This poem was a weird one. Not just for the title of “Lithium Autumn” (the fuck is that?) but for its inspiration and how it actually turned out. What’s cool to me is that creativity turns on from whatever tap you want it to. This tap was turned from Artificial Intelligence and ancient intelligence.
If you don’t wish to have another interpretation stuck in your head, read the poem at the link below first! If not, forge ahead!
Since this poem is such a weird one I guess I’ll start with the title. Part of the wording here in the 10th line it says “wine-colored spirits” which was a description akin to those that appear in ancient Greece works. I had been playing with the idea of incredible amounts of color, partially having dated someone who was total color colorblind, but also listening to a series called Radio Lab for an environmental studies class.
This was an episode of Radio Lab that was concerned with the idea that the color blue isn’t terribly naturally occurring. And that the perception of something would mean being aware that it existed. So in this instance, the Greeks most likely didn’t have a sense developed for the color blue. Where in their environment would they see it? Well, the sky and Mediterranean are obvious ones to point to. Though, when these entities are described in ancient Greek literary works, most commonly you see the phrase “wine-colored”, due to a deeper purple color most likely being seen by those Greeks.
Dealing with color and using it on its own to describe things can be an exercise in futility, because why would you describe something? To me, the color has the connotations. Like how some marketing using the color red has been shown by some psychological reports to be linked to hunger, color in art has its own meanings.
Based off of that idea of wine-colored blues and “my red isn’t the same as your red”, I came up with an autumnal scene on the verge of winter. What clear skies you would see on a wonderfully cold day such as one, say, in Western Washington. The amber leaves, the bloodshot tips, the silvery frost fog and glaze on the dead leaves. I’m in love with autumn, that’s no secret. So the challenge for me is to make autumn constantly an original thing like I’ve talked about with themes like death.
Every one has to be different. Else it becomes a cliche.
So this one is different when we reach the 4th stanza, “Where an android’s/Corruption”. What was once a color intensive scene of autumn is now introducing an android to the mix. Where the hell did that come from?
Two things, actually. Firstly, and least interestingly, was the Google AI DeepDream code. An AI that will take an image and reinterpret the images it detects into something you can see in a “deepdreamed” recreation of the original. This effect was popularly used on the San Francisco scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Search for it on YouTube, it’s pretty wild.
If you’ve ever used the AI, you can see what the next stanza is getting at: “Building temples/And seeing wolves”. That’s what the AI does, it fabricates things.
Out of the boring grey (described in the poem Elisabeth Ungrey), the AI “makes lines of rainbows as roads to the cities its eyes constructed”. Ending with the lines “A corrupted/Deep dream”. Corrupted in the eye of he who too closely holds the original image dear. Being afraid of change, to put it less verbosely.
Now what’s the second inspiration for androids? It’s an awfully specific word. I could have said program, software, exo, any number of things. I chose android because the androids are a driving force behind the city in “Virgo Olympus”. This poem is a callback to the plot thread that Virgo Olympus started.
Because Virgo Olympus was about something so dear to me at the time, this poem is about the destruction of the original image. The original things held dear. They have changed and you should let the reinterpretation enter your mind just the same.
In this sense, I believe Lithium Autumn to be a poem about doublethink and eagerness to see change.
On top of what I think is a gorgeous first stanza, but hey, I’m my number 1 fan and also the only person best at hating my own work. So this is one I like! I believe this is one of the strongest caliber poems I have loaded.
Plenty layered, but easy to understand when you break it down. I’ve been told before that a lot of my earlier work (see early Year Two) has the problem of having too much personal meaning to me and not being able to be parsed by anyone else easily without explanation.
With this poem I can definitively say I’ve broken the mold, and I think I’ve gotten a little bit better at describing autumn as it appears in new circumstances.
Hope you enjoyed this little breakdown of Lithium Autumn!