A million dollars Just A Dime Away.
I haven’t eaten anything today.
In some sense, Bhatnagar has gone a step further than his predecessors. The Surrealists may not have known where their lines would fall into a scheme, but they were consciously producing art. The Flarfists, meanwhile, pieced together random scraps—but there was still a poet in charge. The Pentametron, in relation to these, is pure accident: Its component thoughts are produced by unwitting subjects and assembled automatically. And while these creations certainly sound like art, using such a precise form to organize chaos also makes for absurdity.
Ben Popik, a comedy writer, has a mockumentary out this spring titled “The Exquisite Corpse Project,” which was written according to the rules of the game. Popik’s interest in this area is more about comic value than the potential to tap into deeper meaning. “I remember as a kid, we’d put the TV on mute and play Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’” he says. “Whenever it synched, we’d roll around on the floor laughing.” While he’s amused by the Pentametron, he’s not so sure that poetry based on the “boring, commonplace lines” on Twitter will have an enduring appeal. “Probably not,” he says.
I wanna take a nap before the game.
I’m sorry for the person I became.
Dobson takes a more accommodating view. “What else is poetry made of other than the mundane?” he says, before reminding us that even Shakespeare had his doubters. “There were plenty of people who dismissed popular theater as meaningless nonsense in the 1590s, people in doublet and hose acting out stories that weren’t true.”
If nothing else, Dobson believes that the Pentametron has the potential to disrupt our ideas about one of the world’s great literary experiments: Twitter itself. “In a way, this is counter-Twitter,” he says. “These posts are supposed to be completely subjective—you make your remarks in isolation—and this machine brings them back together. All these people making collaborative poems without meaning to: I think that is quite poignant.”
Chris Wright is a writer and editor living in England.