Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Hubbert Peak Theory of Poetry, or, Why We’re All Out of Good Poems



The decline in U.S. oil production is explained by the Hubbert Peak Theory, which states that “the amount of oil under the ground in any region is finite, therefore the rate of discovery which initially increases quickly must reach a maximum and decline.”  Makes sense, right?  The same theory can apply to anything of a finite quantity that is discovered and quickly exploited with maximum effort. Including, it would seem, rock & roll.  -- Overthinkingit.com

-
Lemon Hound is "very, very tired of people confusing their personal aesthetic preferences with good poetry and anything that doesn't fit as bad poetry."  Most of us are!  So... Maybe what we can do is correlate the production of poems with that of both oil production and rock music to get some mathematical certainty about where poetry's headed!  

7 comments:

Joseph Hutchison said...

This is one of my favorite posts this week out of all the blogs I follow! Very funny—the confusion of physical (finite) and psychic (infinite) resources, etc. And while I enjoy Lemon Hound's commentaries there is, of course, no such thing as an objective measure of good and bad poetry, only "personal aesthetic preferences." The idea of applying mathematical "certainty" to poetry is deeply comic, especially since Kurt Goedel in the 1930s proved that such certainty doesn't exist (i.e., that "any sufficiently rich axiom system is guaranteed to possess statements that cannot be proved or disproved within the system" [see Brian Davies' article "Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty"). No, in the long run we'll just have to embrace the lesser, messier comedy of aesthetic conflict, with its intense delusions of grandeur and progress and crisis over a "resource" that won't run out until human beings themselves run out. Someday, maybe—but not today....

Jordan said...

Or, see Kant's Critique of Judgment...

Don Share said...

I have seen Kant's C. of J., but it left me not the wiser.

Kent Johnson, one-man Dada movement, writes in thusly:

There's the story of Shinkichi Takahashi, the great 20th century Zen poet, who started off as Japan's one-man Dada movement. I think I have it more or less right... One day, sometime after his release from jail for publication of his book, Poems of the Dadaist Shinkichi Takahashi, he was trying to decide whether to be a poet or to devote his life to the study of Zen. He was a member of Ogiwara Seisensui's avant-garde haiku group at the time, and the realization hit him that haiku, indeed all poetry, was a merely finite "thing," delimited by material laws, composed as it is from a vast but finite number of possible outcomes, i.e., there is some limit-number of possible poems to be written. This realization upset him greatly, and he thus opted for the lifelong study of Zen, which is (he felt) infinite. Later he went on to become the greatest 20th century Zen poet of Japan.

---

To which I respond that Zen is long, but art, like life, is shorter.

Joseph Hutchison said...

Don, a book you might find interesting is Daniel C. Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. In the fifth chapter, "The Possible and the Actual," he discusses Borges's fiction "The Library of Babel", noting that "the Library of Babel is finite, but, curiously enough, it contains all the grammatical sentences of English within its walls. But that's an infinite set." Again, there is a difference between possibility (the infinite set) and actuality (the fact, as Dennett points out, that "it is estimated that there are only 100 to the 40th power (give or take a few) particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons) in the region of the universe we can observe, [so] the Library of Babel is not remotely a physically possible object." Takahashi was wrong, and I suspect he knew it; otherwise he would not have wasted his non-Time writing poetry.

Henry Gould said...

"To which I respond that Zen is long, but art, like life, is shorter."

Especially if it's haiku, I guess.

mgushuedc said...

Don - this is a post after my own heart!

Lemon Hound said...

Thanks Don. Made me laugh, much needed.