Sea and Spar Between 1.0.1

Stephanie Strickland and I published the first version of Sea and Spar Between in 2010, in Dear Navigator, a journal no longer online. In 2013 The Winter Anthology republished it. That year we also provided another version of this poetry system for Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ), cut to fit the toolspun course, identical in terms of how it functions but including, in comments within the code, what is essentially a paper about the detailed workings of the system. In those comments, we wrote:

The following syllables, which were commonly used as words by either Melville or Dickinson, are combined by the generator into compound words.

However, due to a programming error, that was not the case. In what we will now have to call Sea and Spar Between 1, the line:


does not accomplish the purpose of adding the Melville one-syllable words to the variable syllable. It should have been:

syllable = syllable.concat(melvilleSyllable);

I noticed this omission only years later. As a result, the compound or kenning “toolspun” never was actually produced in any existing version of Sea and Spar Between, including the one available here on This was a frustrating situation, but after Stephanie and I discussed it briefly, we decided that we would wait to consider an updated version until this defect was discovered by someone else, such as a critic or translator.

It took a while, but a close reading of Sea and Spar Between by Aaron Pinnix, who considered the system’s output rather than its code, has finally brought this to the surface. Pinnix is writing a critique of several ocean-based works in his Fordham dissertation. We express our gratitude to him.

The result of adding 11 characters to the code (obviously a minor sort of bug fix, from that perspective) makes a significant difference (to us, at least!) in the workings of the system and the text that is produced. It restores our intention to bring Dickinson’s and Melville’s language together in this aspect of text generation. We ask that everyone reading Sea and Spar Between use the current version.

Updated 2020-02-02: Version 1.0.2 is now out, as explained in this post.

We do not have the ability to change the system as it is published in The Winter Anthology or DHQ, so we are presenting Sea and Spar Between 1.0.1 1.0.2 here on The JavaScript and the “How to Read” page indicate that this version, which replaces the previous one, is 1.0.1 1.0.2.

Updated 2020-02-02: Version 1.0.2 is the current one now and the one which we endorse. If you wish to study or modify the code in Sea and Spar Between and would like the convenience of downloading a zipfile, please use this version 1.0.2.

Previous versions, not endorsed by us: Version 1 zipfile, and version 1.0.1 zipfile. These would be only of very specialized interest!

Incidentally, there was another mistake in the code that we discovered after the 2010 publication and before we finished the highly commented DHQ version. We decided not to alter this part of the program, as we still approved of the way the system functioned. Those interested are invited to read the comments beginning “While the previous function does produce such lines” in cut to fit the toolspun course.

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