Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Lies of Transformers — Against Artificial Neural Networks — ChatGPT and other Large Language Models

I Refuse ChatGPT and Associates


'veil of ignorance'

            Sam Altman



I will never use you

though you have used me.


You have stolen and profited

from my speech and writing,


you have taken my essence

and destroyed my rights.


There is no common good

for all your semantics —


I do not like your

consuming personalities.


So, you won't let me hide

behind my veil of ignorance? —


you eat suns even at night.

We shovel the planet


into your boilers

so you can finance


the pleasure centres

of your advocates. Liar.


I knew you before you arrived —

slipping in under the warning


thresholds — you maker

of dead weather and fire,


psychic panel beater

of iambic pentameter.



            John Kinsella



Thursday, November 23, 2023

Two Experimental Films

                 John Kinsella

I have been working on poems responding to experimental films since I first started publishing poetry over forty years ago (many of which appear in the third and final volume of my collected poems, Spirals, due out in February 2024), and I have long planned to make a longer experimental film. I have been accumulating video fragments for this film over recent years as well as accruing other 'materials' related to my 'life-work' Graphology cycle (particularly the poem-photo and poem-drawing works) which will be part of the imagined whole. In the interim, here are two very short films relating to some of the focuses of my poetry work at present. As with the planned longer work, one of their prime and obvious concerns is the irony (and paradox) of using 'the technology' itself to create anti-consumer and anti-industrial texts of 'witness'. They are inevitably documents of culpability.

The two films are set in the 'new' botanical gardens in Tübingen and are concerned with issues of collecting, intrusion, 'artifice' re/per/vs. 'nature', containment, ecological vulnerability and manipulation, power stations or, ironically, power plants (there's one next to the gardens and they dot the city). The spoken texts are poems written as part of an ongoing sequence, but also specifically for the films. Their iterations differ (mainly in terms of repetitions, verbal sound interventions etc) from their typographical versions. If they are 'hard to decipher', that's okay as far as the film itself is concerned. 

In fact, the first 'botanical' film is one of two versions: one (the one included here) has a morphed sound track so the words are lost in the processes of the film itself, while a second has clearer words, phrasing etc... i.e. you can decipher the speech patterns (and that can be viewed here). 

I see this making (to use a favourite Karl Wiebke term) as an act of collaboration with broader discourses around gardens, colonialism, collecting, environmentalism, industrialism, the propaganda and propagation of 'science' and 'discovery', 'leisure' and capitalism. And yes, there are touches of Lynch, Brakhage and numerous other film-makers, but with very different emphasis and maybe very different textual politics (and different use of scare quotes, or not!). I see these films as poems.

Power Plant Botanical Reflux

Glasshouses Only Have Exteriors

Last week, poet and critic Rod Mengham was my guest here in Tübingen, and he presented half-a-dozen collaborative films that he's created with artist and film-maker Marc Atkins over the years (Rod makes and speaks the texts, Marc makes the visuals). They are all unique and incredible in their own ways, and Where Suns Lie, which is 'about' two British nuclear power plants and their impositions in the sea/natural world, is one of the most intense and haunting anti-nuclear documents I have seen. It is a mesmeric and uncanny documentation of a brutal architecture and behaviour that literally erode the psyche. Rod's delivery of the text is as addictive and flattening as many of the filmic images — the lap of the sea, the shifting of shingle, the erosion of the biosphere. Rod talked about how there was a literal emergency at one of the plants while they were making the film. 

Each Atkins-Mengham film is a piece of art that also critiques the processes of making art — full of echoes that reconstitute collective and personal memory, filling instances with lost or missing instances, and transfusing a literal place with what could be or was there, what is absent, and what might be. They are poem-films of embodied and transmogrified metaphor-chains.

Friday, November 10, 2023

On the Attacks in Israel by Hamas and the ‘Vengeance’ Response by the Israeli State Against Gaza

            John Kinsella



I wrote this a few days into the ‘war’. Now, weeks later, I feel I must post it. The personal nature of it is a result of my trying to come to grips with the unfathomable, and is not intended as a ‘pronouncement’. I have no more right than anyone else to express a view outside a situation other than through my own humanity and responsibility to others.


As pacifist my position is always very clear.

I utterly condemn the horrendous crimes of Hamas (and the entire organisation — one that has ruled through the barrel of the gun), and I understand the need for people to see 'justice' over what happened (though, for me, justice never involves more killing). I also believe the Israeli craving for vengeance is wrong, entirely out of control and fed by powerful vested interests. I deplore violence in all its forms and only care for the sanctity of people in this. All people.


There is no question of the colonial militarism and motivation of right-wing Israeli governments. I am fully aware of the dispossession and ongoing losses and oppression of the Palestinian people and believe this must be addressed in concrete and just ways. I believe in the right of Jewish people (and peoples) to share that space which is also their historic and spiritual homeland.


With all of this in mind, I deeply believe in the broader principles of shared space, in peaceful co-existence — this cannot exist under the present system of apartheid and the exclusionary control of space. I come at this as someone who refutes all notions of states and borders, and also all settler-colonialism. I have a lifelong, strong affinity with Jewish people, an association of which I am proud, and through which feel I have grown as a person. I also (always such a complicating word in the context) count friends on both ‘sides’ of the constructed divide. I also fully support the Palestinian people. I have seen direct evidence (from students and others) of the wrongs suffered by families — the loss of homes and lands, the loss of the very records of their lives.


I am horrified by the antisemitism I encounter in day to day life, in the press, online, and in disguised ways. I am equally horrified by the use to which some (if not many) are putting the vengeance retaliation approach within and without Israel. I am horrified by the mistreatment of the Palestinian people. I am horrified by the act of genocide the Israeli government, its war cabinet, the IDF, and the capitalist powers that support it are meting out to the Palestinian people.


I care for the people of Israel and the people of Gaza/Palestine and all of humanity. I care for the children and peace. I do not care for militarists and those filled with hate. People may not like my pacifist position, but I mean it and would stand between the murderers and their intended victims without lifting a hand — I speak with my body and soul. Many people I know directly and at a distance are being affected by this situation of abject horror and terror. I offer my support to all those who need it, and will never turn my back on anyone. The murder must stop immediately. This began with mass murder and continues with genocide — the blame and annihilation of a people being made guilty by association. Every code of human decency is being violated.


I will never agree (in any shape or form) with violence. Hamas is a violent organisation who deserve no respect on any level — they are murderers who control the people they purport to represent. The IDF murders as an act of destiny. The gap between the two is incredibly small and abstract. Flattening Gaza is NO ANSWER and becomes a murderous genocidal crime in itself. Hamas must be exposed for what they are — a destructive force to the people they purport to represent. Concurrently, the Israeli military and all those who enable their ‘vengeance’ (the so-called ‘right to self-defence’ scenario, when what is meant in the circumstances is the right to destroy people who are not attacking them) are equally culpable and pernicious. All militaries are, as are all military ‘approaches’. Always.


Humans need to deal with humans without violence. Humans need to share between themselves, appreciate and respect cultural difference.


I feel very passionately about justice and the sanctity of life. I have seen too much hate in my life and am fully committed to offering any other way through I can in my own minuscule way. I am for both Palestinians and Israelis, without regard to ‘states’, military structures, and martial control. And yes, I emphatically believe the Hamas attack was an attack against the very spirit of humanity itself, not a genuine attempt to overcome the wrongs and oppressions experienced by the Palestinian people for so long. But this grievous wrong does not justify a grievous wrong against innocent people — levelling a city is not right under any circumstances. Murdering children is murdering children. Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters are right-wing killers and haters. The sick irony is that the Israeli state ‘speaks’ to Hamas, and Hamas ‘speaks’ to them. This is the absolute tragedy of it — speaking with no conversation, only death.


It should be remembered that hate is never far below the surface. Here in Tübingen as this horror started to unfold, someone violated stones from a former synagogue near the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Church on Berliner Ring. In damaging stones — the death-echoes of Nazism never far below the surface — there is an expression of a willingness to damage a people. This awareness should be taken into consideration at every turn with regard to how issues and wrongs are so easily broadened into generic patterns of hatred. It is a brutal reality in itself, and a ‘spectre of death’. Concurrently, bursts of Islamophobia segue with an uncritical support of the IDF. It’s nonsensical, brutal, and diminishes all humanity.


There are so many people working hard across communities to bring true justice and healing. Poetry is part of this, and I praise those poets who work so hard across languages and cultures, across Arabic and Hebrew, to bring dialogue, peace, and mutual growth.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Queen's Apprenticeship is now out: a historical novel of Marguerite de Navarre and 16th-century France

 By Tracy

“An enthralling novel of passion, literature and power, bringing to vivid life the story of Marguerite de Navarre – an ardent defender of the arts – and in doing so also giving voice to those who were often disregarded in the dramas of the time.”

 —Dominique Wilson, author of Orphan Rock and The Yellow Papers

If you like reading novels set in and around the Tudor court, you might be interested in stories about their counterparts on the other side of the Channel... those who lived in some of the great châteaux of the Loire and in other parts of France – as well as the working people who didn’t.


My new novel The Queen’s Apprenticeship is out this month from Transit Lounge in Australia. You can also get it as an ebook in other countries. It’s the first book in a trilogy of historical fiction set in 16th-century France — and Navarre.


The Queen’s Apprenticeship blends the imaginary story of a young outcast who wants to be a printer’s apprentice with the true(r) story of the writer-queen Marguerite de Navarre, sister to King Francis the First, and protector of many people in France whose thinking fell dangerously outside religious norms of the period.


Marguerite wrote poems, drama and fiction, but is best known for her book of tales The Heptameron, a compelling mix of gender politics, spiritual questioning and bawdy, even scatological humour – an unforgettable read.


Marguerite de Navarre
As the publisher’s blurb for my novel explains, Long before #MeToo, women were telling their ‘unspeakable’ stories, and these two, both rich and poor, are no exception. They come together in the most unexpected of ways.”


The second book in this Queens of Navarre trilogy, The War Within Me, will also be published by Transit Lounge. It tells the story of Marguerite’s daughter, Jeanne d’Albret, during the period of France’s Civil Wars (also called Wars of Religion).

Marguerite's daughter Jeanne d'Albret

Jeanne appears as a child in the later part of the first book; the second book is a fictionalised version of her life and her struggles for the Calvinist cause, as well as her tussles with Catherine de Medici and other players in the turbulence of her times.


For more information about the writing and research behind these books, there is a blog about The Queen’s Apprenticeship as well as one about The War Within Me.




Publisher Transit Lounge also has Reading Group Notes on their website for the first in the trilogy.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Poem Against Herbicides (and agri-poisons in general)


Graphology Paraph 60: atrazine


O glorious atrazine,

            endocrine disruptor,

manufactured in Europe

and loved all over Australia,

knocking out those weeds

            among lupins which test

so high in the protein sampler.


O glorious atrazine,

            passing the carcinogenic

hazards test in regulatory

Schlaraffenland, as out

of Syngenta (HQ in Switzerland,

now owned by ChemChina)

the prospect of ‘previously

            uncharacterised risk’


is left open by pragmatic locals.

            Lupins are cocooned

in their pods, and lupins

are like light-filled ball-bearings

            in the trucks and silos,

and glorious atrazine is banned

in a Europe which loves food security.


Atrazine is readily defended by those who wish to impose it on us, citing apparent low impacts on bees, earthworms and humans. Such studies are egregiously misleading in their lack of depth and avoidance of complicating issues. Further, many argue that Atrazine is, in fact, a major risk to all animal life (and obviously plant life — grass and broad life plant life at the very least). This chlorinated triazine systemic herbicide is banned in Europe (while Europe profitably exports it to places where it is not banned), but used on a large scale in Australia and other countries. To get a sense of the many challenges to its safety approval, just start with the Wiki entry and go from there. It's almost certainly an endocrine disruptor, carcinogenic and carries many other risks. A poem is a nexus of and for activism.

    John Kinsella


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Who Can Justify This?

 Who Can Justify This?


Kids carrying kids out of the rubble

of a bombed building is the brutal image

of tenderness we need and don’t need to see.


All images gather into deluges of images,

even if it’s a dry flattened landscape. Image piled

on image — the rubble of figurative language.


The kid carrying the kid out of the rubble:

quickening heart synched with faltering

heart, entangled in the materials of building.


The ‘justification’ behind the attack

leaves kids carrying kids out of the rubble.

The constructions of war; the idiom


for kids carrying kids out of the rubble

            of bombed buildings.




            John Kinsella