Confusing The Machines With My ChickenScratch Writing


I had taken and uploaded an image of a piece of paper where I had been handwriting a poem (read Little Geometry) through the day last week after watching a student catch a snowflake in her hand.

I’ll be the first to admit that my handwriting is nearly indecipherable to others (my 10 years as a newspaper reporter is to blame, I always say, although that work in making quick notes while interviewing people probably just exasperated a situation already in place). Sometimes, it’s indecipherable to me, particularly when writing songs.

Looking at the image, I saw that the Google Photos app, after I had taken my picture on my phone, was prompting me with the question of, Did I want it to grab the text from the image? (off the picture of the paper where I had been writing). Google Photos wanted to see what I had written. I had seen this option before for other images but always ignored it.

This time, I clicked forward.

First, it’s interesting (alarming? useful?) to think of technology taking words turned static in an image and reverse-engineering it back to text. Second, I was curious. What would this bit of AI make of my writing? Well, clearly, it couldn’t make heads or tails of it all.

Google IA Read My Poem (Good Luck With That)

Here’s Google’s translation (for those following long, these are words from the digital image from the words from the paper):

Time Crompt to tet
27 nguose rene lost dre Sigte Slet
fost from the group. •SshVodillingen har ontratis hand linmented Time – lost in in mont
Slow motion tabler
we nover
Herliften/on -Sketa do un lu e

Interesting …. nonsense. Good luck with that, Google. Which, you know, I’m pretty OK with. If my style of writing eludes the AI overlords, then maybe Poets will have a chance of resistance when the machines continue to take over the world.

Viva Poetic Revolution!

Peace (scratching it out),

Slice of Life/Day in a Sentence: From Poem to Words to Color to Notes to Music

(The Slice of Life Challenge in March is hosted by Two Writing Teachers as way to encourage teachers-as-writers. You can join in, if you want. There is also a monthly call for Slices on Tuesdays. You can write then, too)

Sometimes when creative inspiration hits — like how words of a poem might be translated into color, and how those colors might be translated into music — it’s best to dive in and ride the wave all the way to the end.

Peace (deep in the key),

PS — This project essentially takes two lines from a 106-line collaborative poem, turns those words into color with a tech font tool that my friend, Wendy, found and then turns those colors into musical notes, which I then played on keyboard in a software, using an avante garde /new music style of playing, while later adding layers of sounds to expand the composition.


Walk My World Listening Mode: Collaborative DS106 Audio Quilt


My CLMOOC friend, Wendy, released a mixed audio quilt of our collective voices reading a collective poem written for the DS106 community called 106 Lines of Thought. Walk My World’s recent Learning Event (6) is to pay attention to the sound of our world, to notice the details. The audio quilt is yet further iteration of the collaboration.

So I’m going to listen and jot notes and first impressions about the voices I am hearing on the audio file  …. While I may know and recognize some voices, I am not going to identify anyone until the very end … I have my headphones on and I am in deep listening space … writing what I hear …

  • First Voice —  first some claves then a short remix edit repeat of the 106 theme … clear and passionate, an introduction to listen … a personal voice … a collaborative reading … guitar bridge
  • Second Voice —  the alliterative patterns in the first stanza of the poem, read so lovely by this voice … the bird the stars the shimmer … the texture of her voice is a nice frequency for the words here
  • Third Voice — familiar voice familiar words … trying to find some emotional elements underneath the lines … the break through … the moment … false ending …. this is not the ending
  • Fourth Voice — music interlude … the accent draws me in, familiar and yet not heard by my ears on a daily basis kind of accent, there’s a sharpness to the dark wings .. higher higher higher, and the voice hit an emotional shift to bring us up, only to be reminded of the fate of Icarus
  • Fifth Voice — warmth here on the first phrase of words .. warming the bones .. looking down … and then, gratitude .. I am leaning into the sound of the warmth now … observing the moment …
  • Sixth Voice — nearly no gap space before this voice takes the poem from before like a baton pass and holds out for our hand, bringing us forward … sparking something deep inside … of you us we .. reaching out to others …
  • Seventh Voice — percussive interlude with claves … click click click – the musical thread, perhaps, or the ink of the poem to be read … I am sitting here at the table, sitting with this voice, so close now it seems in sound and so rich with ambience … listening, always listening … the small things … these give us all hope …
  • Eighth Voice — pace of narration quickens a bit,  captured like snapshots to browse through … I imagine us all doing that here, the collective urge to remember something important before we forget … wings rhythm beat ..
  • Ninth Voice — sounds of wings continue, a voice from a soft tunnel, perhaps, or a protective cave, or some chamber in dusk or dawn where the voice is a friendly token, something you find … tribes gathering …
  • Tenth Voice — textured range of voice, a small token or trinket reminding us of love and compassion, and I am visualizing the text here as I am hearing the text …
  • Eleventh Voice — the percussive ink returns, a rhythmic reminder of the threads that connect the voices together … the voice is close and yet also far, wrapped in a blanket of soft noise … the snowflakes drifting in the wind .. a poet’s voice, texture and tenor
  • Twelfth Voice — questioning? confidence. A voice of dust. A shape emerges from the poem here, the rhymes and voice of a storyteller … reminding the audience of something larger emerging from the small pieces of words
  • Thirteenth Voice — I imagine being in a listening hall, a poet sitting on the stage, their voice working working to pull me forward, to sit in the chair next to them, to listen and to wonder and to connect … to salvage hope … to listen for joy …
  • Fourteenth Voice — here, now, I am adrift in the small, nearly invisible intentional currents of a lake of words … the voice is the boat, or a stick, and we are ripples … the trees and soil and the rooting of stories  … and we are thinking feeling listening …
  • Fifteenth Voice — the voice is running, pausing, slowing, not stopping, moving, pushing, guiding, sanding down the edges of something to reveal what’s beneath … roots burrow down
  • Sixteenth Voice — spectrum of sound in this voice, past the places, the knowing understanding voice, the narrator who sees a way forward and invites us to join … like a blessing … returns
  • Seventeenth Voice — an echo of an earlier voice, returns … smoke and fire …. something flourishes, even in the quickened pace of the poem …
  • Eighteenth Voice — claves again, stitching .. clarity of frequency, this voice is next to us, sitting … right … there … and what will we make of this place? Indeed. What WILL we make of this place?
  • Nineteenth Voice — the voice is neither, neither hammer or chisel, but more a vocalized gift of each, and we are surfacing, are we not?
  • Twentieth Voice — forced slowdown for intentional alliteration, so effective so effective … my ears linger on the sound … on the tapestry … harmony …
  • Twenty-First Voice — lifting voice to the question mark of text … then, the slow roll down the incline … I imagine the paint stroke of a young artist, guided by instinct and making art …
  • Twenty-Second Voice — less question than a gathering … what will it be … these last lines … will we remember to breathe?
  • Music outro — guitar riff, hopeful sound

Peace (in listening mode),

PS — from Wendy at Soundcloud

Readers in order or appearance (Twitter tag): Lisa (nobleknits2) Charlene (inspirepassion) Kevin (dogtrax) Ron (ronald_2008) Sue (sueinasp) Sarah (NomadWarMachine) Denise (mrsdkrebs) Will (willgourley) Ron S (ronsamul) Betsy (BetsyCallanan) Niall (niall_barr) Wendy (wentale) Catherine (catdartnall) Joe Murphy (joefromkenyon) AK (koutropoulos) Sheri (grammasheri) Irwin (irwindev) Jennifer (JenniferDenslow) Tania (taniatorikova) Irene (IrenequStewart) Susan (SSpellmanCann)

Mixed by Wendy Taleo. Music from
Original poem:…-thought.html

Comic About Teaching: Zoom Mutterings

Teacher Zoom TalkI find it fascinating how pretty much universal this is: a presenter/teacher talking out about the technological things they are doing as the Zoom crowd waits for whatever comes next. I’ve even found myself apologizing to my students to narrating what I am doing to get things ready for class when we are on Zoom.

I always imagine my students having a chuckle about it at my expense. Which I don’t mind at all. The mute button is … right … over … here.

I put this into my album of Pandemic Comics, started last year.

Peace (out loud),

Turning Collaborative Poem Into Song (but it ain’t no Shanty)


The other day, I wrote about a collaborative poem that folks in #ds106, and #clmooc, and beyond had contributed to. With 106 lines in its construction, the poem has now become a place of possible remix. I had joked at one point at trying to write a Sea Shanty with some of the words (ie, TikTok trend) and yesterday morning, after watching a bunch of YouTube videos of the recent Shanty trend, I was pretty confident that I could remix something. Too confident. I tried to work out a song on my guitar and realized my Sea Shanty was becoming more folk-punk with a hint of Dylan.

Ah well. I abandoned that ship and sailed forward into this:

Here are my process notes for the writing and recording:

I dove into the 106 lines of poem and began to find and make couplets to the rhythm I had started on my guitar. Sometimes, I could use the phrasing outright. Other times, I had to do a little twisting and editing to make the words fit. If a line didn’t seem right, I moved on to the next.

I quickly realized again just how much interesting phrasing was going on in the collaboration, as people jumped into the original poem to add lines. I felt bad that I could not use something from every line but that was not going to happen or else it would be a 30 minute song. In the end, I had eight full stanzas of four lines of mostly rhymed couplets.

I realized a chorus and maybe a little musical bridge was needed to break up the song and to give it a hook. I tried a bunch of possibilities and ended up on a Believe/See theme (after abandoning a Breathe/See theme). The couplet lines in the chorus are mine, as they capture what the poem is all about, about remembering and connecting. The short musical interlude is a way to put space between the verse and the chorus.

You can read all the lyrics here.

For the music, I had first thought just to do a raw recording and be done with it. Guitar and voice. But then I had this bass line in my mind and I realized a simple drum pattern would propel it along, so I jumped into Garageband to lay down some tracks. From there, I moved the files to my computer, and recorded the guitar part.

The vocals, always my weakest point, came last and I nearly passed out, trying to fit all the words into the phrasing. At some points, you can hear me, gasping for breath on the phrasing. (or I hear me, anyway).  I gave it a real Dylan reading/singing feel. You may notice that the first section has two verses, and then the next two sections, three verses, before landing on the last section, with one verse. It makes the center of the song feel longer than I’d like but when I had it another way, it all felt too long. Combining verses condensed the song.

I tweaked some of the audio settings here and there, and added an underlying vocal track to the chorus to give it more life and played an organ keyboard down low in the mix, but mostly, the song was recorded straightforward. I think it’s OK.

Peace (listening in),

Playing with Petals and Poems

I saw this article in the New York Times about a collaborative game you can play with poetry and a deck of flower-themed cards. They called it The Flower Petal Game, and I decided to give it a try on Twitter with the CLMOOC hashtag, and sure enough, I had some friends playing along.

And now Wendy, and maybe Sarah, are going to spur us into another round on Twitter. Use the #clmooc hashtag if you want to play along, too.

Peace (in poems),