A Gysin & Sommerville Question

Thursday 27 November 2014, 1:30 pm   /////  

I recently released Memory Slam, a set of four reimplementation of classic text generators. I did them over in JavaScript and in Python in the hopes that people would easily be able to play around with them, modify them, and understand them better through this sort of use. I’ve seen a few cases in which this has been done already, but first off, please let me know if you’ve posted modified versions of these, as I would love to see more. The license terms do not oblige you to do so, of course, they are licensed as free software. I’m just asking.

One question that remains is exactly when the program that automatically permuted phrases was written by Ian Sommerville in collaboration with Brion Gysin. I’m very interested in finding this out, but I do have other projects that are keeping me from doing archival or even deep library research into this. After discussion on the original announcement post, I’ve made a few corrections to this sort of metadata, but I still can’t figure out when this permutation code was first written. And since I don’t know which texts are the first examples of output from these programs, I also can’t tell how the permutations were ordered by the program.

The poem “KICK THAT HABIT MAN” was written manually in 1959 and other permutation poems were broadcast by the BBC in 1960. “Around 1960″ is sometimes given as a date for the program or programs. However the Honeywell Series 200 Model 120, indicated in several places as the computer used, was not released until 1965. Please let me know if you know that a different computer was used or if you know the exact year in which the permutation poem programs were written.

And I can’t post something about these friends of William S. Burroughs, on Thanksgiving, without including this little prayer:

#! in San Antonio Fri 11/21 – #! in Austin Sat 11/22

Wednesday 19 November 2014, 2:58 pm   ///////  

I’m doing two Central Texas readings from my book of programs and poems #! this weekend:

San Antonio: The Twig Book Shop

Friday, Nov 21 at 5pm
The Twig Book Shop
in The Pearl (306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 106)

Austin: Monkeywrench Books

Saturday, Nov 22 at 4pm
Monkeywrench Books
(110 N Loop Blvd E)

#! (pronounced “shebang”) consists of poetic texts that are presented alongside the short computer programs that generated them. The poems, in new and existing forms, are inquiries into the features that make poetry recognizable as such, into code and computation, into ellipsis, and into the alphabet. Computer-generated poems have been composed by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville, Alison Knowles and James Tenney, Hugh Kenner and Joseph P. O’Rourke, Charles O. Hartman, and others. The works in #! engage with this tradition of more than 50 years and with constrained and conceptual writing. The book’s source code is also offered as free software. All of the text-generating code is presented so that it, too, can be read; it is all also made freely available for use in anyone’s future poetic projects.

Nick Montfort’s digital writing projects include Sea and Spar Between (with Stephanie Strickland) and The Deletionist (with Amaranth Borsuk and Jesper Juul). He developed the interactive fiction system Curveship and (with international collaborators) the large-scale story generation system Slant; was part of the group blog Grand Text Auto; wrote Ream, a 500-page poem, on a single day; organized Mystery House Taken Over, a collaborative “occupation” of a classic game; wrote Implementation, a novel on stickers, with Scott Rettberg; and wrote and programmed the interactive fictions Winchester’s Nightmare, Ad Verbum, and Book and Volume.

Montfort wrote the book of poems Riddle & Bind and co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story with Willliam Gillespie. The MIT Press has published four of Montfort’s collaborative and individually-authored books: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, and most recently 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, a collaboration with nine other authors that Montfort organized. He is faculty advisor for the Electronic Literature Organization, whose Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 he co-edited, and is associate professor of digital media at MIT.



Sunday 16 November 2014, 1:19 am   /////  


Memory Slam and Code Poetry at ITP

Saturday 15 November 2014, 3:12 am   /////  

I was delighted to be at the first NYU ITP Code Poetry Slam a few hours ago, on the evening of November 14, 2014. The work presented was quite various and also very compelling. Although I had an idea of what was to come (as a judge who had seen many of the entires) the performances and readings exceeded my high expectations.

A reading I did from historical computational poetry kicked off the event. I read from a new set of reimplementations, in JavaScript and Python, that I developed for the occasion. The set of four pages/Python programs is called Memory Slam. It contains:

Love Letters
Christopher Strachey, 1952

Stochastic Texts
Theo Lutz, 1959

Permutation Poems
Brion Gysin & Ian Somerville, 1960

A House of Dust
Alison Knowles & James Tenney, 1967

These are well-known pieces, at least among the few of us who are into early computational poetry. (Chris Funkhouser and his Prehistorical Digital Poetry is one reason we know these and their importance; Noah Wardrip-Fruin has also offered a great discussion of Love Letters, and Stephanie Strickland, who was in attendance at the slam, has done two collaborative poems based on A House of Dust, one with me and one with Ian Hatcher.) Some implementations exist already of many, perhaps all of them – although I did not find one for A House of Dust. My point in putting these together was not to do something unprecedented, but to provide reasonably clean, easily modifiable versions in two of today’s well-known languages. This will hopefully allow people, even without programming background, to learn about these programs through playing with them.

If I didn’t implement everything perfectly, these are explicitly free software and you should feel free to not only play with them but to improve them as well.


Thursday 13 November 2014, 11:14 pm   /////  

Nick Montfort discusses 10 PRINT etc.; photo from RISD's Future of Writing class, 2014-11-11

A System 5 Unix Experience for the Z80

Wednesday 5 November 2014, 12:42 pm   //////  

Alan Cox has just released Fuzix, a Unix-like OS for the Z80. The kernel runs in 40kb. Designed for portability, it’s been compiled on the 6502 and 6509, but further work will be needed to fully support those processors.

Zegar Światowy, the Polish World Clock

World Clock in Polish, displayed World Clock (book, code) has now been published in Polish. The translation is by Piotr Marecki, who translated the underlying novel-generating program and generated a new novel in Polish. ha!art is the publisher, and the book appears in the Liberatura series, which also includes some very distinguished titles: The Polish translations of Finnegans Wake and of Perec’s Life A User’s Manual, for instance.

The Polish World Clock on the shelf

Code Poetry Slam in NYC Seeks Entries

Monday 22 September 2014, 7:10 pm   ///////  

ITP (the Interactive Telecommunications Program) at NYU is having a Code Poetry Slam on November 14. And they are seeking entries now! Send them along no later than November 7.

Shakepeare, coding away

10 PRINT in Paperback

Thursday 18 September 2014, 12:33 am   ////////  

Hey, lookit here. Not only is 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (by Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter, MIT Press, 2013) available for free online as a Creative Commons PDF, and available in the original harback edition that MIT Press published, it’s also now in paperback.

10 PRINT paperback

The paperback looks beautiful, by the way, thanks to the design work and attention of our co-author Casey Reas.

Here’s the MIT Press page with both the hardcover and the paperback.

This Thursday! In Stereo!

Monday 15 September 2014, 11:52 pm   ///////  

I will be reading from and discussing three recent books this Thursday at 7pm the Harvard Book Store here in sunny Cambridge, Massachusetts. These are:

Counterpath Press, Denver
a book of programs & poems (pronounced “shebang”)

World Clock
Bad Quarto, Cambridge
a computer-generated novel

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
MIT Press, Cambridge
a collaboration with nine others that I organized, now out in paperback

These all express how programming can be used for poetic purposes, and how new aesthetic possibilities can arise with the help of computing. Also, some portions of these (which I’ll read from) are quite pleasing to read aloud and to hear.

I would love it if you are able to join me on Thursday.

Reading of #! etc. September 18, Harvard Book Store

Thursday 11 September 2014, 9:13 am   ////////  

I’m reading at the Harvard Book Store on September 18 – a week from now, on Thursday. The reading is at 7pm.

I’ll be presenting and reading from my latest book, #! (pronounced “shebang”), which is a book of programs and poems, published by Counterpath Press in Denver.

I’ll also discuss my previous two books, one of which is World Clock. I developed this for National Novel Generation Month last November; it’s a computer-generated novel. Cleverly enough, it’s been translated into Polish via translation of the underlying program.

The other recent book is 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, which I organized and wrote with nine others. This one, an MIT Press book, is just out in paperback. This is a critical, scholarly study of a one-line program, and although it is an academic book of this sort, it of course has a strong relationship to the code-generated World Clock and the programs-and-poems #!.

The programs behind #!, by the way, are all available online as free software at my site, nickm.com. The book is there as an example of how this particular material form can represent the code and the output, and how page differs from screen, sometimes in very interesting ways.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Harvard Square often, please do come by to the reading. I will do my best to make it fun and provocative, and to provide some additional insight into computing and how it interacts with language.

#! Bops Up to #4 … Shebang, Shebang …

Thursday 4 September 2014, 12:51 pm   //////  

My recent book #! (pronounced Shebang) made it to #4 on the August 2014 SPD Poetry Bestseller List.

Another Nod to BASIC

Thursday 4 September 2014, 12:09 am   /////  

Doug Orleans pointed me to “Lost Lessons from 8-Bit BASIC,” a blog post that makes the case that there were real, practical advantages to the much-maligned BASIC programming langauge, at least in the context of the home computer era.

Texto Digital Seeks Papers (in Many Languages)

A correspondent in Brazil sends news of a new call for papers in the journal Texto Digital. The recent issues have been almost entirely in Portuguese, but the journal is reaching out and seeking submissions in several languages. I think you can tell from the title (even if your Portuguese is a bit rusty) that this publication focuses on some very Post Position (and Grand Texto Auto) sorts of topics. Here’s the call:

Texto Digital is a peer-reviewed electronic academic journal, published twice annually in June and December by the Center for Research in Informatics, Literature and Linguistics – NuPILL (http://www.nupill.org/), linked to the Postgraduate Program in Literature, the Department of Vernacular Language and Literatures and the Center of Communication and Expression at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil.

Texto Digital publishes original articles in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Catalan which discuss several theoretical implications related to the texts created/inserted in electronic and digital media.

Interdisciplinary by nature and range, as implied in its title with the words “text” and “digital”, the journal embraces the fields of Literature, Linguistics, Education, Arts, Computing and others, in their relation to the digital medium, yet without privileging any specific critical approach or methodology.

In addition to the Articles Section, Texto Digital presents specific sections destined on publishing digital works of art, as well as interviews with recognized researchers and / or digital artists.

Once submitted, all articles that meet the general scope of the journal and its guidelines will be considered for peer-review publication, even in case of issues that may favor some particular subject-matter.


Texto Digital, the electronic journal published by the Center for Research in Informatics, Literature and Linguistics (NuPILL) at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil, informs that submissions for articles are open until October 15th, 2014.

We accept papers that analyse the relationships of digital media with one or more of the following subjects: Literature, teaching processes (reading and writing in particular, but not restricted to), language studies and arts in general. Accepted papers will be published in our our December issue (n.2/2014).

Submissions for our journal are open on a continuous flow basis since September 1st, 2014, for academic papers that fit its scope. Our publication standards and guidelines are available at:. https://periodicos.ufsc.br/index.php/textodigital/about/submissions#authorGuidelines. Only papers in accordance with such criteria will be accepted.

#! Makes July’s SPD Bestseller List

Thursday 7 August 2014, 3:16 pm   /////  

#! ('Shebang')I was delighted to see that my latest book, #!, a book of programs & poems, made the July Poetry bestseller list for Small Press Distribution. SPD is the distributor for my press, Counterpath, along with many other fine presses that publish poetry. #! (which is pronounced “Shebang”) came in at lucky number 13 last month.

It’s particularly nice to see since the book was just becoming available online and in bookstores around the middle of the month, and given that if you search for the book by title on Amazon.com you get 47,921,926 results, presumably due to the title having no letters or numbers. (You can search for it using my name.) There’s also the issue that the book consists entirely of short computer programs and their outputs, which I think is very neat, but which some believe to be a bit esoteric. Actually, I hope the book is rather intelligible and fun, by connecting some of the popular programming of the 1970s and 1980s to contemporary conceptual writing and poetry.

By the way, if you are having trouble getting the book from a local store or online, you can order it directly from SPD.

While I read some from #! in Michigan recently at the Postscript symposium and exhibit, I’ll be beginning to do readings in earnest next month. The first one is planned for September 18, 7pm, at the Harvard Book Store. More on that soon…

Stalking the Wily #!

Tuesday 15 July 2014, 12:05 am   //////  

If you’ve been looking for my latest book, #!, and are looking to buy it online, check isbn.nu. At the moment of posting, it’s available from three sellers, one on pre-order. Barnes & Noble is the bookseller with the lowest price and fastest delivery; Amazon.com offers to get it to you 3-4 weeks later.

In Cambridge, I have yet to see the book on shelves, but I know copies are at least on order (if not readied for purchase) at the MIT Press Bookstore and the Harvard Bookstore. And, Grolier Poetry Book Shop also had a few copies.

Update, July 17, 5pm: The local place to get a copy of #!, at the moment, is the MIT Press Bookstore. That’s at 292 Main Street, right outside the Kendall T stop. This is the MIT Press Bookstore, not the MIT Coop, and in the “Faculty Authors” section they do currently stock copies of my latest book.

Update, July 18, 1pm: B&N no longer has the book listed for whatever reason. It can be obtained online, right now, from Small Press Distribution, though.

#! is Published

Wednesday 25 June 2014, 12:56 pm   ////////  

Cover of #! (pronounced 'Shebang')

My new book of programs/poems, #! (pronounced “Shebang”), has just been published by Counterpath.

Read all about it on the press’s page for #!.

The book consists of poetic programs and their outputs. The programs in the book are all free software, and in case you don’t want to type them in, the longer ones are all available in my “code” directory.

I hope you’ll get a copy at your local independent bookseller.

Shebang (#!) with wine

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