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Digital Poetry: Five Ways to Combine Human and Computer Languages

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a volume of the code {poems} collection

The code {poems} project compiles works from software engineers, artists, and other code writers.

Digital technologies can disseminate and publish contemporary poetry, and also create it. Digital artists combine human and computer languages to create digital poetry. Here are five approaches.

  1. Generative Poetry. Generative poems use a program or algorithm to generate poetic text from a database of words and phrases written or gathered by the digital poet. Dial by Lai-Tze Fan and Nick Montfort, for example, represents networked, distant communication.
  2. Remixed Poetry. Nick Montfort's generative poem Taroko Gorge was inspired by a visit to Taroko Gorge in Taiwan. "If others could go to a place of natural beauty and write a poem about that place, why couldn't I write a poetry generator, instead?," Montfort writes.
  3. Visual Verse. Poets have combined poetry and images for centuries. The title of Qianxun Chen's work Shan Shui means mountain and water in Chinese, and landscape when combined as shanshui. It also refers to traditional Chinese landscape painting and a style of poetry that conveys the beauty of nature. With each click, a new Shan Shui poem is generated with a corresponding Shan Shui landscape painting.
  4. Video Game Poem Plays. The 1960s and 70s saw the emergence of text-based computer games. Queensland digital poet Jason Nelson has created a number of works that fuse such games and poetry. He describes one work as "a digital poem, retro-game, an anti-design statement, and a personal exploration of the artist's changing worldview lens."
  5. Coded Messages. Code poetry is a genre that combines classical poetry with computer language. Those compiled by Ishac Bertran in the print collection code {poems}, for example, do not require a computer to exist. However, they do use computer languages, so to comprehend the poem one must be able to read computer code.

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