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Electronically Yours -- Gerald Jonas

Guest poem sent in by Leslie Turek
(Poem #1418) Electronically Yours
    Baud: the rate of speed at which information is
    sent between two computer devices,
    for example, modems.

 From 1200 plus, our baud
 declined. At under 300, a blank.
 EXIT. Or so I thought. But bits
 of you <alluring syllables, the
 burnt-in codes of half-unearned
 caresses "lost" when power died>
 were saved, it seems, to memory's
 soft disk. I found a file called
 HIDDEN FILES. Delete <Y/N>?
-- Gerald Jonas
Today I ran across this poem, which I had cut out of a
magazine years ago (I don't remember which magazine,
possibly The New Yorker)).

I liked the way the poet used modern (at least at that date)
computer terminology and images to describe the
fragmentary memories that remain after a relationship
has died.

I Googled for Gerald Jonas, and found references to a
few science fiction stories and one other poem (Imaginary
Numbers in a Real Garden), but no reference to this particular

I also found reference to a poetry reading in 2001 which
gave this mini-bio:

Gerald Jonas is a regular reviewer of science fiction for the New York
Times, the author of six nonfiction books and a screenwriter of nationally
televised documentaries. He worked at The New Yorker from 1963-1993.

[broken link]

Leslie Turek

[Martin adds]

While this is an interesting poem, it hasn't dated too well - the
combination of the modern theme and the fast-obsolete and
already-forgotten jargon sets up a dissonance that detracts from the
imagery of the poem - particularly jarring was the reference to "soft

It still fascinates me, though, to see the way in which poets (and alongside
them, writers of science fiction, particularly cyberpunk) have evoked poetry
from the rising tide of new phenomena, idioms and metaphors that accompany
the information revolution. This week, I'll be running a series of such
poems - as usual, feel free to chime in on the theme.


54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

John K. Taber said...

If I may add to this:

I've been interested for years now in poems that
incorporate the computer. Contemporary poets don't
usually condemn the machine, as liberal arts people
did when I was a student. Machines have stopped
being Blake's "dark, Satanic mills" and are accepted
as part of the landscape. Once in a while, even,
machines are accepted too enthusiastically.

There is now a small body of poems involving computers,
for example Bukowski's

Hemingway never did this

I read that he lost a suitcase full of manuscripts on a
train and that they never were recovered.
I can't match the agony of this
but the other night I wrote a 3-page poem
upon this computer
and through my lack of diligence and
and by playing around with commands
on the menu
I somehow managed to erase the poem
believe me, such a thing is difficult to do
even for a novice
but I somehow managed to do

now I don't think this 3-pager was immortal
but there were some crazy wild lines,
now gone forever.
it bothers more than a touch, it's some-
thing like knocking over a good bottle of

and writing about it hardly makes a good
still, I htought somehow you'd like to

if not, at least you've read this far
and there could be better work
down the line.

let's hope so, for your sake

Let's not quibble with Buk, and tell him about
unerase commands, ok? The point is, the matter
of fact use of the computer in a poem.

There was another I recall, can't remember the
poet, but it went something like "Green be thy
screen!" It was the poet's gratitude for the
convenience of the computer for her in writing
poems. Again, as Martin observed, some of these
poems quickly date. I'm old enough that green
screens are strongly in my memory, but I daresay
many readers today have never seen a monochrome

There is Brautigan's "Machines of Amazing Grace."
I didn't cotton to his poem because for me there is
something chilling about benevolent machines watching
over me.

Still, there is a bunch of poems, enough I think to
make an anthology.

John K. Taber

John K. Taber

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