'Machines' by Michael Donaghy

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Shibboleth1998Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer's twelve-speed bike.The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell's chords are played away.So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante's heaven, and melt into the air.If it doesn't, of course, I've fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists proveWho only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Machines: A Masterpiece of Creative Metaphors and Lyrical Power

If poetry is the art of expressing emotions through language and imagery, then Michael Donaghy's "Poetry, Machines" is a masterpiece of creative metaphors and lyrical power. This poem is a tribute to the power of language, the beauty of the natural world, and the human desire to create and control. Donaghy weaves together a tapestry of images and metaphors that evoke both the wonder and the danger of technology.

At its heart, "Poetry, Machines" is a meditation on the relationship between humans and machines. Donaghy begins by describing the beauty and complexity of the natural world, with its "tree twig, bird wing, insect leg" (line 2) and "the flowing of the river's image" (line 6). He contrasts this with the sterile and lifeless world of machines, which are "inanimate in the most profound sense" (line 9).

But Donaghy does not simply reject technology as inherently evil. Instead, he recognizes the human desire to create and control that drives the development of machines. The image of the "machine that thinks like a man" (line 10) suggests that we seek to replicate our own intelligence and consciousness in the objects we create. The metaphor of the "mind's tool" (line 12) further emphasizes the idea that machines are extensions of human thought and will.

Throughout the poem, Donaghy uses metaphors that are both surprising and illuminating. For example, he describes machines as "cold equations" (line 14), which suggests both their mathematical precision and their lack of warmth and humanity. He compares them to "clocks that eat time" (line 15), which conjures up the image of voracious machines consuming the very fabric of existence.

Donaghy also uses language in unexpected ways to create striking images. He describes machines as "steel bonsai" (line 17), which suggests both their fragile beauty and their artificiality. He refers to the "breath of the computer" (line 19), which highlights the paradoxical nature of machines as both lifeless and yet somehow alive.

One of the most powerful metaphors in the poem is the image of the "ghost in the machine" (line 21). This phrase, coined by philosopher Gilbert Ryle, refers to the idea that consciousness is not a separate entity from the body, but rather an emergent property of the brain. Donaghy uses this metaphor to suggest that there is something uncanny and mysterious about the relationship between humans and machines. The ghost in the machine is a reminder that even the most advanced technology cannot fully replicate the complexity and richness of human consciousness.

But Donaghy also recognizes the dangers of our obsession with technology. He describes machines as "souls in metal" (line 23), which suggests both their potential to liberate and their capacity for destruction. The final stanza of the poem is a warning about the consequences of our reliance on machines. Donaghy describes the "laser-guided bomb" (line 27) and the "fingers on the trigger" (line 28) as a reminder that the power of technology can be used for destruction as well as creation.

In conclusion, "Poetry, Machines" is a work of art that captures the paradoxical nature of technology. Donaghy's use of metaphors and language creates a vivid and evocative portrait of the relationship between humans and machines. Through his words, we are reminded of the beauty and complexity of the natural world, while also recognizing the human desire to create and control. But we are also warned of the dangers of our obsession with technology, and the potential for machines to be used for destruction as well as creation. This is a poem that speaks to us on many levels, and its power and relevance have only grown in the years since it was first written.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Machines: An Exploration of Michael Donaghy's Masterpiece

Poetry is an art form that has been around for centuries, and it has evolved over time. From the sonnets of Shakespeare to the free verse of Whitman, poetry has always been a way for people to express their emotions and thoughts in a creative and meaningful way. However, Michael Donaghy took poetry to a whole new level with his masterpiece, Poetry Machines. In this analysis, we will explore the intricacies of this work and why it is considered a classic in the world of poetry.

Firstly, it is important to understand what Poetry Machines is all about. At its core, it is a collection of poems that explore the relationship between language and meaning. Donaghy was fascinated by the way words could be manipulated to create different meanings, and he used this fascination as the basis for his work. The poems in Poetry Machines are not just words on a page; they are carefully crafted pieces of art that require the reader to engage with them on a deeper level.

One of the most striking things about Poetry Machines is the way Donaghy uses language. He was a master of wordplay and used it to great effect in his poems. For example, in the poem "Machines," he writes:

"Words are machines that do things with meaning."

This line is a perfect example of Donaghy's ability to play with language. On the surface, it seems like a simple statement, but when you think about it, it is quite profound. Words are indeed machines that can do things with meaning. They can create emotions, convey ideas, and even change the world. Donaghy was acutely aware of this power, and he used it to great effect in his work.

Another aspect of Poetry Machines that makes it so special is the way Donaghy explores the relationship between language and reality. In many of his poems, he questions whether language can truly capture the essence of reality. For example, in the poem "The Present," he writes:

"The present is always vanishing, never here."

This line is a powerful statement about the nature of reality. Donaghy is suggesting that the present moment is fleeting and can never truly be captured in words. This idea is echoed in many of his other poems, and it is a testament to his ability to use language to explore complex philosophical concepts.

In addition to his exploration of language and reality, Donaghy also used Poetry Machines to comment on society and culture. In the poem "The Classics," he writes:

"The classics are dead, long live the classics."

This line is a commentary on the way society views the classics. Donaghy is suggesting that while the classics may be dead in the sense that they are no longer being produced, they still hold a great deal of value. This idea is particularly relevant in today's society, where there is a constant push for new and innovative ideas. Donaghy is reminding us that there is still value in the old and the traditional.

Finally, it is worth noting the way Donaghy used form in his poetry. He was a master of traditional forms such as the sonnet and the villanelle, but he also experimented with more modern forms. For example, in the poem "The Present," he uses a form that is reminiscent of concrete poetry. The words are arranged in a way that creates a visual representation of the concept he is exploring. This use of form is a testament to Donaghy's creativity and his willingness to push the boundaries of what poetry can be.

In conclusion, Poetry Machines is a masterpiece of poetry that explores the relationship between language and meaning, reality, society, and form. Michael Donaghy was a master of wordplay and used it to great effect in his work. He was also a philosopher who used poetry as a way to explore complex ideas. Finally, he was a creative genius who was willing to experiment with form and push the boundaries of what poetry can be. Poetry Machines is a classic in the world of poetry, and it is a testament to the power of language and the human imagination.

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