Thursday, October 30, 2014

25 Edge Hill Poets: Tom Jenks

Tom Jenks

from An Anatomy of Melancholy

If I get too melancholy you can spank me with the riding crop.

Hello darkness. We have our Before Sunrise every night.

A serious post tonight on feelings and states of mind.

I didn't think I'd ever found candy creepy.

Why did the mango go to the therapist?


Guy is player. Guy meets girl. Guy stops being player. Girl leaves forever.

The sublime melancholy nonsense of the Porpoise Song.

Slow, sad, dramatic. An absolutely fabulous marathon.

Weekdays are so utterly mundane.  Classic FM.

Paul McCartney. Banged this in autumn.

Describe your life in one word. It's an art.

A droplet of emotion. I dissolve into a puddle.

Can someone tell me if general anaesthetic causes melancholy?

Is melancholy a price we have to pay to make people happy?

Is there a name for this symptom? Have you tried an exterminator?


Turning anger into vengeance will blind even the brightest of stars.

Missed eagle day. It's all wolves and dragons.

I want a Wes Anderson kitchen and a Tim Burton bathroom. 

I am listening to some very deep music right now.

Every time I think about my ballet girls, I grow all melancholy.

I love my melancholy toast socks. Girls like talking to me.

Island of the sequined love nun. This dog is so melancholy.

I dislike these waves of melancholy that randomly wash over me.

The insufficient things I sought wet my painful cheeks.

This is supposed to be relaxing. Can I go back now?


My Ph. D., which I began at Edge Hill in 2012, is concerned with investigating the ways that digital technology can be used in the area of innovative poetry in general and in relation to conceptualism and the Oulipo in particular.

Computers, in the developed world at least, are so widespread as to be unavoidable. There are good and bad things about this. One thing is for sure is that whether we like it or not, computers are not going away. If King Canute were demonstrating the limits of his power today, he would not order the tide to turn back; he would try and delete himself from Facebook.

I am not a year zero zealot and I do not define my practice solely by the use of technology. In fact, I don’t define in that way at all. I am simply using what lies to hand. I am not interested in the machine per se, or in its undoubted capacity to produce dazzling artefacts. Trying to write a program that passes the Turing test by producing output that is indistinguishable from that of a human is a dead end. Human beings can write like human beings and there are over 7 billion of us. What I am interested in is what happens when technology is used as an adjunct to human practice. The pioneers of computer poetry had to book hours of ruinously expensive processing time on institutional mainframes. Now, we carry in our pockets devices many times more powerful than the machines that helped put people on the moon. Using a computer is no more remarkable than using an iron, a toaster or a lawnmower. The digital has become everyday. Programs and apps can be thought of as tools to be picked up and dropped in the way an artist might a tube of paint or a pair of scissors.

The work presented here, a selection from a 172 stanza re-imagining of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of  Melancholy,  was created using Twitter. In other works, I have used spreadsheets to cut up texts, database programs to re-configure and transform them and mobile phone technology to generate them. All the software I use is readily commercially available and whilst my skill level is probably above average, it is by no means stratospheric.

Many poets use technology, but more hold it in suspicion. Inherent in this is distrust not just of technology, but also of the value of procedure and process. Incorporating non-human elements into the creative process violates the still prevalent notion of the poet as seer whose proper focus is on the world within. I have no problem with confessional work or self-expression. Rather, it is my belief that self-expression is automatic and unavoidable and so need not be actively pursued like a rare and elusive beast. A musician is not being any less expressive when using a synthesiser than when using a piano or a lute. A poet is not being any less expressive when using an Android app than when using a typewriter or a quill. Poetry must engage with the world as it is in its totality. Digital technology is part of that world.

'The best link for me,' Tom says, 'is, which has links to everywhere else.' And here's an internal link to a piece Tom wrote in 2008, here.