‘Can machines think?’
Alan Turing posed this question in his seminal 1950 paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ that laid the foundations for research into artificial intelligence. Turing’s life and work provide the inspiration for Machinations, a poetic collaboration between Kinneson Lalor and JP Seabright published by Trickhouse Press. Fiercely intelligent, dazzlingly inventive and profoundly insightful, Machinations does justice not only to the depth, breadth and creative genius of Turing’s intellectual achievements but also to the complex layers of his personality.
I asked Kinneson and JP how the book came into being, their experience of working together and what informed their creative choices.
I always enjoy experimenting with poetic forms I’ve not come across before. Recently Paul Brookes has introduced me to two delightful forms – both of them centuries old, but new to me – that use a combination of rhyme scheme and syllabic count per line.
We dispatched them to explore
the outer planets, where we
can't go ourselves: observe rings,
moons, alluring mystery.
Beyond Neptune one final
image, of a pale blue dot
gently clasped in rays of light.
Thereafter, night. They can not
go back: blinded, must journey
on, two tiny travellers
alone on separate paths
through the vast, cold universe.
They are not – yet – lost in space.
We can still trace where they are,
faint signals from the darkness
telling us how fast, how far;
but not for long. Soon, voiceless,
they'll traverse interstellar
space, bearing golden records –
earth sounds, earth words. Who will hear?
A version of this awdl gywydd (a traditional Welsh poetic form) was published on The Wombwell Rainbow in November 2022.
grooved granite mill-stones grind
formless flour from coarse grain.
The brake wheel clanks; the wind
thrums an untuned refrain.
This poem first appeared on The Wombwell Rainbow in October 2022. The form is known as a Bob and Wheel and dates back to mediaeval times.
The Golden Ratio, denoted by the Greek letter phi, is an irrational number that has intrigued mathematicians and artists through the centuries, featuring in geometry, number theory, physics, biology, painting, architecture, music and other disciplines. Its value to 20 digits is
Repetitions are a feature of many established poetic forms – the triolet, pantoum, and villanelle all contain patterns of repeated lines, while the ghazal consists of couplets with a repeated refrain. The sestina is determined by six end-words, following a fixed rotational pattern through six six-line stanzas, with a three-line envoi that includes all the end-words.
Squeezed awkwardly between the round completeness
of 10 and factored convenience of 12,
11 is the odd one out. We don’t have
11 fingers or toes; we never buy
11 rolls, or eggs, or long-stemmed roses
for our lover. In binary notation
its digits become the three of us, on our
terrace with coffee and scones in the sunlight
and birdsong of June, while the radio plays
Test Match Special and 11 extends its
parallel arms towards the unbounded sky.
This is a square poem: there are 11 syllables per line and 11 lines.
It was first published in The Book of Penteract.
over the gravel
to my flowerbeds, where hostas
that I had tended so carefully have been reduced
to tattered shreds. A robin perches among panicles of lilac as you approach
with buttered scones and coffee. Light slants through leaves, glistens the slime trail silver. Everything contributes to the dazzle of this day – even snails.
This Fibonacci poem was first published in The Fib Review Issue #41
Arma virumque cano – ‘I sing of arms and the man’. With these resonant words Virgil opens his great epic the Aeneid, composed over two thousand years ago. The poem, which is nearly ten thousand lines long, is written almost entirely in dactylic hexameter – an astonishing feat of constrained writing, especially when we consider that Virgil lacked the convenience of our modern-day word processing and editing tools.
Sometime during the fourth century, in northwest China, a woman named Su Hui picked up her silk thread and embarked on an embroidery project. The result was an extraordinary work of visual poetry – a grid of 29 x 29 characters, shuttle-woven on brocade to form a palindrome poem that would become known as Xuanji Tu, or the ‘Star Gauge’.