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Speech-to-text poems: ‘Ville’ and its sources

All the ‘speech-to-text’ poems in Urban Myths: 210 Poems (pp.300–311) were based on poems by Rimbaud, and were written in 2005. They were derived from rough first drafts obtained by reading aloud into a microphone attached to a computer, in French, poems by Arthur Rimbaud. The input was processed through Microsoft’s speech-to-text algorithms. As the speech-recognition program was trained to recognise only English speech (and that with an Australian accent!) the initial results bore a very oblique relation to the original texts, and in any case the poems were extensively reworked. Below, as an example, the three stages of the poem ‘Ville’ (not collected in Urban Myths: 210 Poems).
 — First, my poem ‘Hôtel de Ville’.
 — Below that, the raw text produced by Microsoft’s speech-to-text program when I read Rimbaud’s poem ‘Ville’, in French, into Microsoft Word 2003.
 — Beside that, Rimbaud’s prose-poem ‘Ville’, from the sequence of prose-poems ‘Les Illuminations’.
I have also added a prose English version of Rimbaud’s poem in Oliver Bernard’s excellent translation for the Penguin Classics edition.

 — J.T.


Hôtel de Ville


The kids should visit a history museum
in their senior year, to understand disgrace as
one form of Clinton’s victory. On the other hand
the European Community foreign debt gives
everybody bad dreams. So we do need to solve
the problem of students reading difficult things
that will lead them astray: why did Rimbaud
turn from socialism to capitalism? As if

it matters. We’d be delighted to have his uniform.
The name from the dish multiplies twenty black men.
We want to see all the modern art stuff, too.
Thank you. Press the button marked ‘monument’
and see what happens: a recorded voice says
‘I have wasted my life’,  and we pay to listen.

See note to line [14]
 

Ville, unedited speech-to-text


History museum in one form of Clinton’s victory onto natal wrote Coumadin are two key to call for new and exciting you don’t end it among the exterior them a song of CB incurred on the counter the EC foreign a senior year. Press the “monument assumes to see all the modern” so we do we do need to solve the spicy on sun is in the longer junkie known to be some do seconded from and none seem to be among the dead castle and make it into the ASA this accord be delighted to have his uniform 100 cases can news that the speak for all the way to get into quantity on the scene, then a financial issue with the speaker and noble over alone). Police did it the name from the dish up and multiple twenty black men can we get to that a new study invaded,” — PM up but the year to more could we seek to the Seahawks, Stacey the more fun to note that the fetus of all the more despair player in Germany clean it all go on the board of

Ville, by Arthur Rimbaud


Je suis un éphémère et point trop mécontent citoyen d’une métropole crue moderne, parce que tout goût connu a été éludé dans les ameublements et l’extérieur des maisons aussi bien que dans le plan de la ville. Ici vous ne signaleriez les traces d’aucun monument de superstition. La morale et la langue ont été réduites à leur plus simple expression, enfin! Ces millions de gens qui n’ont pas besoin de se connaître amènent si pareillement l’éducation, le métier et la vieillesse, que ce cours de vie doit être plusieurs fois moins long que ce qu’une statistique folle trouve pour les peuples du Continent. Aussi comme, de ma fenêtre, je vois des spectres nouveaux roulant à travers l’épaisse et éternelle fumée de charbon, — notre ombre des bois, notre nuit d’été! — des Érinnyes nouvelles, devant mon cottage qui est ma patrie et tout mon coeur puisque tout ici ressemble à ceci — la Mort sans pleurs, notre active fille et servante, un Amour désespéré et un joli Crime piaulant dans la boue de la rue.

 

Illuminations XV: City (Rimbaud)

I am an ephemeral and not at all too discontented citizen of a metropolis which is believed to be modern because every known taste has been avoided in the furnishing and the exteriors of the houses as well as in the layout of the city. Here you cannot point out the trace of a single monument to the past. Morals and language have been reduced to their simplest expression, in short! These millions of people who have no need to know each other carry on their education, their work, and their old age so similarly that the course of their lives must be several times shorter than the findings of absurd statistics allow the peoples of the continent. Thus, from my window, I see new apparitions roaming through the thick and endless coal-smoke—our woodland shade, our summer’s night!—new Erinnyes, in front of my cottage which is my country and my whole heart since everything here is like this: Death without tears, our active daughter and servant, a desperate Love and a pretty Crime whimpering in the mud of the street.


(Translated by Oliver Bernard for the Penguin Classics edition, ISBN 0-14-042064-9)

See note to line new Erinnyes

Note

Hôtel de Ville

14: ‘I have wasted my life’] A translation of a line from the opening stanza (and also from the sixth stanza, the last) of Rimbaud’s poem ‘Song of the Highest Tower’: Oisive jeunese / Á tout asservie, / Par délicatesse / j’ai perdu ma vie. (Idle youth, enslaved to everything, by being too sensitive I have wasted my life.)

Illuminations XV: City (Rimbaud)

new Erinnyes] Erinys, n., pl. Erinyes, Greek Mythology. Any of the Furies.