This poem takes an everyday activity, eating, and places in a generative engine that drives it into excess and absurdity. As the lines of this poem unfold, like rapidly served courses in an endless meal, one becomes increasingly aware of the bodily activities involved with ingestion, digestion, emesis, and egestion— frames of reference evoked by Carpenter’s chosen images and words.
One way in which she has repurposed the engine is by choosing appropriate (meaningful) words to fit the variables. For example, in the source code she maps the “above” variable with the following dataset:
appetite, brain, craving, desire, digestive juice, digestive tract, enzyme, gaze, glaze, gorge, gullet, head, incisor, intellect, jaw, knowledge, language, maw, mandible, mind, molar, muscle, mouth, nose, sight, smell, spit, sweat, spirit, thirst, throat
And “below” with the following:
aroma, bladder, blood vessel, bowl, bowel, crust, dip, dressing,film, gut, lip, lower lip, proffered finger, finger tip, flared nostril, flushed cheek, meal, membrane, morsel, most intimate odour, palm, persistent scent, pore, sauce, soft pocket, slightest sliver, stomach, surface, thick spread, tongue, taste bud, vein, vinaigrette
Has she mapped the above and below variables to upper and lower parts of the body or to mental and visceral reactions to food? There is some overlap in the use of body parts, but they combine effectively to produce eating narratives that are difficult to stomach. The first two lines in the screen capture above provide a clear example of a bodily process that can be the result of indigestion from overeating or bulimia. The variable names may remain the same, but they’ve been rethought, repurposed, digested for this piece.
J.R. Carpenter’s remix of “Taroko Gorge” is noteworthy for its own merits as a poem, and because it extended the poem’s potential and thematic range. If the first two created a duet, Carpenter’s voice turned it into a chorus, a structure much more welcoming for others to join in. Montfort created the original with its generative engine, Rettberg inverted its thematic and locative dimension, and Carpenter took it in a very different thematic direction, which opened the poem up to a multiplicity of thematic possibilities.
Also of note is Montfort’s positive acknowledgement of “Gorge” in his blog:
J.R.’s piece – one might call it a tract of sorts – is simply called Gorge. (Update: J.R. has a post discussing Gorge, too.) See if you can stomach it, and for how long.
Between the original, the remixes, and Montfort’s openness to having his work reimagined and repurposed, “Taroko Gorge” began its transformation into what could be labelled as a new poetic form. This blog will continue to explore its documented variants over the next few weeks.