Many thanks for this. I was unaware of the Cambridge activities you mention.
It's great to get another angle on the history of this.
> I have been reading the emails closely ---- sorry to take so long to feed in
> again. Lots going on in London this week!
> I have enjoyed the adaptive nature of the conversation though was sorry we did
> not hear back yet from Nicolas. For me poetry is in the contingency between
> making and unmaking and is the process by which things at the back of the mind
> reveal themselves. Let's maybe bear his initial words in the back of our
> I wanted to return to a few threads left hanging loosely last time I posted
> relating to earlier work.  I mentioned Liliane Lijn who may be familiar
> to many of Yasmin's readership as she has been working with light, poetry,
> visual perception, movement and themes relating to science and technology for
> over four decades. She has recently produced a small press publication abut
> which you can read more at
> Back in the 60s she was commissioned by the ICA in London to make a work for
> their exhibition about Guillaume Apollonaire (as you can see at
> http://www.ica.org.uk/20565/Artists/Liliane-Lijn.html) which she called
> Poemkon=D=4=Open=Apollinaire. 'Liliane continues to investigate the notion of
> words, sub-atomic particles and reality in flux' - in a career which has taken
> her to many places including University of Berkeley Space Science Lab where
> she spent time as artist in residence producing many works relating to
> discourse across disciplines as well as pieces of poetic matter made from
> interstellar dust or
> I wanted to also say a bit more about Margaret Masterman whose Computerised
> Haiku made with Robin McKinnon was also a great feature of the ICA's programme
> in the 60s when it was shown at Cybernetic Serpendipity as has been well-
> documented. I have a bit of a connection to this work as she lived in the
> house where my sister and her family in Cambridge by coincidence now live and
> indeed I am writing this email from a room at the top there.  It was a
> house where she stayed for many decades with her husband Richard Braithwaite
> who was a Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge and they together helped
> form a significant group called the Cambridge Language Research laboratory - a
> constellation around which some vital work was done relating to natural and
> machine language processing which had its base further along the same road at
> No 20. The point I wanted to make in relation to our discussion is that
> Masterman and McKinnon's work did something exceptional in 1968 in so f!
> ar as they allowed users to work directly with their programme - to cite
> Wayne Clements thesis mentioned earlier by Paul Brown:
> He says that 'in 1968 computerized literature was just a decade old. In 1959
> quite separately there were two initiatives Theo Lutz, on the one hand and
> Brion Gysin on the other (with Ian Summerville, a Cambridge mathematician)
> produced what may be the earliest examples of computerised literature.
> That both Lutz and Summerville were scientists is significant. So is the
> algorithmic basis of each of their works. Access to computers was limited for
> those of a more purely artistic or literary background. Lutz' s work used a
> random number sequence to treat a text by Kafka, whilst Gyss was a permutation
> of all the combinations of the words of the phrase I AM THAT I AM. We will see
> this overtly mathematical option was refused by the programmers of
> Computerized Haiku'
> In Mastermans' essays which can be downloaded free at
> we see that that some of the territory she was exploring with colleagues have
> curious (or perhaps not so curious echoes) in relation to our own debates here
> not least references to the basis of Western thought in Greek origins and to
> the limitations of languages in terms of expression. Even more interestingly
> Masterman (a student both of the Chinese language and Wittgenstein during his
> period in Cambridge) cites the philospher Whitehead as having stated that 'our
> logic would have been better based on the Chinese than on the Greek' and was
> very interesting in the different ways in which oriental and occidental
> languages represent the world and Masterman also showed the influence of
> Wittgenstein comparing his picture-theory-of-truth to the 'nature and function
> of Chinese ideograms' which as a 'fundamental form of language'. There's value
> here in considering the connections between the making of poetry by machine
> and natural language processing which was a big part of the Resea!
> ch Unit's work ----the CLRU were formative in terms of later developments
> with respect to the Semantic Web and in a neo-Wittgensteinean way (as is
> brilliantly outlined in a paper by Harry Halpin which can be read at:
> The idea of picture language and 'the poetic' and machine working in
> combination together has been explored also very well by John Cayley a
> translator of Chinese poetry and well-known in electronic literature circles
> whose work can be viewed further at: http://programmatology.shadoof.net/
> How we describe some of these divisions and classifications and types and
> varieties of connection between poetry and techne is no doubt also an area
> worth further discussion.  The question Roger asked earlier this week
> about form is one which also fascinates me.  I was struck in reading
> Mastermans' essays that she also had some theories about breath and its role
> in processing language and it led me back to the manifesto for Projective
> Verse or Organic Poetry which Charles Olson wrote in 1950 as below:
> Verse now, 1950, if it is to go ahead, if it is to be of essential use, must,
> I take it, catch up and put into itself certain laws and possibilities of
> breath, of the breathing of the man who writes as well as of his listenings.
> .....I want to do two things: first, try to show what projective or OPEN verse
> is, what it involves, in its act of composition, how, in distinction from the
> non-projective, it is accomplished; and II, suggest a few ideas about what
> stance toward reality brings such verse into being, what that stance does,
> both to the poet and to his reader. (The stance involves, for example, a
> change beyond, and larger than, the technical, and may, the way things look,
> lead to new poetics and to new concepts from which some sort of drama, say, or
> of epic, pehaps, may emerge.) A poem is energy transferred from where the poet
> got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to,
> all the way over to, the reader. Okay. Then the poem itself must, at!
> all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an
> energy-discharge. So: how is the poet to accomplish same energy, how is he,
> what is the process by which a poet gets in, at all points energy at least the
> equivalent of the energy which propelled him in the first place, yet an energy
> which is peculiar to verse alone and which will be, obviously, also different
> from the energy which the reader, because he is a third term, will take away.
> This is the problem which any poet who departs from closed form is specially
> confronted by. And it involves a whole series of new recognitions. From the
> moment he ventures into FIELD COMPOSITION; put himself in the open— he
> can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for
> itself. Thus he has to behave, and be, instant by instant, aware of some
> several forces just now beginning to be examined. (It is much more, for
> example, this push, than simply such a one as Pound put, so wisely, to get us
> the musical phrase, go by it, boys, rather than by, the metro!
> ) is the principle, the law which presides conspicuously over the composition,
> and, when obeyed, is the reason why a projective poem can come into being. It
> is this: FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT. (Or so it got
> phrased by one, R. Creeley, and it makes absolute sense to me, with this
> possible corollary, that right form, in any given poem, is the only and
> exclusively possible extension of content under hand.) There it is, brothers,
> sitting there, for USE....It comes to this, this whole aspect of the newer
> problems. (We now enter, actually, the large area of the whole poem, into the
> FIELD, if you like, where all the syllables and all the lines must be managed
> in their relations to each other.) It is a matter, finally, of OBJECTS, what
> they are, what they are inside a poem, how they got there, and, once there,
> how they are to be used. This is something I want to get to in another way in
> Part II, but, for the moment, let me indicate this, that every element in a!
> n open poem (the syllable, the line, as well as the image, the sound, the
> sense) must be taken up as participants in the kinetic of the poem just as
> solidly as we are accustomed to take what we call the objects of reality; and
> that these elements are to be seen as creating the tensions of a poem just as
> totally as do those other objects create what we know as the world....'
> Drawing on scientific influences and extending the organic poetry field
> towards autopoiesis from the '50s onwards was A R Ammons who 'married
> organicism and cybernetics' (see 'The Embodied "Autopoietics" of Ammons's Long
> Poems - Jessica Lewis Luck -
> http://www.litsciarts.org/slsa07/slsa07-88.pdf).  A bit later, in 1983,
> he wrote in a poem called The Ridgefarm (1983)
>    'don't think we don't
>    know one breaks
>    form open because he fears
>    its bearing in on him'
> that does that thing that poetry when well-written does?  Ammons who died
> in 2001 also wrote a poem called "Tape for the Turn of the Year" —a long
> poem composed on an adding machine tape ....in 1965 .I guess it was fun in
> the sixties.
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Research Professor edinburgh college of art
Creative Interdisciplinary Research in CoLlaborative Environments
Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice
Centre for Film, Performance and Media Arts
Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201
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