The Pocketa, Pocketa School
Time, May 25, 1962


Few fingers go like narrow laughs.

An ear won't keep few fishes,

Who is that rose in that blind house?

And all slim, gracious blind planes are coming,

They cry badly along a rose,

To leap is stuffy, to crawl was tender.


Faced with this poem, any competent modern critic could easily go to work. He might first allude to its use of alliteration ("few fishes," "few fingers"). Clearly the poem deals with the plight of modern man reaching out for love and innocence but mocked by impending death. Love is the rose stifling in the blind house of modern technology. Note the repeated theme of blindness, and the plane that will bring annihilation to the world. Like the world, human love has no future. And little religious comfort. (The fish was an early symbol of Christian faith, now reduced—hence "few fishes.") Mirth, too, has shrunk to "narrow laughs," though the poet, like Western man himself, fondly recalls the lost gentleness of childhood ("to crawl was tender").

The only way to be sure of the accuracy of such perceptions is to interview the poet. In the case of this one, that would be impossible. For the poem, printed in this month's issue of Horizon, is the first tentative work of a sophisticated computing machine.

It works for the Librascope Division of General Precision. Inc., in Glendale, Calif.

Fed with a vocabulary of 3,500 words and 128 different patterns of simple-sentence syntax, the computer can turn out hundreds of poems. Because these creations are as intelligible as some beat poems, the computer's engineers call it A.B. * (for Auto-Beatnik).

Of course the machine needs help. The words it picks from have to be kept in separate boxes—all nouns together, all verbs, etc. But by drastically cutting down its choice of words—so that the incidence of a subject word reappearing is greatly increased—engineers can make the machine seem to keep to one topic.



All girls sob like slow snows.

Near a couch, that girl won't weep.

Stumble, moan, go, this girl might sail on the desk.

This girl is dumb and soft.


With other machines also turning to the muse, there is the chance of a whole new school of poetry growing up. No one can say just what it will be like. But with even an auto-beat computer costing $100,000 to build, the output will certainly not be free verse.

* Not to be confused with such flesh-and-blood poets as H.D. (Hilda Doolittle); AE (George William Russell); or e.e. (e.e. cummings).