Jay MillAr: CODA: A Reflection
I recall a sudden revelation I had while studying Information Science in which I realized that poets are no longer writing. Or, at least young poets aren’t. Rather they are operating as data-miners, machines that harness available technologies to investigate fields of language made available to them by ‘culture’. They spend their time stringing together happy accidents from raw materials.
Within this framework lies a question regarding originality. What is it? Somehow the idea of being a writer who has something ‘original’ to say by simply being a unique human being has become a poetic trope deemed problematic or ‘old fashioned’ to those experimenting in the written arts. How better to undermine the antiquated idea of authorship than to let the machines create texts? Or to become a machine?
It is in this way that Ex Machina by Jonathan Ball is somewhat of a readymade that points nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. As a reader of this text, one is invited to participate in the decimation of the generally accepted notion of The Writer by actually becoming a writer through the act of reading.
The use of a Creative Commons license with respect to Ex Machina says a lot about contemporary poetics. I’m quite pleased that Jonathan was enthusiastic about using it. It is almost a political act that points to the collapse of copyright without destroying it. To invite reading as a creative act is a political stance, it is a poetic license.
Ex Machina reveals a rooted relationship between form and content. As content, which is now simply a series of happy accidents, becomes less important than the formal structure that holds it, there is an immediate invitation to participate in a form. Like the sonnet, or any other historically recognizable form, Ex Machina invites readers and writers to participate in a formal exercise without the baggage of hundreds of years. The novelty of this is not lost on me as a publisher, for it means that there will be a lot of new work created to publish.
A formal idea is another way of stating ‘Intellectual Capital’. Like open source software, which also uses a kind of creative commons licensing, the code surrounding the formal aspect of The Poem is in flux, free to be changed and reworked, but the formal idea – well, we all know who is responsible for the Shakespearean sonnet.