Is a poem, as Don Paterson has asserted on a number of occasions, a machine for remembering itself? Or can a poem be a machine of another kind? Can it break down, overheat, go haywire? And what if a machine-poem took on a life of its own, like HAL or GLaDOS? This issue's special feature sees four poets attempting to mimic, in language, the effects and character of various mechanisms or devices. Nicholas Liu tackles Conway's Game of Life, a cellular automaton, while Chrissy Williams, Sophia Blackwood and Niall O'Sullivan take on the Zamboni (a brand of ice resurfacer), the barometer and the dictaphone respectively. The results, as ever, are multimfarious and surprising. Try it yourself at home, but don't forget to take basic safety precautions!
I am where
a coffee can.
like a vial
Inverted in a bath of mercurial bliss, sticky-fingered weather dips a slick kiss in the meniscus,
pushing the column low. I am all response, results, all molecules flirting with surfaces,
nosing the airtight glass. I am a vacuum, puckered, sucking the sinking air, nowhere to go.
I am the sum of damp beds, wind, cloud-sweat, shrouds of smog on fog-blind mornings.
Here is a fragile thing. This is your reading when the sky sheds layers like uneasy Spring.
You and your dumb numbers. You should be grateful. Here are millimetres. Here is data.
Batten down the hatches. Tug at the air. Readings drop, sky draining, skin cold.
Hang up a torch-round eye cinched in old gold. Look at that instead. By the way, its raining.