Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My First Decent PERL (-made) Poem

Finally, after months battling with it, I've managed to get good enough with PERL (still not very good) to create one of the programs I've wanted to make for some time. The poem below is the first 3 pages of what was 600-odd pages of output. I'll briefly try to explain the program. You can skip this and go straight to the poem if you want. The poem was made using an interview with Brian Kim Stefans called potentially suitable for running in a loop, Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, and Brontë's Jane Eyre.

The PERL script opens 5 plain text (.txt) files behind the scenes. Once open, it works out how many paragraphs there are in each, and works out the average number of paragraphs across the 5 files. The 6 values (number of paragraphs in each and the average) are noted by the code (this becomes important later).

In sequence, from text file #1 to #5, the following happens:

  • A random integer is chosen from 0 to whatever the number of paragraphs is present in that file, minus 1. So, for example, if a file contains 120 paragraphs, the random function will choose one number between 0 and 119. This is the allocated paragraph from which to source text. If 0 is chosen, I believe this results in a line break or two.
  • A random number is chosen, stating how many characters into this paragraph to begin sourcing the text. If the sentence were to begin "Once upon a time" and the number generated was 7, the output would begin "pon a time". The limit of this random number is assigned by me in the code as a variable, so can be changed easily. I think that the greater the number, the less likely to begin at the beginning of the paragraph.
  • In a similar way to above, the selection length, in characters, is chosen at random, again with a limit set by me. These limits for the random values are constant across the 5 files, although the random numbers themselves may differ from file to file.
  • Now that the paragraph number, selection start number and selection length have been set, these are applied to the files.
  • Each chunk of text is written to a separate output file.
  • Now that the file has been written into 5 times - once from each source file - the process is repeated until each writing of the 5 sources has been completed the same number of times as there are average paragraphs across the 5 files.
  • Phew!
I am in the process of writing through the results. Reading up on Brian Kim Stefans' thoughts on Computer Poems has really helped here in terms of conceptualising how much or little I do with the output, which varies from complete nonsense to full sentences. I cleaned up minimally the text I looked at. Some entire lines of text were deleted as seemed appropriate. I wanted the poem to hint at an air of subjective creation, whilst at the same time displacing the certainty of the language's purpose, keeping it very obvious that this was produced through algorithm. Making the poem as sensical or 'clean' as possible was therefore not my objective, and indeed sometimes I worked in opposition to this idea.

So here it is:


not a body of

as the last
cake shaved into fragmen

Bessie would rather have stayed, bu

e totality of exis
hearsay evidence.
Yes, exactly --

(i.e. we should have to be able t
and yet I know

of elementary proposition
Italy for political reasons (
your roo

together. There is
0251 Space, time, colour (being

"But you comprehend me?" he

a kind.
of log

thing about the animated De Camp
away. Not giving it a

; of that I was sure.


aim of the book is
a moment;
We know from your

from a false proposition.

making the persons
couldn’t perform the Ballet Mécan
we, the weary pilgrims of
oak; the staircase window was high

no more, it shadows the sta

had some

now have to answer a priori the
active habits; such is

coat i
chosen. But God sees not as man

glance over a world quivering

My spirit,"
was what I was trying to d

termined by the negated proposition. Th
ankle is sprained."


one else
ring the past year I had not managed
led under his feet: taking a f


(Negation reverses


the moonbeams; I heard onl
this sense that concrete

he schemata
yself from

in and not less noisy
Proof in logic
lf from the book which
had some extrem

purse; and the story is l


to spend with my mother
an instant; it began again, louder:

A table was
equality have the same

physically speak
interesting, never
consider a lecture, to consider it

assistance only
sir, she sees you!"

reside in the symbol

, 'Do this,' and it

is called bake and
A formal concept
survivors of a family of five

e world.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rounding up from my blogsitting, pt. 2

Friday, August 25, 2006

From kinemapoetics 1

I thought that seeing as I'm looking after Charlie's blog for the time being, I would copy over some of my posts, to make me feel a little better about keeping this blog up and running...>

Brian Kim Stefans has been producing work for some years now, and whereas a lot of online work tends to fall into extensions of print such as animated linear narratives or visually stunning yet formally pretty conventional poetry, Stefans’ works bear a conceptually interesting dialogue between language and the technology which is used to articulate it.

This is also distinct from poetry whose “theme” is technology itself. As above, this is interesting, but I think that Stefans’ work is more relevant to my personal investigations and poetic practice.

Stefans is perhaps best known for two online works. The first is The Dreamlife of Letters, a flash poem which seems to draw from concrete poetry in the respect that each “scene” is a self-contained, self-referential entity, often utilising text rather than using it, creating indeed dreamlike animations made of transforming texts. Interestingly, Stefans’ poem can, like concrete poetry, be taken in terms of its semantics, although these are bound to the formal makeup of the poem, creating often complex interpretations out of little more than a couple of words.

Detournement – the reworking of a recognised form against itself – plays a part in this engagement with the text, compounded all the way through by the fact that such an animation would not look out of place – to the unsuspecting reader – buried within a webpage full to bursting with animated web banners and square advertisements. The section below:

could be interpreted to death. The text, clearly spelling “(your”, also spells “(you”, whose sense of independence or self-ownership is undermined by the registration symbol tied to it. One could take this further, looking at such a statement in the wider context of consumerism and rights of privacy – a thorny, sticky issue in the online world, outside of which this poem could not exist effectively.

It doesn’t take long to become used to the formal style of
Dreamlife, and once this formal familiarity has been established, it becomes not only a semantically rich text, but a beautiful, mesmorising and at times a humorous one too. Flashy extras in the animation, floating, fading words and letters. This is a long poem, but I find it difficult, once started, to close it again.

Brian Kim Stefans is also somewhat famous for his detournement of the New York Times some time ago. For this, Stefans lifted the contents of the home page of NYT, adverts and all, and inserted his own text in place of the speeches of President Bush and Tony Blair. He was given a cease and desist order quicker than you can say “shut it”. What was interesting about this piece was not the reaction it got from officials, but more the concepts of appropriation which the piece raised. The internet, and digital technology in general, allows for precise duplication and non-destructive editing, allowing for interesting grounds for working with politically contentious materials, and making unique statements, using the object of critique against itself.

A few links, if you’ve read this far, which might interest you. Stefans also hosts the UBU Editions series, an incredible collection of freely downloadable PDFs by a range of diverse and amazing poets: http://www.ubu.com/ubu/index.html

Brian Kim Stefans' home page, Arras.net: http://www.arras.net/ which contains lots of his work. Some interesting ideas here, such as dot matrix concrete poetry, and a few online settings for chapbooks.

Free Space Comix, Stefans' blog: http://www.arras.net/fscIII/

I hope I haven't bored you to tears. Let's put it this way, if I have, Charlie will be back soon. And keep your chin up, as I'm working on a post devoted entirely to Project Runway. Oh yes, there's something for everybody here.

Thanks for listening!


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ghost Writing

I will be blogsitting for my good friend and queen of all things poetic and glittery, Charles Jensen, for the next week-and-a-bit.

Charlie is taking a speedboat to Phoenix airport, taking a flight to lake Michigan, rocketeering onto a moving train, from which he will roll onto a jetski and slalom his way onto a remote island in Wisconsin, safe from the cosmic rays of cell phone reception and wireless internet technology.

I will be using my time on kinemapoetics to offer some kind of overview of a digital poetics to anyone who might be interested. Subsequently, my contributions here might be sparser than usual, unless I have a particularly fertile week!

Oh, the URL:


Monday, August 14, 2006

It is (I find it) very difficult to write without stopping to think
going back
and returning to rewrite what was written before
so this is something of an experiment to see what the experience is like on the screen through a laptop
this interests me because of performance artists (are they poets? I think they are) of people like David Antin, Kenneth Goldsmith, others who I cannot remember right now without using Google
who combine a sense of situationism with a writerly practice
even in emails I feel the need to look over, revise
and eventually send after I have checked over at least once
but sometimes errors are telling - or perhaps
errors in speech or realtime typing
are not errors at all
what interests me about Antin is how, often, the talking becomes its own subject
when I sit down and force myself to write to my blog, I know
that I have to write SOMETHING
but I don't know what to write necessarily
and this in itself is interesting to me
because I have to think about writing itself and I have to stand back and think
about the conventions of writing which I feel obliged to fulfill
such as subject matter, and grammar and spelling which I am going to leave

and I think about anyone who might read this
which no-one possibly might
and the context in which I wrote this
which is an overly hot coffee shop in between a discussion on corporate poaching
and an already ample lady eating a cupcake
and everything I am writing is slightly flavoured with the fact that the wall immediately behind me is not only warm to the touch but emitting heat

Antin's talks are interesting because they are generated from basic criteria
and research
and they stem from there
they expand depending on a train of thought, perhaps the environment
but they always - I would argue - call themselves to attention as acts
both in terms of ACTion and AN ACT of artifice - the forum of the talk
Antin forces himself into a position in which he is expected to deliver something of value to some people who wish to receive something of value
he uses the desire-use value exchange of language as a site for its own investigation

I told a slight lie - I may go back on this, but only to add a link or two. Some Antin downloads can be found here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How2 New Issue

I have just uploaded the new issue of How2, and it's a massive, huge, varied and beautiful issue.

I feel I should plug the London section, being as it is coordinated by my supervisor, Redell Olsen, and in particular Frances Kruk and Lydia White, whose work features in this section and whom I taught last year for a short time. Not that my teaching is in any way reflected in the works presented here, which explore respectively (to my eye) a dirty concrete exploration of text through Xerox and degradation, and the combination of musical score, textual score and the tensions / agreements therein. Amazing stuff, and a great issue overall. This is saying something, since it is very easy to lose interest in the content of a web site you are producing, due to its repeated changes and repeated repetitional tautological cyclical repetition. Despite this, I'm still exctied to sit back with beer in hand and actually browse the issue intently.

Give it a whirl. Here's the proper launch info:


Launching a new issue of How2 journal...
Vol. 2 Issue 4

A galactic range of poems, critical reviews and papers... with special features on Pacific poetries, innovation in contemporary Indian writing, ‘outer alphabets’ and London innovation, forums on small press publishing and bookarts, contemporary Chinese poetry in translation and tributes to Barbara Guest

PACIFIC POETRIES + edited by Susan M. Schultz + featuring Tusiata Avia + Pam Brown + Faye Kicknosway + Selina Tusitala Marsh + Deborah Meadows + Meredith Quartermain + Barbara Jane Reyes + Shin Yu Pai + Hazel Smith + Teresia Teaiwa + Zhang Er + and an interview by Jane Sprague with Susan Schultz on ‘Tinfish Press’

INDIAN INNOVATION * edited by Mani Rao * featuring Jane Bhandari * Priya Surukkai Chabria * Sampurna Chattarji * Mamang Dai * Minal Hajratwala + Jam Ismail * Kavita Jindal * Smita Rajan * Mani Rao * Archna Sahni * Rati Saxena * Menka Shivdasani * Arundhathi Subramaniam

OUTER ALPHABETS = edited by Kate Fagan = featuring Jill Magi = Claire Hero = Chris Turnbull = Beth Bretl = Kristi Maxwell = Heather Woods = Marthe Reed = Evelyn Reilly = Mary Kasimor = Britta Kallevang = Arpine Grenier = A. K. Allin = Sascha Akhtar = Mary Michaels = Jennifer Firestone = Cristina Bellodi = Masha Tupitsyn = Megan Jones = Claire Potter = Marie Buck = Ellen Baxt = Jenny Boully = Bronwen Tate = Michelle Detorie = Sarah Vap = Sarah Dowling

LONDON CALLING + edited by Redell Olsen + featuring Rosheen Brennan + Emily Critchley + Kai Fierle-Hedrick + Kristen Kreider + Frances Kruk + Marianne Morris + Sophie Robinson + Lydia White

CONTEMPORARY CHINESE POETRY IN TRANSLATION = edited by Zhang Er and Chen Dongdong = featuring Cao Shuying = Lan Lan = Ma Lan = Tang Danhong = Zhang Er = Zhang Zhen = Zhao Xia = Zhou Za

BOOKARTS FEATURE * curated by Susan Johanknecht * with Sarah Jacobs * Lin Charlston * A C Berkheiser * Sharon Kivland * Heather Weston * Emily Artinian * Anna Trethewey

SMALL PRESS PUBLISHING FORUM = convened by Jane Sprague = Daniel Bouchard = Mary Burger = Allison Cobb = Kristen Gallagher = Jocelyn Saidenberg = Judith Goldman = Rachel Levitsky = Jill Magi = Bill Marsh = Anna Moschovakis = Elizabeth Robinson = Kaia Sand

Plus new work by Linda Mari Walker, Joyelle McSweeney, Ren Powell, Randall Couch

And reviews of Barbara Guest, Kathleen Fraser, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Brenda Iijima, Catherine Daly, Thalia Field, Andrea Baker, Catherine Wagner, Ann Lauterbach, Elizabeth Willis, Lisa Fishman, Pam Rehm & Gertrude Stein

Editor: Kate Fagan (Sydney)
Managing Editor: Redell Olsen (London)
Designer: John Sparrow (Arizona)

Please visit the new How archives: http://www.how2journal.com/archive/

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Revised rotating texts

A few posts ago, I posted a work in progress with rotating texts which emphasized subtexts contained within the body text. Here are two more (same texts) with photo backgrounds, which I reckon add some more contextual weight to the texts as they are produced...