seven years by Alyssa Harmon | Book Review

Author: Alyssa Harmon

Publisher: Self-Published

Published: October 11, 2022

Genres: Poetry, Relationships, Self-Help

Pages: 121

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“notice the labyrinth you feel… open your eyes.” – Alyssa Harmon

Love is not an exact science. To call love a science at all seems paradoxically counterproductive to the matters in the right hemisphere of our brain. Our second brain, the heart, attempts to make sense of emotions, searches for meaning between lines that were crossed. Justifications and expectations become muddled in the journey of the heart if one does not learn how to love themselves and the necessity of change. Love of another, unrequited love, and wanting to be loved a certain way have the potential to descend into selfish cases of bitterness. Reading the debut poetry collection seven years by Alyssa Harmon shows that heartbreak contends with healing in a conquest for change and consistency.

The title refers to the interval of time in which human cells are replaced. The poems are collected into corresponding years, each with their own mix of emotions. As a nonlinear narrative, the theme of change being the only constant is felt. The trauma of memory is accounted for in “some things never change” and “dog tag.” The first a longing for what was good or promising, and the latter a symbol, an albatross, of a militant background or pensiveness without being spurious. Similarly, “memorial day” deals with memory and history, what was and what is left behind. Harmon succeeds at capturing how one can easily overthink (sugarcoat or soil) the bad and good memories, the hindsight and foresight.

Imagery about heartbreak lends itself to cliché too often, however. In “tsundoku,” the idea of not letting go or returning to the same story is conveyed with a literal metaphor of books. Again, in “cereal boxes” love for the prize inside would be sincere if it was not compared to a toy one could play with. Unless they are strictly showing the hurt that can corrupt a person amidst heartbreak, comparisons like these are missed opportunities to show more of what an idea has to offer. Call a person the same old story, but what about the people who are books in the world that is a library? Ideas stop in the middle of development for what seems to be confessional pity parties. Heartbreak (cold, justifiable, yet hypocritically passive-aggressive in tone) obstructs the healing within most of the poems. Brevity as wit comes off as lack and explanation as clarity instead lingers in some cases throughout the years.

Much of it leads to confusion, a feeling one with heartbreak would come across, but it rarely evolves or explores that confusion. Some poems settle for obvious imagery that are familiar and nostalgic at the risk of being juvenile. Being stuck in the past becomes too repetitive, self-involved, and self-referential for healing to take place. Is it a necessary phase in the healing process? Granted growth happens after hesitancy, denial, and leaving ego at the door, there is still a stage that has not been reached or held onto: acceptance. Accepting the fact that everything and everyone is a work in progress, seven years is a mixed bag still making its way out of the bag.

Final Rating:

Red/Blue Pill

UPDATE: Tin Man Takes Turing Test: May Have A Heart

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Copyright 2015 Annelise Capossela

UPDATE (June 29, 2016):

The results are in as June 27 and the machines won (at least in my case). NPR recently covered the Dartmouth Digital Arts Exhibition where computers and artists were contested to see if we could judge if it was the work of man or machine. I’ve taken the test and I thought most of them were machines. I’m not sure if that’s me wanting robot friends but needless to say the sonnets were hard to distinguish the first few reads. Try and see if you can do the same!

ORIGINAL STORY:

Machines might be able to produce creative works of art and we are letting them. Not to worry, this isn’t Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot coming into fruition. Coincidentally enough, the three laws of robotics happened around the same time as the Turing Test in 1950. Introduced by computer scientist Alan Turing, the test measures a computer’s capability to perform automatic computing or self-management. The traditional outcome of the test proved that mathematics would not be able to choose or discern computations’ purposes. It shows but does not tell any meaning from crunched numbers and information.

The Dartmouth College Neukom Institute for Computational Science wants to prove otherwise. The goal is to program an artificial intelligence with human intelligence to show a reflection of the self. It might even show where improvements can be made. The Turing Test will disguise the computer as human to see if the computer can be as accurate as humans without human input. Three tests in the arts will be administered and judged: DigiLit, PoetiX, and AlgoRhythms, each attempting to match the human quality of a short story, sonnet, and dance music mix respectively.

Again, the study is not out to replace humankind. The tests will see how comparable a machine is to a person when creativity is concerned and if a computer can trick us into thinking a human’s output of work was given. AlgoRhythms seems to be the forerunner of the tests as far as computing goes. I don’t imagine much technique involved or taking too long to compute desirable frequencies and sounds. If the robotic shoe fits… As for DigiLit and PoetiX, there is more to be said. Words are ambiguous and deal in multiplicity. The preferred word or choice word might have a favored definition over another. Just the same, words might be synonymous with other words that could serve as replacement and that may be where the machine falters. Sonnets would have a better chance of concealing identity given the rhythm and line count of iambic pentameter. Short stories are more predictable as a single word or phrase could reveal the storyteller.

Is that a reflection of the self then? If we give the machine human input to start computing on its own, it is arguable to say that the machine was never truly anonymous like a human to begin with. The computer is built by a human and is therefore only made durable as the human who made it. I wouldn’t say this is a loophole or obvious limitation on the computer’s behalf. Sentient machines have been talked about and it sounds like they can only be made sentient if they have that point of reference, that initial human input. One machine would have the quality of being human but not become the quintessence of human beings. It indirectly creates these other sentient machines but from that first human’s input, forming a recycled pattern of human similarities, not actualities. The potential conflict is man against man, but is vicariously lived through machine against machine. Then there’s the uncanny valley, but that’s a different kind of unnerving.

So does this tin-man have a heart?

Submissions were due April 15 and from The Washinton Post‘s Nancy Szokan, the results will be held at Dartmouth’s Digital Arts Exhibition on May 18.