"Do you mean she wrote these herself?"
I nodded. "It has been done that way. In fact the method enjoyed quite a vogue for twenty or thirty centuries. Shakespeare tried it, Milton, Keats and Shelley - it worked reasonably well for them."
"But not now," Tony said. "Not since the VT set. How can you compete with an IBM heavy-duty logomatic analogue?"
"...Hold on," I told him. I was pasting down one of Xero's satirical pastiches of Rubert Brooke and was six lines short. I handed Tony the master tape and he played it into the IBM, set the meter, rhyme scheme, verbal pairs, and then switched on, waited for the tape to chunter out of the delivery head, tore off six lines and passed them back to me. I didn't even need to read them.
For the next two hours we worked hard, at dusk had completed over 1,000 lines and broke off for a well-earned drink.
You might well have read the story. It's something of an admission, but I'm new to JG Ballard - I've been meaning to read him for years. An article we both read in The Guardian prompted one of my daughters to buy me a volume of his short stories for Christmas. I was going to write a post about it once I'd finished it, but this story, Studio 5, The Stars, so impressed me I decided to post this, now. More later, perhaps.
The story was first published in 1961. It's interesting that Ballard imagines poets using poetry making machines, rather than poetry writing programmes for generic computers. I think we're still slow on the uptake, even now, when it comes to considering how one machine can do everything (why do we still have computers and televisions?).
What sort of stuff might the "VT set" or the "IBM heavy-duty logomatic analogue" have produced? I searched the net looking for poetry programmes.Out of what I found, Ray Kurtzweil's Cybernetic Poetry programme seemed to come closest to what Ballard describes. Unfortunately, the dowload site warns that more recent versions of Windows aren't supported: clearly, in the mundane -as opposed to the visionary- present, the idea has not caught on. There are other programmes that might give us an idea, like Jeff Lewis and Eric Sincoff's Poetry CreatOR2. It came up with this in a fraction of a second. All I had to provide was the title:
A computer generated poem
The arguing pair mislead with a sorrowful claw
A prickly man shrieked at the sight of Jan Valdez.
Buried in the sand, a solitary nostril stuck out.
The radiant Wonder Woman was really really high up
Last for the surprising first for you
Billowing, formulating, la pomme felt like a doorknob.
Down by the babbling brook the spider imagines.
Spare me your sympathetic bauble or I shall send.
A nifty bit of programming, no doubt, but I'm reminded of those other science fictional poets, the Vogons, writers of "the third worst poetry in the universe". Aurora Day was right.