The day I beat Sylvia Plath at writing poetry

images

Literary criticism is over. Finito. No more explanations of ” The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”
(it’s about a bird, stupid.) No more tortured dissections of Gerard Manley-Hopkins.

Because literary criticism is now objective.

I came across this on the Poetry Society website the other day.

http://www.poetryassessor.com/poetry/

It is, of course, an algorithm. It’s an attempt to place any piece of poetry on a spectrum which has “professional” at one end and “ amateur” at the other. Copy your poem and paste it into the box, press the button and….you’ve got a score. Anything plus is in the professional range, anything in the minus,logically, is at the amateur end.

Obviously, there are problems- distinguishing professional from amateur being the first. The authors of this piece of research took a selection of modern, unpublished works and called them “ amateur” – the professional collection came from a selection of poetry magazines.

All the poems chosen were modern, so you can’t try out a chunk of “ Hamlet” to see how Shakespeare scored.

And what criteria did they set ? Rhyme and rhythm were important and, interestingly, perfect rhyme came out as an amateur indicator.

Complexity of vocabulary was important- the nature of nouns used – abstract or concrete. Concrete vocabulary was a professional trait; amateurs took refuge in woolly abstracts. The number of letters and syllables was also significant, as was the “ ease of definition “ – I’m not sure what that means but I suspect they’re talking about the use of ambiguity, double meaning.

Sylvia Plath’s “ Crossing the Water” scored 2.53.
Professional.

I had to have a go, didn’t I ? This is the poem I copied into the text box

Landscape

Shifting light
luminous opaque
everything provisional-
the hills tentative
the valley bottoms
indistinct uncertain
still settling into shape

Then,immersed in sunlight,
the day develops,
fixes the eye.
Stone walls grow
a coat of green velvet;
purple moors shake themselves
into a quilt, and in the village
a church spire’s shadow points
the way to sunset and the west.

And the score ? Only 3.9. Not bad eh ?

Of course the whole thing is nothing more than a bit of fun. Sylvia Plath is ten times the poet I am- and poetry, thank goodness, will always be intensely personal, passionate and elusive.

Still…3.9..

Have a go yourself and let me know how you get on.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “The day I beat Sylvia Plath at writing poetry

  1. Tried four poems, got scores between -0.1 and 2.8. I think it could account for much more than it does. It still wouldn’t really work, of course, but it’s an interesting project.

      • Yes, I think you are right. The big problem with comparing new poetry to “modern” poetry is that newer poetry often seeks to do something earlier poems haven’t done. A lot of new poetry might even start resembling older poetry more than it does “modern” poetry. So you can’t have a poetry assessor which immediately deems perfect rhymes to be amateurish. It needs more variables than that.

        In the end you will still need people in order to determine whether a poem is good or not, but I think they could improve the assessor a lot.

      • And one of the most important thing about poetry is that it’s a statement of human experience and then- at the end- unquantifiable. By the way, I,ve found an assessor for prose as well. Have a look at the latest post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s