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Q: Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.
A: Count me out on this one. I never could write poetry.
-- Alan Turing
Thanks to Evan and John for starting us off, and to everyone for your insights, and questions.
I want to begin by a small note on digital communication, intimacy, and ephemera. I've been moved by how intellectual, creative, and political occurs online, the poetics of it, which I think lends itself to the ephemeral nature of these conversations that spark ideas, and movements.
Forums like this, and others that we find at HASTAC, and --empyre-- for example, have facilitated new ways of thinking, engaging on digital topics. I find it important to think about the particular "digital landscape" in which we form these discussions, especially since much of the intersections on creative and critical code tends to happen in these digital, avant, moonlighting spaces, where transgression and mutations are encouraged, and ignited.
For my part, I want to share some ideas and examples of the intersection between code and poetry that have come up from the past year, and share from my current book of poetry which engaged with code and the robot. So primarily I will discuss code through my work as a poet. It has been an ongoing investigation of this idea of invented languages.
The question that outlines my poetry collection Love, Robot, which is a science fiction poetry collection of a world that robots and humans fall in and out of love, includes the intersection of code and poetry.
The following below is simply a series of gestures, and I look forward to the conversation.
Two articles I recently wrote from seemingly disparate forums may help articulate some of my current ideas and questions:
Two seemingly disparate publications, the Association for Computing Machinery graduate student magazine XRDS, and Poets & Writers, the publication for creative writers.
In the first article for ACM, I primarily address graduate students in computer science and ask to think about the humanities and poetry in their work. I also share how the poetics is an ongoing response to Alan Turing's "Computer Machinery and Intelligence:" "Can Machines Think?" and "I could never write poetry." I think these two quotes from Turing helps us think about the connections/transgressions/separations of code and poetics in important ways.
The article for Poets and Writers articulate how research can help the poem's formation, and I draw on my research process for writing the poetry. Both articulations, I hoped, would help bridge the intersections of poetics and technology, or code.
Another quote from William Carlos Williams to think with: "A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words."
I want to also gesture to Helen Vender's writing on poets, and particular "Poet's Thinking:"
"In short, the relation of poetry to thought is an uneasy one. Some law
other than the conduct of an argument is always governing a poem, even
when the poem purports to be relating the undolfing of thought. On the
other hand, even when a poem seems to be spontaneous outburst of
feeling, it is being directed, as a feat of ordered language, but
something one can only call thought."
Here, Vendler is interested in how poets think through their poetry, by
grouping together four poets-- Dickinson, Pope, Whitman, and Yeats--she
argues how poets embody a process of thinking, that is original, and
unique to the poet.
As Vendler writes, "My question--by what means does a poet reproduce an
individual and characteristic process of thinking? -- can be addressed
to any work."
Question: How can we think of the "codes" in poetics?
When I was a graduate student, I was researching the cultural history of robotics quite heavily, and turned to robotics code. I found code beautiful. As I was writing my collection, the idea of logics and pattern from Vender, along with the aesthetics of code inspired me to write codes in my poetic work. Largely these codes, go alongside the narrative poems I wrote. Later, I draw upon chatscripts as poems.
For example, here is the narrative poem Beam, Robot:
Then the algorithm that is included in the book, but not in the magazine publication:
Other provocations and examples. I will turn humbly to Mark Marino, who has always been an inspiring model of the intersection of the humanities/science, through his creative and critical code work. We recently had a reading at the Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles where Mark translated the code in my poem "Sleep, Robot," "Algorithm, Sleep":
Language: Chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken chicken Input Dream
Language: HODOR hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor hodor Input Dream
I also want to ask about the tangible poetics of coding? Outside the GUI and into the TUI.
The poetry of soldering?
I want to end these gestures with a note on community and writing prompts, so for those who want to engage can create their own code poems. Oftentimes, there is a romance to communities that can fail, and often fails. But I am buoyed by the possibility of conversation, as ephemeral it can be.
We must constantly strive towards it.