Poem made up of hotels.com reviews (uncreative writing)

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Ramada Saco/Old Orchard Beach Area, Maine

Over at his blog Sad Iron, Chuck Rybak (@chuckrybak) recently transcribed all the marginal annotations from his copy of a book of noir fiction, Dorothy B. Hughes’s In a Lonely Place (1947), and made a poem of it. Describing his creation as keeping with principles of “uncreative writing” set forth in Kenneth Goldsmith’s book of that title (2011) and other recent works. Chuck observes that his own poetry adopted “uncreative” procedures long before Goldsmith’s coinage. Indeed, despite its being a concept with a genealogy typically defined against Romanticism, uncreativity and associated literary techniques – newsiness, banality, or the “matter-of-factness” that Coleridge regarded as one of the pronounced defects “in certain poems” of Wordsworth’s (BL II 126) – have been available to art theory and practice for some time.

 

Beyond presenting an instance of uncreative literary practice, Chuck’s exercise helpfully indicates how textual annotations, beyond serving a transparently exegetical function or operating as markers of immediate readerly experience, might constitute objects of literary interest in their own right. Marginal annotation is a topic of interest for many Romantic studies scholars, for good reason: Coleridge, an inveterate scribbler in the margins of his and others’ books, actually invented the term “marginalia” to describe his own practice. In my teaching, I’ve been interested for some time in how today’s tools and methods of digital textual annotation can serve as pedagogical and scholarly resources. The online product review is one specialized kind of digital annotation. This widespread consumer practice extends annotation well beyond the marking of textual objects (song lyrics, poems, novels, and so on) to make a whole range of objects and services available for commentary, evaluation, and review: refrigerators, restaurants, gutter cleaners, pens for women. To produce my “poem,” I extracted the subject lines of all available consumer reviews of a single hotel from hotels.com. (OK, I was also looking for a place to stay with my family for the long weekend.) I broke these one-line evaluations into stanzas, and that was it.

 

The lyric form is conventionally associated with effusions of individual subjective experience; John Stuart Mill described poetry as a kind of highly emotive private speech that is “overheard” by readers rather than communicated directly to them. The poem produced by extracting online product or service reviews preserves the subjectivism of lyric but substitutes the singular (implied or posited) lyric subject with an anonymous, sometimes cacophonous array.

 

So here’s the poem:

 

Hotels.com reviews (subject lines only, low to high rating), Ramada Saco/Old Orchard Beach Area, Maine

 

“Disappointing”

“Very Bad never stay again.. .”

“We’ll be back!!!”

 

“bad hotel”

“Great and no traffic”

“Bad hotel”

 

“Musty and Unpleasant”

“Unkept”

“not near any sights”

 

“Fine in a Pinch”

“Disappointment”

“Strange and Mouldy”

 

“little sleep”

“close to Kennebunkport”

“Bring Ear Plugs”

 

“It was fine…….”

“Underwhelmed”

“Close to my relatives”

 

“further from the beach then it says”

“Great Location”

“Good spot, but way behind the times on breakfast.”

 

“In the middle of no where”

“convenient”

“Nope”

 

“And baby made 30 bucks extra”

“close to expressway and the city”

“Maine getaway”

 

“Decent hotel for a one-night stay”

“HAIR HAIR HAIR”

“Good for a night”

 

“room has funny smells”

“Nice hotel for the price.”

“No atmosphere”

 

“Clean and Worth The Price – From MA Resident”

“Very nice, clean hotel”

“Great Stay”

 

“Great AAU Weekend”

“Ramada Inn”

“B+ value, service, location”

 

“Great bed”

 

“really hard to find”

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               July 16 2014

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