Saturday, January 01, 2005

analytical-poetry dept.

This just in. Maybe this is a crazy thought. But the mathematical analogue of poetry is really -- a digital signature. What is poetry but a condensation of a sensation or the rounding off of experience? In terse and simple words, the poet seeks to capture pain, rapture or equanimity in equal measure. A digital signature or message digest is of course, a lossy method for summarizing data content i.e. a digital signal. Now, Messrs. Shannon, Nyquist et al tell us, that downsampling a signal (effectively, trying to compress it beyond what its base information content allows) may cause us to lose information during the process, if the downsampled result is too terse.

From our hypothesis that poetry is the analogue of signal compression applied to linguistic expression, the same effect of ambiguity should apply.

At this point, it may be beneficial to introduce the notion of a well-intentioned poem, which we define as follows:

A poem written with a specific meaning in mind by the poet, with the clear intention of letting the readers of the poem be able to decipher the intended meaning.

Unfortunately, the available corpus of poetry that can be classified under this heading, is as we know, quite sparse.

Agreed? Shall we move on? Alright then, if we would have to demarcate good, skillfully-written poetry, it would now be reasonable to assume that such poems would be well-intentioned poems whose informational analysis would leave them hovering somewhere near the boundary where compression begins to become lossy.

Hmmm...can this intuition then, be encoded into a versification algorithm? Is poetry, as we know it, doomed to become the domain of cold-hearted automatons? Is there really no hope in this world for all those ugly people out there looking to get laid (well, actually, there's always beer)?

For answers to these and many other equally vexing questions, tune in next time...

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