Poetry Podcast: Unplug the Machine

There has been a series of interesting discussions going around the National Writing Project’s technology community about computer software that scores student writing. A simple request asking if anyone has any suggestions for automated grading software seems to have hit a bit of a nerve (with me, anyway) and a sharing of a poem by Kate Messner inspired me to write my own. (Hers is better, so you should read “Revolution for the Tested” by Messner).

Here is mine. You can also listen to the podcast version.


Unplug the Machine

Please let me know when I can meet the machine
with the big red pen of ones and zeroes
crossing out my words that don’t meet the rubric
embedded in its main frame.

I’ll be sure to reach out my hand
so I can understand how my ideas, my words, my expressions,
just don’t fit with the expectations of the programmer –
compiling code with no view of the world that I write about …

and I’ll not-so-gently reach behind them, and pull out the plug,
so that sparks will fly, crackling and popping like my prose,
as I wait for somebody, anybody, to walk through that door
and tell me just what I have done.

Peace (in the poem),


  1. Great addendum to Kate’s poem which I love, but yours addresses that machine with the big red pen (terrific visual). I also really liked “crackling and popping like my prose”. And I liked that you shared your response to all that is happening about the testing too!

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