Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

What in the hell is Machine Poetry?  I've studied it a fair amount, and I still don't have a concise definition.

There are two musical examples of it in the Rice tutor, one by young Frank B. Converse, on page 38, the other by veteran Dan Emmit, on page 48, entitled "Oh, Ladies All."  Joe Ayers recorded that one and a few of us play it, I believe.  The Converse example doesn't really make sense to me.  The eighth and ninth measures, you just s'posed to sing one note, or maybe it fades into spoken word, like a rap or something?  I can't figure it out.

The best definition I can give of machine poetry is that it's rhyme without reason, theme or motif, just nonsense.

Some examples from Google books:

Kind of a definition:

I get the feeling that everyone knew what machine poetry was -- seems to have served as an analogy for all sorts of things, as here: 

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Sorta what I just said....
With a little elaboration...

I'd like to see that cover...can't find it anywhere.

I'm not sure how a performance of these was long ago, but I am enjoying playing it now. I like the accompaniment set out in Rice....Ayers version very good. It is a sample of adapting a line to  a voice....shifting an  octave and  changing an  interval for preference.


FF many years....Jon Anderson and Yes.

Let's keep to period documentation shall we. One Drop of Blood is a 2001 book quoting a 1962 book that does not cite a definition of "machine poetry."  As a matter of fact, Nathan goes on to presume what he might think "machine poet" could mean.  He thinks it "might mean 'poet and genius of the age.'"  But we cannot blame him, he did not have a machine with which he could search countless books with a few key strokes from his house (and in his pajamas like me).


My look into this was brief, but nothing lead me to believe that it was a complement, when it was used quite opposite in period writings.

Let's keep to period documentation shall we.


Why? There isn't that much. Let's look at as much as possible. 

Just look at the ideas of banjo history in the 1960s.  The wonderfully incorrect Scruggs' book comes to mind.  Nathan wrote that he did not really know what it meant- thus he may be more wrong than right. 


We have more at hand than he did.  From the time, not about it, that is the way to go.  I used to sit down and write up all the mistakes I could find in a book about an era... then I just stopped reading them.  Most of what I would find was misinterpreting the era.  Not knowing what something was and making a conclusion based on modern influences.


And if you need more I know of a great book on the history of the toilet.



Reading through these many period examples and references I get a sense that machine poetry was just 'comically bad poetry.'


And what Emmett and Converse did with it was a kind of specialized version of machine poetry-- with the blackface element not usually found in written prose.  They represent an "ignorant darkey" whose attempts to rival Byron and Shelley are bound to end up badly.  ('Course, this is just my opinion--I may be completely (or partially) off base here).


Come to think of it, we don't really have that many examples of minstrel machine poetry, do we?  The two Rice examples, and a couple of written examples of Emmett's work, is about it (That I know of).  Maybe this was just an 'Emmett' thing?


Just one more example of garden-variety machine poetry... this one a good Civil War example about the Battle of Stones River, which was a close-run Union victory.




They represent an "ignorant darkey" whose attempts to rival Byron and Shelley are bound to end up badly.


I think this may be the point. 

But I rather like History ob de World.  Who knew that Noah's Arc landed on the Allegany Mountains?

I hope somebody finds that sheet music cover...I'd love to see it.


More banjo machine peotry to add to what little we have.

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