Pins & Needles No. 33: Rachel Zavecz

Pins & Needles

bad wolf
© A.T. Velazco

No. 33: Rachel Zavecz

Q. In addition to the linguistic hyperdrive pirouetting through “Six” (“wetly the blooded stump (fanging hotly whitened nails into the/ maiden’s wrist): replacing with melted steel and plasma silicone/ sheathes miasmic petting honey and attractive trills”), my other favorite characteristic is the random placement of each poem’s first letter at various spaces on the page. Was this more of a dance or risk?

These letters are a viral manifestation, swarming across the digital screen of the fairy tale. The ornate “O” of “Once upon a time” that frequently begins the telling of many fairy-tale stories has become starker, harder and variant. The letters detach and autonomize, begin to infect the clarity of narrative and physicality of the neatly boxed text. How does text move and generate inside a digital mainframe, an immeasurable landscape of code? As the fairy-tale form moves forward into a world of screens, machines and increasing digitization, the risk of infection and mutation increases. At their most basic level, these letters have the potential to symbolically represent the hungry virus described in the loose narrative of the poems, but they are also a symptom of the text’s own physical infection. These letters are dangerous.

Q. A noun, an adjective and a verb find themselves in an as yet unwritten line of a Rachel Zavecz poem. What can they expect?

Well, among other things, an identity crisis. The function of a word is working best for me when it can be seen as both fluid and multiple. Verbs are sometimes nouns, nouns become adjectives—it’s a controlled disease where each word infects and is infected by its surrounding text. I attempt to manipulate language and placement to create a layered space where no single reality or perception can claim supremacy, just as a line of code can exist in infinite shades of modification simultaneously. In some ways, I see it as a kind of linguistic violence that preys on expectation – words are disrupted and violated, grammatical structure asserts and reasserts itself only to reveal how brutally it can be slit open and savaged.

Q. “he creates them six electric children organized into/ two rows by three…” How long until artificial intelligence codes its own fairy tale?

I’m fairly certain it already has. Google’s “Inceptionism” technique supposedly reveals the dreams of its most advanced AI system and I’d say the results feel distinctly fantastic. It’s fascinating to see the system learn and create images that are both surreal and bizarre, but still uncomfortably recognizable. If a fairy tale can function as a mirror, what then do these images say about the nature of neural networks and artificial intelligence? Or, if we say that the fairy-tale form is more like a vessel to be filled with individual experience and identity, with what would an artificial intelligence fill this vessel? We live in an extremely exciting moment of technological history, where the creation of a self-sufficient AI seems entirely inevitable. And if we can use this AI’s dreams to study the creative process (as was suggested by Google’s team), then it’s not inconceivable to say that we may have already created the prototype for artistic consciousness.

Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Poetry Editor Jon Riccio.

Rachel Zavecz’s “Six” appears in The Mauve Issue of Fairy Tale Review.

an excerpt from “Six”

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