Generative Poetics

Perl Poetry

There have been lots of analogies between writing code and writing poetry. At the very least there is similarity in the act of typing, a percussive spatial action that hammers out abstract rhythms on the keyboard. Check out Dakadaka from Group C for a visual representation. has an interesting paper that examines the relationship between poetry and code and idea of generative poetry. It correctly points out that the Dadaists and Surrealists were probably the first to use random numbers and chance systems to build complex automatic generative poetry. It further says:

‘All poetry might be seen to be generative in that it is always in the process of becoming. Even for the Surrealist Paul Valéry, a poem ‘entails a continuous linkage between the voice that is, the voice that impends, and the voice that is to come’. It is generative in the sense that it unfolds in real-time.’

Perl Poetry isn’t really generative as such but it’s really kinda cool.

‘Many Perl programmers are linguistically adept; the expressivity and flow of our language attracts people who enjoy the written word. Perl programmers also tend to have a lot of free time from getting their jobs done so quickly, and so it’s natural that they sometimes blend Perl and wordplay. One common manifestation of this whimsy is Perl poetry: a poem that also happens to be a functioning program.’

The Societyforpotentialliteratures is a collection of generative illustrations inspired by Oulipo – a form of generative poetry and literature. The illustrations combine both algorithmic reconstructions and manual deformations. Other works apply recursive algorithms to live video feeds.

Levitated has its 6bit Iching.poetry.generator – not to be missed.

‘The observer is allowed to make five state changes. State changes are made by selected active nodes in the circles. Active nodes are logically defined by changes in each of the hexagram’s six bits.

Energy particles stream from the position of the selecting mechanism.

English labels for each of the 64 states were written by hand, and are of great relevance to the meaning of the poem generated.

Words within the poem are generated behind the viewer. Slowly, each word comes into view as it travels a path through three dimensional space, in real time, as controlled by the observer. The words eventually destabilizes after traveling into the distance. Destabilized words behave erratically and fly off into oblivion.’

One Response to “Generative Poetics”

  1. Chris Peck writes:

    John Cage says “By means of Mesolist, a program by Jim Rosenberg, all words that satisfy the mesostic rule are listed. IC [a program that generates the I Ching numbers, available for downloading on the Net] then chooses which words in the lists are to be used and gives me all the central words, the position of each in the source material identified by page, line, and column. “

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