Friday, December 10, 2010

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Science, Technology, Art, POETRY

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 minds.

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 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 aerogel.

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:

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 started:!
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 -  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 1965 .I guess it was fun in the sixties.

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