behind the lines, such as what the poet “disagreed with” and whether the “departure” in the last line might be an implied death. These elements are all common in poetry, but is this really a poem? Three important questions emerge when considering this style of poetry. First, can such a poem be considered a creative or literary work, when it was randomly generated with very little influence from the poet? Second, can the poet truly be considered the author of the poem, when they didn’t write it, but instead discovered it? And third, should such poems be protected under copyright, or instead be considered part of the public domain?
I would argue that this type of randomly-generated poetry still qualifies as creative work, and I would even go so far as to call it literary work. Random House defines creativity as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” With poetry, a poet transcends traditional rules about language by creating works that are unlike any normal language or written prose. They use various forms of structure, rhythm, meter, and rhyme to create something that has both an artistic form and a deeper meaning behind the words. These methods, however, become their own set of “rules,” which most traditional poets use to define what makes a poem a poem. The above poem shows some of these elements: there is a rhyme between the first two lines, and there is a structure in the use of “Though I” with the words “disagree, don’t, and depart.” By generating their poems randomly, however, Google poets are simply breaking another rule, the unwritten one where most poets assume they must choose each word of a poem themselves. This type of “found poetry” is not even unique to Google; for many years, poets have created works through such methods as cutting phrases out of books or collecting headlines from newspapers, then arranging their findings into a poetic form. Similarly, Google poets may experiment with various search phrases while searching for one that will bring them interesting results. They may be collecting their phrases from an outside source, but they still have a hand in the creative process. Not just any search phrase will make a good poem, and Google poets have a creative hand in finding the ones that will be the most inspiring.
These works are also literary in nature, rather than being mere forms of gimmicky entertainment. A literary work differs from other forms of creative works in that it holds a deeper meaning, or says something about life or society. This definition, however, is not exclusive to works that were generated in a certain form. A randomly generated poem can still hold a deeper meaning, particularly if the poet put a great deal of time and effort into searching until they found just the right poem. If a Google poet rejects multiple search results because they don’t hold the meaning they are trying to express, however, then this is no different from a traditional poet searching the thesaurus and rejecting multiple synonyms until they find just the right word. In the end, the result is still a creative work that the poet made through a certain process, regardless of whether part of that process is partially random.
Despite the fact that Google poems can be seen as creative and literary works, it can still be hard to consider who is the author of a poem. The Google Poetics site doesn’t list any of the authors, and in the FAQ for the site, they explain this by saying, “Typically the same poem, or nearly the same, is sent to us by several people.” This statement points out one of the flaws in “found poetry”: it can be found by more than one person. The Google search suggestions are based on a number of factors, and they can change over time depending on the recent trends in searches by all of Google’s users. Individual results may also change if a user is logged into their Google account, since Google will customize an individual’s search results based on their history. However, despite the differences, it’s possible for more than one person, typing in the same search results on the same day, to generate the same poem. Because of this, no one person can truly be considered the “author” of that poem. This could change with works that have a greater degree of personal control. For example, if a poet collected lines from Google and then rearranged them to send the message they wish to send, then they will be creating a work that is unique and differs from the results anyone else on Google could find. The unmodified search results, however (which comprise the majority of the results on the Google Poetics site) cannot truly be credited to any one author.
This question of authorship then leads into the question of copyright. If a poem cannot be considered to have a single author, can it be covered under copyright? The US Copyright Office defines the author of a work as “the creator of the original expression in a work.” When a poem is a found work, rather than an original work, it is difficult to consider the poet to truly be the creator of that work. Furthermore, the Google Terms of Service page says that “using our Services does not give you ownership of any intellectual property rights in our Services or the content you access.” Based on this, and due to the fact that it is Google’s computer code that actually generates these poems, it seems reasonable to say that any Google poems are in fact property of Google. Despite this, the Google Poetics website marks their content as copyrighted, and it may be with regard to their web page and how it displays the work posted there. However, since another poet could easily “find” the same poem on Google and post it separately on their own web page, the content itself is not covered under copyright law; only the format that the Google Poetics site uses to display it is covered. Since the Google poems on the site are posted as screenshots of the search results, and anyone can take the same screenshot from a different computer, Google Poetics cannot claim ownership over the work, only over their individual application of it.
Copyright laws may need to be updated as we continue moving into the digital age, and more grey areas like this emerge. In the meantime, poets creating this sort of randomly-generated work should use caution, and understand that the work that they post may not be considered their own. However, Google poems offer poets a new form of creative expression that, despite the differences from the norm, still result in original work that is clearly a product of their own talent and imagination.
thoughts on writing, art, & new media by glassworks editorial staFF