The Genetically Modified Poem

iron flowerThe genetically modified poem is critic-ready, designed for the sanitized fields of modern mass production. It is the trademarked property of its creator. Its lines have been engineered not to reproduce themselves in anyone’s imagination.

The genetically modified poem produces its own growth hormones, easily outstripping its unmodified competitors. It’s the ration of choice at the poetry feedlots of Iowa, where so many manuscripts are fattened up for publishing.

The genetically modified poem has much higher nutritional value. Its every syllable is packed with nuance, assonance, and B vitamins. You hardly need to read anything else.

The genetically modified poem is a wonder of nature, containing the line-breaks of William Carlos Williams, the sudden insights of Basho, and the easy surrealism of late Neruda, not to mention the genes of a flounder.

The genetically modified poem has been stripped of idioms and idiosyncracies to maximize its shelf-life, which more than makes up for its inability to reproduce. Light-weight and modular, smelling ever so faintly of an autumn sunrise, it will outlast us all.

Thanks to readers on Identi.ca and Twitter for their enthusiastic feedback on an earlier draft, published piecemeal.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

22 Comments


  1. Weirdly, it looks bigger, here.

    I think it’s grand. I want to take it home and plant it in my garden.

    Reply

    1. It is bigger. I added several new sentences. Glad you like it.

      Reply

  2. I need one of these. My non-genetically modified poems are a mess.

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    1. I beg to differ. Home-grown, vine-ripened poems are the best.

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  3. Good work, Dave, but will publication/reading of a genetically modified poem be permitted in Europe?

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    1. Probably not, but who cares? Their poets don’t even get MFAs! Barbarians.

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  4. Oh dear, oh dear. Trying to control the laughter long enough to type out a comment. difficult.

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    1. Glad it got to you! I actually wasn’t sure at first whether I should file this under Humor, believe it or not. I think that’s a sign that I take poetry entirely too seriously.

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        1. That’s true. And his dry humor is the real saving grace of his work, in my opinion. Kay Ryan is another Big Poet with an appealing sense of humor.

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  5. Should we be concerned that the genetically modified poem has been growing?

    This is wonderful, and — as John Kenneth Galbraith said of Barbara Ehrenreich — “[l]iterate, interesting and constructive in an adequately mean way.”

    You’ve also created a new road-trip game. Player names a GM artist and at least three examples of sterile, pre-palletized product. Challenger must counter with one genuine piece of art, or raise with examples from a more egregious offender in the same medium. The tie-breaker round will require that players respond to a list of artists with either: Productive! or Tentacular!

    I always have harbored suspicions, for example, about painter W— K—-, and the decades of identical bland sunsets.

    From his
    website: “The unique blend of Realism and the formal discipline of Color Field painting sets the work of W— K–apart. [He] is an artist who embodies the synthesis of his modern abstract training with Hans Hofmann, with the palette of Matisse, Rothko’s sweeping bands of color, and the atmospheric qualities of American Impressionism.”

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    1. Hmm. Yes, the demand for GMO-like artifacts obviously extends well beyond poetry, to things with actual economic value. It’s hard to arrive at much of a judgement by squinting at the small images which Mr Kahn, obviously concerned about unauthorized reproductions, features on his website (and why would he NOT want people speading his images around the web, one wonders? The obsession with intellectual property is a cancer) but I think I might like “Spring Tangle.”

      I guess what made me think of GMOs is not just what I regard as the excessive perfectionism of serious (i.e. non-blogging) poets these days, but also their tendency to hit upon a particular style and tone and stay there for the rest of their career if possible. Few of us possess Neruda’s titanic energy, but I think we’d do well to imitate his eclecticism, his willingness to radically alter his style for each new book or series of books. So many of my favorite contemporary poets’ best books were written early in their career, before they became caricatures of themselves.

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  6. But…but…the important question is: Is it resistant to pest…er, i mean…pesky critics??

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    1. But of course. That’s what I meant by “critic-ready.” This critique of mine, for example, totally misses the mark, I’m sure.

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  7. A very urbane poem, Dave. It’s a concept you could add to as time goes on, with sections for different kinds of scientifically altered poems. You could call your chapbook Frankenpoems.

    I love the intersection of poetry and science. And social awareness.

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    1. Thanks, Christine. I like the idea of Frankenpoems, but I’m not sure where to go after this little exercise (which is not really a poem).

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    1. Thanks. That’s from L.’s yard, but it predates her tenure there, I believe.

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  8. Well, that made me chuckle…. especially, Its lines have been engineered not to reproduce themselves in anyone’s imagination.

    I’d note that, much like the “terminator genes” of a GMO crop, genetically modified poems can interfere with the (fertility)creativity of nearby natural artists.

    But then, you didn’t get into the warning labels…. ;-)

    Reply

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