Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"The Computer's First Christmas Card"

jollymerry
hollyberry
jollyberry
merryholly
happyholly
jollyjelly
jellybelly
bellymerry
hollyheppy
jollyMerry
marryJerry
merryHarry
hoppyBarry
heppyJarry
bobbyheppy
berryjorry
jorryjolly
moppyjelly
Mullymerry
Jerryjolly
bellyboppy
jorryhoppy
hollymoppy
Barrymerry
Jarryhappy
happyboppy
boppyjolly
jollymerry
merrymerry
merrymerry
merryChris
ammerryasa
Chrismerry
asMERRYCHR
YSANTHEMUM

by Edwin Morgan

________________________________________________________________________

Sorry, yes. I do know it's after Christmas and this post has sort of timed out on me. But I'm so disorganised that everything happens after the act for me! I think the Christmas cards I remembered arrived in the New Year, and I never got round to making my mince pies. I suck at getting Christmas, right! Maybe we should all just celebrate it when we feel like it. (I heard that the Australians in the Blue Mountains celebrate Yule at the end of June when the weather is at its coldest! ...Or ... you can come back to this post in December if you'd prefer!)

Also in mitigation ... it is still officially Christmas until Twelfth Night when Christmas trees traditionally are taken down.

It was hard to find this poem on the internet since I couldn't remember poet, title or any of the lines exactly. I first came across this poem in a Penguin anthology of modern poetry in the 1970's (I still mourn the loss of that book which had so much good stuff in it). The poem delighted me, especially as I couldn't ... and still can't ... manage to read the damn thing out loud without getting my tongue throroughly twisted and starting to laugh. It's even more fun read in a robotic computer voice!

The poem was written in 1968, when computers were really still only found in university departments and to use them at all you had to feed in lines of code. Morgan's original version looked like a computer print-out, with every line having exactly the same number of letters and syllables (4) and the letters being evenly spaced.

But in a bout of rampant creativity, I made a the poem look a bit like a Christmas tree, albeit a long and skiny one, and added decorations! (And by altering the form, changed the meaning?)

According to this Guardian article, Morgan, a professor of English at Glasgow university, began to correspond with Haroldo de Campos in Brazil, one of the pioneers of concrete poetry, but had his own ideas about the genre:
"I felt it was possible to have a clearer intellectual content in concrete poetry than you often find. I was trying to say you can write a poem which formally is strange, which involves very careful plotting of letters and space and so on, but nevertheless it is a poem, with ideas and history and human feeling. Some concrete writers don't like that idea at all."
This poem is regarded as typical of Morgan's concrete poems, which he wrote in the '60's and is wonderfully playful. The ending is delightful because it isn't at all what we expect.

A google search for the poem shows how popular the poem still is - almost forty years after it was written, and in an age where computers have transformed the way we live and have changed out of all recognition.

Want more by Morgan? Check out other poems here and here. If anyone you know still needs convincing that poetry is fun, do read The Loch Ness Monster's Song!

And while I remember, a very Heppy Hoppy Hippy Happy New Year to you all!

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2 Comments:

Blogger Madcap Machinist said...

haha... it looks like something out of Dr Seuss! I keep looking for "Halle Berry" in there, but I guess she came after the poem.

7:16 AM, January 06, 2007  
Blogger sasha concepcion said...

Nice poems for christmas cards, anyway if you need more Christian Christmas Card Wording Ideas pls. feel free to drop by.

Thanks

Sasha

4:06 AM, August 14, 2014  

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