Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

It could probably do better than me

For some, chocolate triggers Ooh-ah; for me savoury stuff. Mrs BB’s no-name stew, is irrelevant here but acts as a sop for those uninterested in translating poetry.

Sam Leith, in the Guardian, writes about Google’s program for doing just that. It’s obvious to say it won’t work, he says, and cites the Google guy responsible (“evidently a software engineer with a hinterland”) who quotes Robert Frost: “Poetry is what gets lost in translation”. But, says Leith, it’s more useful to think about the ways it won’t work – or might.

Leith ignores wilfully difficult stuff and concentrates on what Auberon Waugh says “rhymes, scans and makes sense”. He defines what poets do quite cleverly (sorry, I haven’t the space) and concludes it’s a craft with multiple, but not infinite, possibilities which is where Google can help. Notably in rhyming since it’s simple to input a rhyming dictionary. Metre is harder but conventional prosody is largely binary - stressed and unstressed syllables - and binary is how Google treats them: “blank verse with iambic foot obeys the regular expression (01) while one with dactylic foot looks like (100).”

He concludes it isn’t impossible to imagine a computer being taught to write accurate doggerel. Oh heck, I’m running out of space but how about this. Faced with: “A police spokesman said three people had been arrested and the material was being examined”, Google supplied:
An officer stated that three were arrested
And that the equipment is currently tested

- said to be amphibrachic tetrameter. You may disagree.

WANT TO HELP? Do you have knowledge or experience of homesickness as a debilitating ailment in an adult? A new novel is at the planning stage and this will be a major theme. Your contribution will be acknowledged.