I H8 Internet

Monday 16 June 2014

I was searching online this morning for a copy of a particular poem: ‘Clown in the Moon’ from Dylan Thomas. This is a version of it.

Clown in the Moon

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.
Dylan Thomas

I’m not going to bother praising the poem’s merits. If you’ve just read the above you can see the simplicity of his writing, you can understand the efficacy of meaning through the clarity of lexical choices, and you can sense the shift of focus from the first quatrain with its rhyme and poetic precision, to the unrhymed crafted chaos of the second quatrain.  

Instead of praising Thomas’s accessible and rhythmic poetry, I thought I’d moan about the difficulty in finding poetry on the internet.

This morning I first visited one of the more successful online poetry archives. They’ve decided to use software that now ‘reads’ the poem aloud. As a facility to help the visually impaired, I think this is brilliant. But, unless this is a facility intended to annoy the rest of us, I don’t think it works.

Listening to a computer read poetry, a computer that is bereft of humanity and compassion, is like listening to the tone deaf playing music and singing songs. (Ironically, the site was also littered with adverts for the latest One Direction album, but that’s a rant for another morning). Admittedly, I don’t like any website that assaults me with noise: whether it’s adverts, music, One Direction or Shakespeare performed by the Casio Speak ’n’ Spell. I think I’ve lost more years to those bursts of unexpected noise than can be attributed to all the decades I spent smoking and drinking.

Consider the rhythmic quality of Thomas’s famous villanelle, ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.’

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas

Don’t get me wrong. Computers are good. But text-to-voice technology isn’t yet sufficiently advanced so that a computer can read Dylan Thomas as he’s supposed to be appreciated.

I'll be playing a selection of Thomas's poetry on Saturday night's poetry show. None of the readings will be performed by computer. This is the poet reading his own work. This is how a poem should be enjoyed.

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