“Bullet” and Poem without Suffering

A bullet
Discussed in this review: “Bullet,” David Byrne, American Utopia, Nonesuch, 2018; Poem without Suffering, Josef Kaplan, Wonder Books, 2015

David Byrne’s earworm takes a distant yet close perspective, describing a bullet’s fatal encounter with a human body. Did he know about Kaplan’s similar short, rapid, book-length poem? Byrne’s song sets its sights on an adult man, Kaplan’s poem on a child. The life of the child is hinted by describing what a warm maternal relationship is like, and by mentioning injuries from falling off a bunk bed and being hit by a baseball. We hear about the man’s life because of what the bullet cuts through: “Skin that women had touched,” “Many fine meals he tasted there,” “his heart with thoughts of you.” The general description is very effective. There are striking metaphors — positive associations — for the bullet itself, also. In Poem, it is a triumphant runner (such as Usain Bolt, who bears the name of a crossbow’s projectile) dragging gore from the body as if it were a trophy or banner. In “Bullet,” it is “Like an old grey dog / On a fox’s trail.” Perhaps America’s reliable old dog cannot be taught new tricks.

American Utopia · Poem without Suffering

Using Electricity readings, with video of one

I’m writing now from the middle of a four-city book tour which I’m on with Rafael Pérez y Pérez and Allison Parrish – we are the first three author/programmers to develop books (The Truelist, Mexica, and Articulations) in this Counterpath series, Using Electricity.

I’m taking the time now to post a link to video of a short reading that Allison and I did at the MLA Convention, from exactly a month ago. If you can’t join us at an upcoming reading (MIT Press Bookstore, 2018-02-06 6pm or Babycastles in NYC, 2018-02-07 7pm) and have 10 minutes, the video provides an introduction to two of the three projects.

Rafael wasn’t able to join us then; we are very glad he’s here from Mexico City with us this week, and has read with us in Philadelphia and Providence so far!

Author Function

The exhibit Author Function, featuring computer-generated literary art in print, is now up in MIT’s Rotch Library (77 Mass Ave, Building 7, 2nd Floor) and in my lab/studio, The Trope Tank (Room 14N-233, in building 14, the same building that houses the Hayden Library). Please contact me by email if you are interested in seeing the materials in the Trope Tank, as this part of the exhibit is accessible by appointment only.

There are three events associated with the exhibit happening in Cambridge, Mass:

February 7, 6pm-7pm, a reading and signing at the MIT Press bookstore. Nick Montfort, Rafael Pérez y Pérez, and Allison Parrish.

March 5, 4:30pm-6pm, a reception at the main part of the exhibit in the Rotch Library.

March 5, 7pm-8pm, a reading and signing at the Harvard Book Store. John Cayley, Liza Daly, Nick Montfort, and Allison Parrish.

In addition to a shelf of computer-generated books that is available for perusal, by appointment, in the Trope Tank, the following items of printed matter are displayed in the exhibit:

  • 2×6, Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova, Carlos León, Aleksandra Małecka, and Piotr Marecki
  • A Slow Year: Game Poems, Ian Bogost
  • Action Score Generator, Nathan Walker
  • American Psycho, Mimi Cabell and Jason Huff
  • Anarchy, John Cage
  • Articulations, Allison Parrish
  • Autopia, Nick Montfort
  • Brute Force Manifesto: The Catalog of All Truth, Version 1.1, Series AAA-1, Vol 01, Brian James
  • Clear Skies All Week, Alison Knowles
  • Firmy, Piotr Puldzian Płucienniczak
  • for the sleepers in that quiet earth., Sofian Audry
  • From the Library of Babel: Axaxaxas Mlo – The Combed Thunderclap LXUM,LKWC – MCV – The Plaster Cramp, Christian Bök
  • Generation[s], J.R. Carpenter
  • Google Volume 1, King Zog
  • How It Is In Common Tongues, Daniel C. Howe and John Cayley
  • Incandescent Beautifuls, Erica T. Carter [Jim Carpenter]
  • Irritant, Darby Larson
  • Love Letters, Letterpress Broadside, Output by a reimplementation of a program by Christopher Strachey
  • Mexica: 20 Years – 20 Stories / 20 años – 20 historias, Rafael Pérez y Pérez
  • My Buttons Are Blue: And Other Love Poems From the Digital Heart of an Electronic Computer, A Color Computer
  • My Molly [Departed], Talan Memmott
  • no people, Katie Rose Pipkin
  • Phaedrus Pron, Paul Chan
  • Puniverse, Volumes 32 and 38 of 57, Stephen Reid McLaughlin
  • Re-Writing Freud, Simon Morris
  • Seraphs, Liza Daly
  • The Appearances of the Letters of the Hollywood Sign in Increasing Amounts of Smog and at a Distance, Poster, David Gissen
  • The Poiceman’s Beard is Half Constructed: Computer prose and poetry by Racter
  • The Truelist, Nick Montfort
  • Tristano, Nanni Balestrini
  • Written Images, Eds. Matrin Fuchs and Peter Bichsel

Here are some photos documenting the exhibit:

Author Function Rotch main display case

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

Author Function book displays and gallery walls

The Gathering Cloud

The Gathering Cloud, J. R. Carpenter, 2017
The Gathering Cloud, J. R. Carpenter, 2017. (I was given a review copy of this book.)

J.R. Carpenter’s book is an accomplishment, not just in terms of the core project, but also by virtue of how the codex is put together. The introduction is by Jussi Parikka, the after-poem by Lisa Robertson. While social media and ethereal imaginations of the network keep us from being lonely as a cloud these days, they obscure the material nature of computing, the cost of linking us in terms of wire and heat. Carpenter’s computer-generated Generation[s] was concerned with the computational production of text; The Gathering Cloud also engages with the generation of power. This book and the corresponding digital performance, for instance at the recent ELO Festival in Porto, yields up the rich results of research, cast in accomplished verse. As with Carpenter’s other work that is rooted in zines and the handmade Web, it is personal rather than didactic. Deftly, despite the gravity of the topic, the book still affects the reader with a gesture, not a deluge of facts — more by waving than drowning.

My @party Talk on Computer-Generated Books

I just gave a talk at the local demoparty, @party. While I haven’t written out notes and it wasn’t recorded, here are the slides. The talk was “Book Productions: The Latest in Computer-Generated Literary Art,” and included some discussion of how computer-generated literary books related to demoscene productions.


Sliders front cover, with battlements

My minimal book Sliders has been published by my press, Bad Quarto. The book contains 32 poems, some of which are only one word long. In a break from tradition, they are not computer-generated.

Currently Sliders is only available for sale at the MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Mass.

Sliders back cover, with blurbs

Multisequential Books in the Trope Tank

_Love is not Constantly Wondering if you are Making the Biggest Mistake of your Life_. Portland, OR: Perfect Day Pub, 2011.

_Roflcon III_. Cambridge, MA: Self Published, 2012.

Bottke, Allison, Heather Gemmen Wilson, Gary Locke. _Friend or Freak_. Colorado Springs, CO: Faith Kidz, 2004.

Ball, Jonathan. _Ex Machina_. Toronto: BookThug, 2009.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Bourbaki, Nicholas. _If_. Livingston, AL : Livingston Press, the University of West Alabama, 2014.

Burk, Jeff. _Super Giant Monster Time!_ Portland, OR: Eraserhead Press, 2010.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Carr, Mike. _Robbers and Robots_. New York: Random House, 1983.

Castillo, Ana. _The Mixquiahuala Letters_. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1992.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Clarke, Miranda. _Night of a Thousand Boyfriends_. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2003.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Coover, Robert. _Heart Suit_. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2005.

Danielewski, Mark Z. _House of Leaves_. London: Doubleday, 2000.

Danielewski, Mark Z. _Only Revolutions_. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

DeVault, Christine, Ian Akin. _Too Soon for Sex?_ Santa Cruz, CA: Network Publications, 1989.

Dever, Joe, Gary Chalk. _Flight from the Dark_. New York: Berkley Books, 1985.

Donihe, Kevin L., Carlton Mellick III. _Ocean of Lard_. Portland, OR: Eraserhead Press, 2005.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Dubuc, Joey. _Neither Either Nor Or_. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2003.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Dworkin, Craig Douglas, David Wolske, Emily Tipps, Claire Taylor, Chris Dunsmore, Robert Buchert, Laurence Sterne. _Chap. XXIV_. Salt Lake City, UT: Red Butte Press, 2013

Emerson, Hunt, Pat Mills. _You are Maggie Thatcher: a Dole-Playing Game_. London: Titan Books, 1987.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

English, James H. _Escape From Fire Island!_ Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2003.

EnJoe, Toh, Terry Gallagher. _Self-Reference Engine_. San Francisco : Haikasoru, 2013.

Erdich, Lauren, Sierra Nelson. _I Take Back the Sponge Cake_. Brookline, MA: Rose Metal Press, 2012.

Estes, Rose. _Dragon of Doom_. New York: Random House, 1983.

Estes, Rose. _Dungeon of Dread_. New York: Random House, 1982.

Estes, Rose. _Hero of Washington Square_. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1983.

Giffin, Lawrence. _Non Facit Saltus_. Troll Thread, 2014.
(Available free online)

Giffin, Lawrence. _Quod Vide_. Troll Thread, 2014.
(Available free online)

Glickman, Bob. _Work Sucks! A Hilarious Guide to Choosing or Changing Your Career_. Los Angeles: CCC Publications, 1992.

Harris, Neil Patrick. _Choose Your Own Autobiography_. New York: Crown Archetype, 2014.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Hefter, Richard, Martin Moskof. _The new original shufflebook_. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1978.

Hemmingson, Michael. _The Classics Professor_. New York: Gotham Books, 2003.

Johnson, B.S. _The Unfortunates_. New York: New Directions Pub., 2007.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Knechtel, John. _Suspect_. London: MIT Press, 2006.

Kurtz, Joe. _Die: roll to Proceed_. New York: Mind the Art Entertainment, 2012.

Levy, Robert Joseph. _The Suicide King_. New York: SSE/Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005.

MacDonald, Mike, Jilly Gagnon. _The Holidays_. New York: Diversion Books, 2016.

MacDonald, Mike, Jilly Gagnon. _The Office Adventure_. New York: Diversion Books, 2016.

Maden, Svend A?ge, W Glyn Jones. _Days with Diam_. Norwich, England: Norvik Press, 1994.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Matthews, T.J. _The Hunting Safari_. Orlando: Wycliffe, 2003.

McElhatton, Heather. _Pretty Little Mistakes_. London: Headline Review, 2008.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Mohanraj, Mary Anne. _Kathryn in the City_. New York: Gotham Books, 2003.

Montgomery, R.A. _Danger Zones_. New York: Bantam, 1987.

Montgomery, R.A. _Your Very Own Robot_. Waitsfield, VT: Chooseco, 2007.

Nabokov, Vladimir. _Pale Fire_. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1962.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Newman, Kim. _Life’s Lottery_. London: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

North, Ryan, William Shakespeare. _Poor Yorick_. Breadpig, 2013.

North Ryan, William Shakespeare. _Romeo and/or Juliet_. Riverhead Books, 2014.

North Ryan, William Shakespeare. _To be or not to be_. Breadpig, 2013.

Olsen, Lance. _Theories of Forgetting_. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: FC2, The University of Alabama Press, 2014
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

O’Toole, Cate. _Oh My Darling_. New York: Black Lawrence Press, 2015

Packard, Edward. _Deadwood City_. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1978.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. _Inside UFO 54-40_. New York: Bantam, 1982.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. _Journey to the Year 3000_. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Packard, Edward. _La Supercomputadora_. Buenos Aires: Editorial Atla?ntida, 1986.

Packard, Edward. _Sunken Treasure_. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

Packard, Edward. _Supercomputer_. New York: Bantam, 1984.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. _The Cave of Time_. New York: Bantam Books, 1979.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Packard, Edward. _Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey?_ New York: Bantam Books, 1981.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Pavic?, Milorad, Christina Pribic?evic?-Zoric?. _Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel_. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Powers, Bob. _You are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero!_. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Queneau, Raymond. _Exercises in Style_. New York: New Directions, 1981.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Roseman, Kenneth. _Escape from the Holocaust_. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1985.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. _What if… All Your Dreams Came True_. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. _What if… All Your Friends Turned on You_. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. _What if… Everyone Knew Your Name_. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2006.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. _What if… Everyone Was Doing It_. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2008.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. _What if… You Broke All the Rules_. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2007.

Ruckdeschel, Liz, Sara James. _What if… Your Past Came Back to Haunt You_. New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2008.

Ryman, Geoff. _253: The Print Remix_. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Saporta, Marc, Richard Howard. _Composition No. 1_. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.

Sewell, Justin. _Who Killed John F. Kennedy?_. Despair, Inc., 2013.

Shiga, Jason. _Knock Knock_. 2006.

Shiga, Jason. _Meanwhile_. New York, New York: Amulet Books, 2010.
(Also available from the MIT Libraries)

Shiga, Jason. _The Last Supper_. 1997.

Snyder, Laurel. _Daphne and Jim_. Portland, OR.: Burnside Review Press, 2005.

Tija, Sherwin. _You are a Cat!_ Pick-a-Plot! Book #1. Written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2011.

Tija, Sherwin. _You are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse!_ Pick-a-Plot! Book #2. Written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2013.

Tija, Sherwin. _You are a Kitten!_ Pick-a-Plot! Book #3. Written and illustrated by Sherwin Tija. Montreal: Conundrum Press, 2015.

Webster, Emma Campbell. _Lost in Austen_. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Weinersmith, Zach. _Trial of the Clone_. Breadpig Inc., 2012.

Wilgus, Alison. _A Stray in the Woods_. New York: Alison Wiglus, 2013.

Zimmerman, Eric, Nancy Nowaceks. _Life in the Garden: A Deck of Stories_. New York, New York: Razorfish Studios, 1999.

Youngmark, Matt. _Zombocalypse Now_. Seattle: Chooseomatic Books, 2009.

Youngmark, Matt. _Thrusts of Justice_. Seattle: Chooseomatic Books, 2012.

Digital Lengua, the launch of 2×6 and Autopia, Nov 20 in NYC

Clouds of Digital Lengua palabras

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan –
5:30pm Sunday November 20

This reading of computer-generated literature in English and Spanish
serves as the global book launch for two titles:

Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova,
Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series
256 pp.

Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
256 pp.

Montfort will read from these two books, reading English and Spanish
texts from 2×6. Paperback copies will be available for purchase. The
short programs that generated these books are printed in the books and also
available as free software online.

Läufer will read from his projects Bigrammatology and WriterTools™, in
both cases, in Spanish and English.

Montfort and Läufer will read from work done as part of the Renderings
project and as part of another project, Heftings.

The Renderings project, organized by Montfort and based at his
lab, The Trope Tank, involves locating computational literature (such as
poetry generating computer programs) from around the globe and translating
these works into English. Läufer and Montfort will read from two
Spanish-language poetry generators, from Argentina and Spain, and from
translations of them.

The Heftings project, also organized by Montfort through The
Trope Tank, involves making attempts, often many, at translating conceptual,
constrained, concrete & visual, and other types of literary art that are
generally considered to be impossible to translate. Montfort and Läufer will
read from some short works that are originally in Spanish or English and
works that have Spanish or English translations.

Nick Montfort develops computational art and poetry, often
collaboratively. His poetry books are #!, Riddle & Bind, and
he co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story and 2×6. His
more than fifty digital projects, at http://nickm.com, include the
collaborations The Deletionist, Sea and Spar Between, and the
project. His collaborative and individual books from the MIT
Press are: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10,
and most recently Exploratory
Programming for the Arts and Humanities.
He lives in New York and
Boston, offers naming services as Nomnym, and is a professor at MIT.

Milton Läufer is an Argentinian writer, journalist and teacher.
Currently he is doing a PhD at New York University focused on digital
literature in Latin America. He is the 2016-2017 writer-in-residence of
The Trope Tank
, MIT. In 2015 he published Lagunas, a partially
algorithmic-generated novel, which —as most of his work— is available online
at http://www.miltonlaufer.com.ar. He has participated in art exhibitions in
Latin America, the US and Europe. He lives in Brooklyn.

Digital Lengua – Babycastles, 137 West 14th St, Manhattan – 5:30pm Domingo, Noviembre 20

Esta lectura de literatura generada por computadora en español e inglés
oficiará, a la vez, de lanzamiento para los siguientes dos títulos:

Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova,
Carlos León, Aleksandra Ma?ecka, Piotr Marecki
Les Figues, Los Angeles: Global Poetics Series
256 págs.

Nick Montfort
Troll Thread, New York
256 págs.

Montfort leerá de ambos libros, en español e inglés para el caso de
. Habrá copias impresas disponibles para su compra. Los breves
programas que generan el código se encuentran en dichos libros y también en
línea como software libre (y gratuito).

Läufer leerá de sus proyectos Bigrammatology y WriterTools™, en español e inglés en ambos casos.

Los autores leerán también de los trabajos realizados en el marco de los
proyecto Renderings y Heftings.

El proyecto Renderings, organizado por Montfort con base en su
laboratorio, The Trope Tank, involucra la búsqueda de literatura
computacional (tal como poesía generada por programas de computadora) a lo
largo del globo y la traducción de estos proyectos al inglés. Läufer y
Montfort leerán de dos generadores de poesía en español, uno de Argentina y
otro de España, así como sus traducciones.

El proyecto Heftings, también organizado por Montfort a través de
The Trope Tank, consiste en la producción de intentos, a menudo
muchos, de traducir obras literarias conceptuales, formalistas, concretas o
visuales tales que son generalmente consideradas imposibles de traducir.
Montfort y Läufer leerán algunos trabajos breves originalmente en español o
inglés y trabajos que poseen traducciones españolas o inglesas.

Nick Montfort desarrolla arte y poesía computacional,
frecuentemente en colaboración. Entre sus libros se destacan #!,
Riddle & Bind
y Autopia; y, en colaboración, 2002: A
Palindrome Story
y 2×6. Entre sus más de cincuenta proyectos
digitales, en http://nickm.com, se encuentran las colaboraciones The
, Sea and Spar Between y Renderings, un
proyecto centrado en la traducción. Sus libros de MIT Press son The New
Media Reader
, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
y, recientemente, Exploratory
Programming for the Arts and Humanities
. Vive en New York y Boston,
ofrece servicios de nombres como Nomnym, y es un profesor en MIT.

Milton Läufer es un escritor, periodista y docente argentino.
Actualmente se encuentra realizando un PhD en la New York University acerca
de literatura digital in América Latina. Es el escritor en residencia de
The Trope Tank
para el período 2016-2017, en MIT. En 2015 publicó la
novela generada parcialmente por algoritmos Lagunas, la cual —como el
resto de su obra el literatura digital— es accesible desde su sitio,
http://www.miltonlaufer.com.ar. Ha participado de exposiciones en América
Latina, Estados Unidos y Europa. Vive en Brooklyn.


Computer-Generated Books

Here’s a first effort (drafted, initially, at 2am on July 22) at a bibliography of computer-generated books.

These are books in the standard material sense, somehow printed, whether via print-on-demand or in a print run. I may include chapbooks eventually, as they certainly interest me, but so far I have been focusing on books, however bound, with spines. (Updated June 23, 2017: I added the first chapbooks today.) Books in any language are welcome.

So far I have not included books where the text has been obviously sorted computer (e.g. Auerbach, Reimer) or where a text has been produced repeatedly, obviously by computer (e.g. Chernofsky). Also omitted are computer-generated utilitarian tables, e.g. of logarithms or for artillery firing. Books composed using a formal process, but without using a computer, are not included.

I have included some strange outliers such as books written with computational assistance (programs were used to generate text and the text was human-assembled/edited/written) and one book that is apparently human written but is supposed to read like a computer-generated book.

I’d love to know about more of these. I’m not as interested in the thousands of computer-generated spam books available for purchase, and have not listed any of these, but let me know if there are specific ones that you believe are worthwhile. I would particularly like to know if some of the great NaNoGenMo books I’ve read are available in print.

Updated 11:43am July 22: Since the original post I have added Whalen, Tranter, Balestrini, and five books by Bök. 5:35pm: I’ve added Thompson and Woetmann. 8:37am July 23: Added Bogost. 8:37pm July 24: Added Bailey, Baudot, Cabell & Huff, Cage x 2, Huff, Hirmes. October 12-14: Added Archangel, Seward, Dörfelt. June 12, 2017: Added Morris, Pipkin. June 23: Added Clark, Knowles 2011, The Maggot, and four chapbooks: Knowles & Tenney, Parrish, Pipkin (_picking figs…_), Temkin. September 5: Added Mize.

Archangel, Cory. _Working on my Novel._ New York: Penguin, 2014.

Bailey, Richard W. _Computer Poems._ Drummond Island, MI: Potagannissing Press, 1973.

Balestrini, Nanni. _Tristano._ Translated by Mike Harakis. London and New York: Verso, 2014.

Baudot, Jean. _La Machine a écrire mise en marche et programmée par Jean A. Baudot._ Montréal: Editions du Jour, 1964.

Bogost, Ian. _A Slow Year: Game Poems._ Highlands Ranch, CO: Open Texture, [2010].

Bök, Christian. _LXUM,LKWC (Oh Time Thy Pyramids)._ San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. _MCV._ San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. _Axaxaxas Mlo._ San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. _The Plaster Cramp._ San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. _The Combed Thunderclap._ San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Cabell, Mimi, and Jason Huff. _American Psycho._ Vienna: Traumavien, 2012.

Cage, John. _Anarchy (New York City, January 1988)._ Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Cage, John. _I-IV._ Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Carpenter, J. R. _GENERATION[S]_ Vienna: Traumawien, 2010.

Cayley, John and Daniel C. Howe, _How it Is in Common Tongues._ Providence: NLLF, 2012.

Cayley, John. _Image Generation._ London: Veer Books, 2015.

Chamberlin, Darick. _Cigarette Boy: A Mock Machine Mock-Epic._ [Seattle]: Rogue Drogue: 1991.

Chan, Paul. _Phaedrus Pron._ Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited, 2010.

Clark, Ron. _My Buttons Are Blue and Other Love Poems from the Digital Heart of an Electronic Computer._ Woodsboro, Maryland: Arcsoft Pub, 1982.

Daly, Liza. _Seraphs: A Procedurally Generated Mysterious Codex._ [San Francisco]: Blurb, 2014.

Fuchs, Martin and Peter Bichsel. _Written Images._ 2011.

Hartman, Charles and Hugh Kenner. _Sentences._ Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995.

Heldén, Johannes and Håkan Jonson. _Evolution._ Stockholm, OEI Editör, 2014.

Hirmes, David. _Directions From Unknown Road to Unknown Road._ [Handmade edition of 10.] The Elements Press: 2010.

Huff, Jason. _Autosummarize._ [McNally Jackson]: 2010.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler-Henry. _Apostrophe._ Toronto, ECW Press, 2006.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler. _Update._ Montréal: Snare, [2010.]

Knowles, Alison, James Tenney, and Siemens System 4004. _A House of Dust._ Köln & New York: Verlag Gebr. Ko?nig, 1969.

Knowles, Alison. _Clear Skies All Week._ Onestar Press, 2011.

Larson, Darby. _Irritant._ New York and Atlanta: Blue Square Press, 2013.

Maggot, The. _Heroic Real Estate Otter of the 21st Century._ lulu.com, 2013.

Mize, Rando. _Machine Ramblings._ n.p., 2016.

Montfort, Nick. _World Clock._ Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. _Zegar światowy._ Translated by Piotr Marecki. Krakow: ha!art, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. _#!_ Denver: Counterpath, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. _Megawatt._ Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2014.

Montfort, Nick, Serge Bouchardon, Carlos León, Natalia Fedorova, Andrew Campana, Aleksandra Malecka, and Piotr Marecki. _2×6._ Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2016.

Morris, Simon. _Re-writing Freud._ York, England: Information as Material, 2005.

Parrish, Allison. _The Ephemerides._ Access Token Secret Press, 2015.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. _picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself._ Austin: Raw Paw Press, 2015.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. _no people._ Katie Rose Pipkin, 2015.

Racter, _The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed._ Illustrations by Joan Hall. Introduction by William Chamberlain. New York: Warner Books, 1984.

Rosén, Carl-Johan. _I Speak Myself Into an Object._ Stockholm: Rensvist Förlag, 2013.

Dörfelt, Matthias. _I Follow._ Series of unique flip-books with computer-generated aspects of animation. Made by the artist. 2013-present.

Seward, Rob. _Death Death Death._ VHS Design LLC, 2010.

Temkin, Daniel. _Non-Words._ Edition of 100, each with unique words generated by same algorithm used in @nondenotative. n.d.

Thompson, Jeff. _Grid Remix: The Fellowship of the Ring._ San Francisco: Blurb, 2013.

Tranter, John. _Different Hands._ North Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998.

Walker, Nathan. _Action Score Generator._ Manchester: if p then q, 2015.

Whalen, Zach. _An Anthrogram._ Fredericksburg, Virginia: 2015.

Woetmann, Peter-Clement. _105 Variationer._ Cophenhagen: Arena, 2015.

Great Workshop for New Programmers at Babycastles

I had a launch event Saturday afternoon for my new book, Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. Not a typical reading or book party, but a workshop for people completely new to programming but interested in pursuing it. It was at the excellent gallery and venue, Babycastles, on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

I don’t actually have the list of attendees – I’d like to sent everyone a note, but it will have to wait! – but two people I knew beforehand participated and ten others joined in, with some people from Babycastles also participating and helping out. (Special thanks to Lauren Gardner for hosting!) I was very glad that the group was diverse in terms of gender, race, background, interests … also, pleased that this time around we had more people who were genuinely new to programming. I’ve done similar workshops before, prior to the publication of Exploratory Programming, and often there are folks who have had some programming classes and done some programming projects before. I’m glad to help such people as they re-start work with code, but I tried to make sure this time that there was no crypto-prerequisite suggested; the session really was for those wanting to program but lacking background.

Of course we dealt with programming as culturally situated and meaningful within art, poetry, writing, and inquiry. We used the historical Memory Slam examples that I prepared a few years ago for another event in Lower Manhattan.

Because the book is out and registration for the workshop included a copy of it, I didn’t feel the need to go through particular code examples that are in there. I was able to frame the whole idea of programming and focus on a few early specifics in both JavaScript and Python – showing that code is just editing a text file; that there’s a difference between code and data (and parameters, too); and that error messages can be helpful rather than frustrating. We did work with specific code, but didn’t cover specific code discussions in the book or the exercises in there. The book is for use in a classroom, but also for individual learners, to allow people to continue their work as programmers formally and informally.

Many people introducing a new book will have book parties, with or without readings, that draw a much larger crowd that this event did. But, as Brian Eno said about the Velvet Underground’s first album, not many people bought it but all the people who did started a band. I hope everyone who participated in this modest event at Babycastles goes on to start a band, by developing a programming practice engaged with the arts and humanities.

Update: I should have mentioned – we’ll have a similar workshop on May 15 at the School for Poetic Computation!

Explorers of Bottomless Pit Return with Treasure

They found the key.
They found the key.

Far from plunging us into darkness, Reading Project: A Collaborative Analysis of William Poundstone’s Project for Tachistoscope {Bottomless Pit} provides brilliant and multifaceted reflections on a rapid, serial electronic literature work. (You can read Bottomless Pit for free online, by the way, in ELCv1 and on Poundstone’s site.)

The party that sets out on the adventure of this reading is Paladin Jessica Pressman, who seeks truly through media archeology and quests into thorny literary theories; Thief Mark C. Marino, who slyly reverse-engineers the program and acquires the source code, stealing sequences of words and images along with how they are produced; and Illusionist Jeremy Douglass, who summons visualizations of the piece that dazzle but also unfold new understandings. They ascend from the endless passage of Project, and from the dungeon of collaboration, with numerous new insights, showing how different reading strategies – ranging from rather conventional to quite novel – can inform one another. There’s so much background offered (etymological, historical, bibliographical) that one imagines it being drawn out of a bag of holding. The view of the project that emerges seems beyond what a Beholder would be able to comprehend.

These three cover the fundamental workings of Project well, showing the role of randomness (a saving throw of sequential words does not abolish chance) and how individual pixels shine during a loop of the main story text. What this text means and alludes to, and the presence of a second sequence of less coherent words, is also discussed, and connections are made between such meanings and references and the piece’s material and technical aspects. From the media technology of various historical tachistoscopes to the nature of the pit in Freudian psychoanalysis, there is a great deal about Project that is – let’s not say excavated, but illuminated – in this book.

In its engagement with computation, the relationship of recent computational work to historical and literary concepts, and in the way it helps to develop productive collaborative approaches in the humanities, this is a landmark investigation – almost surely deeper than you imagine. It’s essential reading for those interested in digital literature, but also also for anyone (concerned with e-lit or not) who wonders how humanistic thinking can continue to develop and how thinkers can work together in new ways.

Shebang Bash at Babycastles, July 2

Shebang Bash is a two-part event at Babycastles (137 West 14th Street, Floor 2, New York City) on Thursday, July 2.

It'll be sort of like this reading in Saint Petersburg, but with projectors.
It’ll be sort of like this reading in Saint Petersburg, but with projectors and a workshop beforehand.

The workshop (beginning at 6pm) provides an opportunity for anyone to begin developing computational poetry by modifying existing programs. Those without programming experience are particularly encouraged to attend. Workshop participants will develop, share, and discuss their work. Participants must register in advance and bring their own notebook computer running Linux, Mac OS, or Windows. (A tablet or phone will not suffice; computers are not available at the gallery.) Those who wish to can show and/or read from their work during the second part of Shebang Bash, although presenting during the reading isn’t a requirement.

The reading (beginning at 8pm) will feature work from Nick Montfort’s #! (Counterpath, 2014), modified versions of Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge,” and poems developed just previously at the workshop. Montfort will read from several pieces in #!, will screen concrete poems from the book, will discuss the project of this book and his computational poetry practice, and will answer questions.

#! (pronounced “shebang”) is a book of programs and poems, consisting of short programs in Python, Perl, and Ruby followed by examples of their output. While the book is published by a small press that specializes in poetry, part of its heritage can be traced to BASIC programming books and magazines from the 1970s and 1980s. Copies will be available for sale at Shebang Bash.

Tickets to the reading will also be available at the door on the day of the event. For workshop tickets or to get reading tickets in advance, see the Eventbrite page.

Des Imagistes Lost & Found

Des Imagistes, first Web editionI’m glad to share the first Web edition of Des Imagistes, which is now back on the Web.

I assigned a class to collaborate on an editorial project back in 2008, one intended to provide practical experience with the Web and literary editing while also resulting in a useful contribution. I handed them a copy of the first US edition of Des Imagistes, the first Imagist anthology, edited by Ezra Pound and published in 1914.

Jason Begy, Audubon Dougherty, Madeleine Clare Elish, Florence Gallez, Madeline Flourish Klink, Hillary Kolos, Michelle Moon Lee, Elliot Pinkus, Nick Seaver, and Sheila Murphy Seles, the Fall 2008 workshop class, did a great job. The project was prompted, and indeed assigned, by me, but it’s the work of that group, not my work. The class put a great deal of editorial care into the project and also attended to principles of flexible, appropriate Web design. The cento they assembled and used for an alternate table of contents made for a nice main page, inviting attention to the text rather than to some sort of illustration. I’m not saying it would have been exactly my approach, but what they did is explained clearly and works well.

I told the class that the licensing of their project was up to them. They chose a CC BY-NC-SA license, more restrictive than I would have selected, given that the material was in the public domain to begin with, but a reasoned choice. They were similarly asked to decide about the hosting of the work. They just had to present what they’d done in class, answer questions about it, and let me look at and interact with it. While I would be glad to place a copy on my site, nickm.com, it was up to them as to whether they would take me up on the offer. They placed their work online on its own domain, which they acquired and for which they set up hosting.

After announcing this edition, readers, scholars, and teachers of Imagist poetry commented and thanked the class for it work. But as I bemoaned last October, Des Imagistes was no longer online a few years later. I asked around for files, but asking former students to submit an assignent six years later turns out to be a poor part of a preservation strategy.

Now, working with Erik Stayton (who a research assistant in the Trope Tank and is in the masters in CMS 2015 class), I’ve recovered the site from the Internet Archive. The pages were downloaded manually, in adherence to the robots.txt file on archive.org, the Internet Archive’s additions to the pages were removed, and something very close to the original site was assembled and uploaded.

Some lessons, I suppose, are that it’s not particularly the case that a group of students doing a groundbreaking project will manage to keep their work online. As much as I like reciprocal and equitable ways of working together, the non-hierarchical nature of this project probably didn’t help when it came to keeping it available; no one was officially in charge, accepting credit and blame. Except, of course, that I should have been in charge of keeping this around after it was done and after that course was complete. I should have asked for the files and (while obeying the license terms) put the project on my site – and for that matter, other places online.

Would you like to have a copy of the Des Imagistes site for your personal use or to place online somewhere, non-commerically? Here’s a zipfile of the whole site; you will also want to get the larger PDF of the book, which should be placed in the des_imagistes directory.

NaNoGenMo 2014: A Look Back & Back

There were so many excellent novel generators, and generated novels, last month for NaNaGenMo (National Novel Generation Month).

I thought a lot of them related to and carried on the work of wonderful existing literary projects — usually in the form of existing books. And this is in no way a backhanded complement. My own NaNoGenMo entry was the most rooted in an existing novel; I simply computationally re-implemented Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt (or at least the parts of it that were most illegible and computational), in my novel generator Megawatt (its PDF output is also available). For good measure, Megawatt is completely deterministic; although someone might choose to modify it and generate different things, as it stands it generates exactly one novel. So, for me to say that I was reminded of a great book when I saw a particular generator is pure praise.

Early in month, Liza Daly’s Seraphs set a high standard and must have discouraged many offhand generators! Liza’s generator seeks images and randomizes text to produce a lengthy book that is like the Voynich Manuscript, and certainly also like the Codex Seraphinianus.

Allison Parrish’s I Waded in Clear Water is a novel based on dream interpretations. Of course, it reminds me of 10,000 Dreams Interpreted (and I am pleased, thanks to my students from long ago, to have the leading site on the Web for that famous book) but it also reminds me of footnote-heavy novels such as Infinite Jest. Let me note that a Twine game has already been written based on this work: Fowl are Foul, by Jacqueline Lott.

I found Zarkonnen’s Moebius Tentacle; Or the Space-Octopus oddly compelling. It was created by simple substitution of strings from Moby-Dick (one novel it clearly reminded me of), freeing the story to be about the pursuit of an octopus by space amazons. It wasn’t as polished as I would have liked (just a text file for output), and didn’t render text flawlessly, but still, the result was amazing. Consider how the near-final text presents the (transformed) Tashtego in his final tumult:

A sky-hawk that
tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its unnatural home
among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Lazerbot-9 there;
this spacebat now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the
hammer and the plasteel; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill,
the submerged robot beneath, in her death-gasp, kept her hammer frozen
there; and so the spacebat of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and her
imperial beak thrust upwards, and her whole captive form folded in the
flag of Vixena, went away with her spaceship, which, like Satan, would not sink
to transwarp till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and
helmeted herself with it.

Sean Barrett wrote two beautiful generators (at least) – the first of which was How Hannah Solved The Twelve-Disk Tower of Hanoi. Deliberate, progressing, intelligent, and keeping the reader on the edge of her seat – this one is great. But, that generator (drafted by November 9) wasn’t enough, and Barrett also contributed (only a day late) The Basketball Game, an opera generator that provides a score (with lyrics) and MIDI files. It’s as if “I got Philip Glass!” indicates that one is rebounding.

Eric Stayton’s I Sing Of takes the beginning of the Aeneid as grist, moving through alternate invocations using WordNet. I like the way different epics are invoked by the slight changes, and was reminded of Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler.

Sam Coppini’s D’ksuban Dictionary, although also just a text file, is a simple but effective generator of a fictional language’s dictionary. Less like the Devil’s Dictionary, more like the (apparently unpublished) lexicon of Earth: Final Conflict. I’m sure literary works in D’ksuban will be forthcoming soon.

Ben Kybartas’s Something, Somewhere is wonderfully spare and evocative – more Madsen than Hemingway.

Finally, Thricedotted’s The Seeker is an extraordinary concrete novel in the tradition of Raymond Federman’s Double or Nothing. The text, based on wikiHow, is good and serves well to define a protagonist who always wishes to do right, but the typographical framework is really excellent.

These are just a few comments before NaNoGenMo goes as stale as a late-December pumpkin. I hope you enjoy tis work and other work that was done last month, and that you keep an eye peeled for further novel generators – next November and throughout the year.