Welcome back to dVersePoets, poets and friends! I’m Chazinator and I’ll be your host again. Tonight we’ll write about the magic/conflict of machines. But first, a little history…
It’s often thought that machines and technology have fascinated and ruled the lives of humans for millennia. After all, we are the tool-making animals, as some scientists would say. And our fascination with techno gadgets from computers to cell phones to TV have accustomed us to the idea that humans throughout history have had such a passion for gadgets as we have. History, however, shows that modern technology, with its counterpart in capitalism, has created a unique phase in human history.
The presence of sophisticated machinery, on the level of modern technology, was once believed to be only a modern phenomenon. Indeed, except as toys or playthings, many ancient cultures simply did not have the type of technological expertise as our society does. However, the discovery of the instrument shown below in Greece shows that the Greeks were capable of sophisticated technological apparatuses. The Antikythera is, in many ways, comparable to a computer in complexity of design as well as operation.
No matter how marvelous such a machine is, nothing in previous human history equals the role that machines play in modern society. As many have said, in today’s world, the machine shapes us as much as we shape it. One has only to look at Science Fiction, filled with images of half-human, half-machine, beings to see how powerfully machines and technology have infiltrated the imagination, not to mention our lives.
Depending on your philosophical assumptions, perhaps, this could be a good or bad thing. Certainly, with the rise of capitalism along with technology, we see in western culture various reactions to the way that machines enter our lives. I spoke of the English Romantics last time; in this sphere as well, the Romantics led the reaction to the abuses and devastation inherent in industrialization. Many of you will recall William Blake’s poem about the “dark satanic mills,”
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Technology and poetry kind of dismissed each other after the Romantics, though Realism in prose and drama undertook the theme seriously. Things moved more quickly in America near the end of the 19th century. Walt Whitman’s paeon to a Locomotive heralded a new understanding of the machine and its place in our lives. Celebrating quickness, power, and ability to shorten vast distance, Whitman becomes ecstatic in his tribute to modern technological advances.
Roll through my chant with all thy lawless music,thy swinging lamps at night,
Thy madly-whistled laughter, echoing, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing all,
Law of thyself complete, thine old track firmly holding,
(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,)
Thy trills and shrieks by rocks and hills return’d,
Launch’d o’er the praries wide, across the lakes,
To the free skies unpent and glad and strong.
Whitman’s spirit portended a growing trend in Europe as it embraced the machine as well. The Italian arts movement of Futurism celebrated the rise and spread of modern technology. The movement had acolytes in many European countries and arts, including France and Russia. And two opposing camps in the arts took shape: those who wished to embrace the modern technological advances and those who feared many of the consequences.
But there was also anguish about where technology was leading humans, and this anguish was voiced by the German Expressionists in poetry, painting and cinema. The image of the evil cyborg first arose in German Expressionism, and actually coined the term for these machines, “robots,” in the play RUR by Hungarian Karel Capek. The following clip form the German Expressionist film, Metropolis, exhibits both the attraction and repulsion that many felt towards machines and technology. Unfortunately, World War I seemed to bear out many of these misgivings.
In America, however, the love affair with the machine continued and grew unabated. It used to be said of American males, for example, that they often love their car as much as their mates. The following poem by ee cummings expresses this sentiment with much glee and charming inventiveness.
She being brand
-new; and you
know consequently a
little stiff I was
careful of her and (having
thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.
K.) I went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her
up, slipped the
clutch (and then somehow got into reverse she
the hell) next
minute I was back in neutral tried and
again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. Ing (my
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
greasedlightening) just as we turned the corner of divinity
avenue I touched the accelerator and give
her the juice, good
was the first ride and I belive i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens I slammed on
brakes Bothatonce and
brought allof her tremB
ee cummings, she being brand new
Of course, this is not the only issue alive in the question about machines and how humans will continue to evolve in tandem with machines. While I mentioned it at the beginning of this article, with the rise of the machine came the rise of capitalism. Which came first is still a question of hot debate. And the political questions fall outside the parameters of this piece.
In this week’s prompt, write a poem that references in some way the technological or machine spirit of our time. To accomplish this, you might
- tackle the big question about technology and its effects on our world
- write a poem about what machines you use in your job
- engage in poetic conflict with the technological world-view
Cool? Then let’s get it on. Here’s how it works:
- Post a poem based on tonight’s theme to your blog.
- Link in the poem you’d like to share by clicking on the Mr.Linky button just below.
- This opens a new screen where you’ll enter your information, and where you also choose links to read. Once you have pasted your poem’s blog url and entered your name, simply click Submit.
- Don’t forget to let your readers know where you’re linking up and encourage them to participate by including a link to dVerse in your blog post.
- Visit as many other poems as you like, commenting as you see fit. Chances are if you comment on others they will comment on you. Funny how that works.
- Remember, we’re here for each other. Engage your fellow poets, talk, chat, comment, let them know their work is being read, and enjoy the input you also will receive. Feel free to tweet and share on the social media of your choice.
Finally, enjoy–this is poetry alive.
*Antikythera, Locutus, Dynamism, and Muscle Car images from the Wikimedia Commons. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.