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.
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 The authors of this piece of research took a selection of modern, unpublished works and called them “ amateur” – the professional collection came from a selection of poetry magazines.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.
I had to have a go, didn’t I ? This is the poem I copied into the text box
the hills tentative
the valley bottoms
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.
Have a go yourself and let me know how you get on.