“Cloud #1” by Braxton Soderman

Screen capture from “Cloud #1” by Braxton Soderman. White text on a light blue background. Text: "on this quiet and open morning I sit before the worn window. the sky is  intoxicated but sorrowful. things progress on their eternal way. although it is all changing, it is silent and strange and overcome by monstrous  permanence. I want to see colorful leaves, but the trees are dead and still.  my clothed and guarded thoughts are slowly dismantled. time has become cloudy  and opaque. this jealous and lonely partner, perfect sadness for all that is spiritless, smooth, little, and harsh. my soft ideas are lifted from early  slumbers, at the brief moment when it remains dynamic and flawless, not tinted  by learned old age. dark, ringing, absolutely. my eyes cannot help but be moving, watching what the vague sky lifts above the hard ground, the artless earth. the unfixed clouds harbor what is unthinkable, imaginary islands, clothed in irate and informed dreams, each imperfect shift causes a salvo of short  recognition before it falls oblivious. it is all destroyed. it is all obvious.  for one agonizing moment, I am absent and nothing will make me afraid."
Open “Cloud #1” by Braxton Soderman

This mutable poem explores a simple concept, word substitution, using sophisticated tools. The data set is WordNet, which clusters words conceptually so substitutions are governed by synonymy, metonymy, and semantics which should allow the prose poem to retain some coherence. But does it? Here’s the poem after running for minute or so: image The text is clearly different, but its basic ideas are recognizable. Allowed to run for over 10 minutes leads it to drift further from its starting point. image Like a cloud, this has mutated almost beyond recognition, though it retains its sentence structure and pronouns. Also our memory of its earlier expression helps to shape our reading of it, so our original conceptualization guides its future iterations. This work seems to be a mutated version of the OULIPO N+7 formula, and has also been explored in digital media by Daniel Howe, Serge Bouchardon, and Eugenio Tisselli.

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