Saturday, November 30, 2013

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano (Christopher Funkhouser)

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano
(variations on a letter by Anne Tardos):
a poetic text manipulation casebook 2013

           Dear Friends,

           I’m offering to donate Jackson’s piano. It is one that he was given at the age of four, 
           and remained with him throughout his life. It is a Baldwin baby grand, built in 1926. 
           Its sound is rich and resonant. I write to you in the hope that you, or someone you know,
           or an institution, might be interested in acquiring this piano for the cost of shipping. 
           We priced the shipping cost in the Tri-state area to be around 1,000 dollars. Naturally, 
           I’m very sad to see such a wonderful piano, with this unique history, sitting idle.

           Please let me know if you are interested, or have any leads or ideas. I can be reached via
           this email or phone: 212-XXX-XXXX.

           Many thanks,

October 2013— I am one of 80 or so people receiving an email from Anne Tardos, who was working to usher Jackson Mac Low’s piano into a new home (a month later I have learned that it now resides at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center). Not being in a position to welcome it in my own studio, I thought of an interesting experiment: to play, metaphorically, one (or more) of his instruments—specifically text processors/processes—by using a few selected programs he used, as well as applying alternative (and supplemental) processing methods, to Anne’s message about the piano. This “virtual casebook” reflects results of my investigation; it is not an identical step-by-step movement through stages of Jackson’s processing, but a general exploration of multiply-treating a source text using procedures one finds fruitful.

I began by applying a contemporary adaptation of Hugh Kenner/Joseph O’Rourke’s TRAVESTY (1984), which Jackson used methodically in many works—such as 42 Merzgedichte in Memoriam Kurt Schwitters (1994), Twenties, 8-25 : Order 9, Travesty from Twenties 8-25 (Abacus 28),  & “It Rememble Splendid and Religiou (Stein 43)”.  As explained in my book Prehistoric Digital Poetry, TRAVESTY analyzes a text file and identifies successive patterns of letters and spaces (known as “character groups”) and makes a “frequency table” for each character group in a document’s source text; the program then scrambles (or permutes) the text by replacing each character group in the text with another (of the same size) located elsewhere in the source. The combination or patterns of letters in the words themselves and spaces between words become the basis for the program’s output. I used an offline app, Travestificator.  v1.0 (also known as Sean’s Excellent Travestificator)—though there are other online TRAVESTY apps, such as Ben Johnson’s Travesty Generator, Peter Manson’s Adjunct Travesty; the original Pascal code is available. In addition to furnishing the input text (Anne’s letter), my involvement was to set a desired amount of output (which I calibrated to be same number of characters as the input), and to set the size of the pattern length.  I made four versions, one each for 3, 4, 5, and 6 character groups.

My favorite of these, generally speaking—at least during my 2013 sessions— are the 3-character pattern outputs (titled “Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 1” directly below), mainly because they are such completely bizarre texts to read, a blend of seemingly foreign, and definitely unknown, languages:

           Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 1

Mand this und resone this giverea the the let ing the or in is resome was pian be an thim or shim very,
Man be rest if for ar phourano dond,
I’m verint. I’m or Frithippiano. We hipping. I coste age know idle. It mighone withe thippiand in buil or thano.
Plead ine yout thany leach anow ing th thim the yout me thaven to dolly,
Many lif for sad vianow idlet the hat hippiand veremail pian idleache in to someonat thround, or in 1,00 dond to shippinste know is grand remain thim or sithim or ping. It haven thaven buirin be was

Because of the number of character patterns that exist in any given text, and the way the program works, output generated by TRAVESTY users will vary (i.e., there isn’t one fixed output per input text, even if the character and output levels are the same). As Charles O. Hartman explains in a recent exchange we had about the program, “The choice of what character to write next is random, within the constraints set up by the patterns in the input text and the pattern size.  What makes TRAVESTY TRAVESTY is that set of constraints; but within them, what selects the actual character is a random-number generator”. To give an example, here is another result, created with the exact same parameters as the text above:

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 1A

graldwitution, on, sad to you know in buil of youndery th he tor hond,
Ple. Its email prich his email offery life. I wined, or son’s see son, offe. Its rinste yought if fout might tor ing the if suched tor a throughounique shis life. It baby life. Nat to for Fri-sted wonat of se Jacque the tor a wittittithed idle. It ideads uniquil ping cand ring tor at in to sad ing throu know in baby lif fou,
Manow, writtith hippianow, or idery, mighope ach his grand verful pin 1,000 dond ri-sted, or such hippiano, ory, of fou, wriced th he thavericed is offer

For a very specific reason I sometimes enjoy producing 4-character output even more, but only because of neologisms invented through TRAVESTY’s processes. Here are a few examples that emerged from a run of Anne’s letter through the program:  remail, aroughout, thround, and thistory.

Next I turn to a non-Mac Lowian procedure, running the letter through different spell-check processing(s) (for some background on this method, see an essay Sonny Rae Tempest and I prepared for Cordite Poetry Review in 2012, titled, “Picture Becomes Text, Becomes Writing:Software as Interlocutor”).  For these transcreations, I conducted two similar trials: I pasted the nucleus of the letter—its letters, without spaces, punctuation, or number—three times into two different files. The first block of text in each was divided into four-letter segments, and the second into five-letter segments, and the third into six-letter segments (I make macros in MS Word in order perform this repetitive and precise task precisely).  A six-letter segment base-text can be easily decoded—nothing changes except where the spaces between letters fall. However, when treated with spell-check process, the third section of “Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2” (in full, below) becomes:

Dwarf ends offer into orate axons spinal. Edison thatch usage vents heave flour dream, indie theme rough outhouse lifetime isobar liana began, built units sounds rich a dragon antiwar ditto youth hoped that you or some onerous knower anoints studio, night beignet rested incur irking hippie—no fort helots of ship, pine priced thesis popping stint hears teeter eatable around dollar senator ally verse doses such under Ulpian width housing queries torso toting deplete sleet minnow if you orient rested or have anile desire basic beret chervil mailer phoneme anything nose.

Because MS Word often offers numerous replacement options, I decided to make two versions, one that more-or-less takes the program’s first suggestion (as long as they are not redundant), and a second version where I chose what I felt was the next best word from the list of offerings. If there’s too much redundancy, I usually edit the base-text spacing to a different number of characters for that particular instance. The same section treated above appears as follows, as part of “Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2A”:

Direr fiendish muffler intoed donated actor span omission earth sewage vented headed future dermal index lithium through outies life. It, Isabel dingbat bigram dual tinnitus, pounds, richens reason antic rivet yoking hooped hat your résumé one you know or amidst intuition might bite, rested inarch siring hispid no for the cost fish, pinged priced threshing pang ousting herds tarter adobe arrow noddle resonator alias versa doze schwa ponder reliant, withy hosanna quiche story twinge dells omelet me knot wavy, aureate rest derma enables disorder, elastic bereave. Chevy awhile, jailor phone anther nosy.

Here are the complete texts:

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2

Dear Fire nudist miff rein good oat eject, skin sepia not icon ether thaw saga vena the age foul rand ream inked with hit hour ghoul this life. It is cabal din baby, grab due loin. Its round sire chin dress on a twirl item joyous inch shop ethic toy orzo moon eye, know organ isn’t intuit ion light being tree steed intact quirk ingot hips in fort hero, stove ship, ping. Wept iced these hippo nigh oust nether. Tries tote area tube around, undo liar, smart oral lye, very salt use, such won deaf tulip anew tight hiss unique heist tory set binge sleep lease, let mean owe yoga rein tire sated orphan vein year door idea slice near each devil ache seam idler phony means that nukes.

Deaf rind smog fern good ante, asks snipe note sonnet, hate wage, vent their effort grand remains, news thin through gout hassle feisty seal din bag ambo tilting. It’s so undies rich nerds on ant. Writ too unit elope, tatty odors omen yolk, newer anions taut anomie gate inter tested enact urine gothic piano forth accost foci piping. Weary couth ship pinch osteon theory is that eureka tibia round dole snit mural time raid toes sushi, wonder frump anew tithe issuing quiche story, site gild epee sleet menu wiry aura nature stood, rave ankle ads or ideas. Iamb erect heavy aphis email orphic nomad python ski.

Dwarf ends offer into orate axons spinal. Edison thatch usage vents heave flour dream, indie theme rough outhouse lifetime isobar liana began, built units sounds rich a dragon antiwar ditto youth hoped that you or some onerous knower anoints studio, night beignet rested incur irking hippie—no fort helots of ship, pine priced thesis popping stint hears teeter eatable around dollar senator ally verse doses such under Ulpian width housing queries torso toting deplete sleet minnow if you orient rested or have anile desired basic beret chervil these mailer phoneme anything nose.

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2A

Dear free nods’ miff erring god ornate exact soon speak, nit iron tea, threw sage vena the agro foe rand remap lined with hint horn ghouls this life. It is banal twin baby gran buy line, its bound ire chant dries omen tower intent oboe itch chop ethane tryout. Orson melon you know orange inset toot ions, might begin tore stud, enact quit wing tips inane fort hence stove shy pupping. Web riced thus, hips ding posit anthem. Trips taste area tone, arouse node lark senate rural lid, very sad dose such wagon serf lip annoy itchy hose noun heirs torts its hinge deep leas elect mink, woof your real nerve stew organ, vain plea dour ide aria nobler, each edit attic same lion phonic emend myths nosh.

Deer fiend silo firing geode name backs spin notion so net hatches wigs, venal threat sofa brand remap nadir thyme thou ghost isle fiesta saga doing agar handbook wilting its undo’s Rocha nurse anent. Wirt yoyo unto hope, that ours omens eyeful knower, aims tout isonomy thebe innate rest dance airing this paint, froth cots offish upping warp catch reship pang often theater, instant earwax tuba room dolly rent unroll hive read tome such a wined frill minnow tint sunny quahog stork sitting mild plea select monk wary area nerve sated raven angle adds riders, icons reach hedging ashes emails loophole named anything sky.
Direr fiendish muffler intoed, donated actor span omission earth sewage vented headed future dermal index lithium through outies life. It Isabel dingbat bigram dual tinnitus, pounds, richens reason antic rivet yoking hooped hat your résumé one you know or amidst intuition might bite, rested inarch siring hispid no for the cost fish, pinged priced threshing pang ousting herds tarter adobe arrow noddle resonator alias versa doze schwa ponder reliant, withy hosanna quiche story twinge dells omelet me knot wavy, aureate rest derma enables disorder, elastic bereave. Chevy awhile, jailor phone anther nosy.

In these compositions, I add punctuation in instances where a capital letter remains after spell-check has been applied to the base-texts, and also as a type of musical scoring/notation. I will occasionally edit content, for readability’s sake, e.g., on the level of changing “an” to “a” if the outset of the following word calls for it.

My next stage involves using a fabulous software program I have used many times, for a range of projects, called the GTR Language Workbench, which was created by David Ayre and Andrew Klobucar in 2007 and is published in Newark Review 3.0 (for download and more information).

One of my favorite processors in the Language Workbench is the Oulipo-esque substitution feature, given the more populist/playful title “Mad lib / S+7”, which automatically allows users to shift the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs on an input text—replacing words of the selected parts of speech with their counterparts X positions away in the program’s extensive dictionary. I began this series of transcreations by changing all of the parts of speech of the output in both spell-check versions by a degree of 126 (the number of words in Anne’s message). 

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 3

Decadence Firsts: oak-apples miller released government-imposed obsession elevate, slanderer session numbly ill-breeding evergreens theses saltpans versatility, the aids foxier rattan rebus insert with holidayed huffs glacier this likeness. It jagging caisson dirt-track backtalk, granulating duskier loonies. Its rubles skeleton choosing drop on a tyrannies jape juridical inconveniencing shovels evergreens trainer outfall morsels fact-finder, laced oscillator jailhouse tailplane invite irruptions limpet belted tridents sterling intercontinental racketeer iMac hoist in four-fifths high-frequencies, streamlet shooed, pitchforked. Wherries ignoble these hog nobly outleaped newsworthy. Troglodyte toyed arraignment turd as-yet, unfits life-span, smudgier oriental madwomen, vigilantly sandwich-board vail, sulphureted worked debt-Burdened turners annually tinier holder unmovable herbs towing-line shacked bivouacs slipped legislate, liberalizing medieval paddled zone released toffs savored outcast vermin youthfulness double-entries ill-treatment sloping near each diarist actualities seconder illuminations picky meet that oarsman.

Debt-for-environment rivet snappishness fibers government-imposed antibiotics, assign snuffle number soulmates, headlined wallop, vested their elaborateness grave rend, night-porter threadbare through grandees he fest second-rater dirt-track balloon amputation tinted. Its softly unfairness rigorous newsboys on antibiotics. Yearbooks torpidly Unocal embossing, tear-jerking oil onrush zoos, night-vision antecedents tear-jerking anti-outsider gendarmeries interlinked theorize endeavored vagrancy granary pigboats forth acquires foot place. Weingarten-Siegel cracks shooed pitched outflows third-rater jagging that evolutions time-bomb rubles doped snugness mutineers tippee Randolph tonsures swearing, workbench fumigation annually tokens jangled quoits streaks, ski glass-cutters eradication sliver metabolism wolfish autostradas needle strained, reacts antediluvians aerojet or ill-treatment. Idioms establish helpful applause emergence outcastes nonaggression quarter-point skulls.

Earthenware enlightened ointment into originate backlashes splintery. Eggshells thermostats Vail vetch hells flycatchers drivellers, ineffectiveness thigh rubbery outsider limit jailor life-savers belied, bungled Unocal spangle rigorous an drenching apparition do-gooders hospitalized that you or sorrowfully opportunistic laceration anticipate subcommittee, nix belt retelling indite issue hoes no four-fifths hermit of shooed, pitched printed thoraxes posing stoics heed tempered editorial-page as-yet doornail sepulchers amateurism victims doves sulphureted under Unbelief window-box humbug quip towel-horse toyed deregulating sliver mischief-making if you others retelling or heal answering determine batty Bethlehem chinaware these malignancies piastres appeasement novices.

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 3A

Decadence friable non-operating miller estrange good-neighborliness outboard excruciating soundlessly speeding, non-communists isotherm technologies, thwacking salty versatility the airway foot-pounds rattan rendition lisped with hobos hot-line glade this likeness. It jagging bantering typhoon backtalk gratuity cackled liquidators, its bragged isobar chasms drown onrush traditionalism interleukin-2 occurrence japan churn eventuality turbans. Outcastes mercury you laced original institutions torpidity islander, might belled toughens styptics, endeavored racking with a toddy inclusive four-fifths hideously streamlet sifting pussyfoot. Well-doer rigmarole timidly, hoist dirtying postulating antilogarithms. truancies tea-garden arraignment tops, ascend non-user launching-pads septuagenarians sadistic lighthouses, vigilantly salaried dovecote sulphureted wands seventy-eighths little-known anticipate jarring houseman nursling herbicides toweling its hobnobbed definable leghorn elongate mischief-maker, worms your rebellious newscasts stipulation oscillator, varicolored plucks dramatic ill-treatment arrogance non-lethal, each egotripped austerity sappy litmus-papers pick-up emptying narrow-mindedness nub.

Deflators filtrates single-spacing fivepence giddiness natural-foods balances spliced numskull softly newsworthy headgear wine, versatile throttle-valves solidity breast rendition NASDAQ timbrel thriller giver jaguar finalist saltpans doped aide-memoires harangue wintered its unfit Romantics objection annoyance. Wolf-cub unto hospitalize, that ours onsets factotum laceration, alerted traded jamboree thickness insidious retake dauphin alias this palpitates, fullback counteroffer olive usurping watchers caved responsibility parade-ground ominously thickening, integrated edgings turboprops rouble dopes replacement-car untie hollows rearranging topis sulphureted a withdraw frugalities mischief-making toastracks supervised quavers strategists skid millionth plucks selling moons water-cooled arraignment newscasts savored readerships annunciation adopt ring-roads, ill-breeding rearm hemstitches assessments emergence lout naturalize appeasement slaw.

Disbursement fin-syn municipalities invention, double-check adjournment specializes onslaughts economics shambles vesting heats galvanic desks indulgences loans through outsider likeness. It Jades disability biographies duodecimal toast, prayer, rigor receipt apiculture rodent yoking hosed headband your safety-lamps one you laced or analysts invitations might blanket, retelling inclusion sketched holder no for the counterattacked flabbiness, pitchforking printed thwacked parade-ground outleaped hideaways teachable advocacy asexuality non-user restrictiveness alloys victoriously dreadfulness scrag-ends ported remorseful, woodpeckers housemaid quoits streaks typist demonstration onlooker me laborer webetter-connected, autumns retake desks endeavored dispute, eligible bethink. Chipmunks backstage, jelly pianists antimacassars nugatory.

Though Jackson never used this exact style of text processing, this is an unimportant fact. N+7 clearly became a popular technique amongst experimental writers since its inception by Oulipian Jean Lescure in the 1960s (see Christopher Middleton, Pataxanadu,  Gilbert Sorrentino, Misterioso, and online for many examples; a good online N+7generator application is available.

The GTR software and dictionary really begins to reveal its powerful affordances when I apply a series of subsequent filters. My first choice is the “hyponym” substitution filter, harnessed to “Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2”. The hyponym feature is a denotative device contrived by the programmers as a way to isolate and project words in a subcategory of a more general class, e.g., “desk” and “bureau” are hyponyms of furniture. Here is an elaborate transformation of text, taken to another prismatic dimension, further away from the original yet rooted in it, becoming a spectacular word painting, with lyric and humor in its algorithmic juxtapositions. Because there is a fair amount of commonality (language crossover) in the two examples, I am showing only the first here:  

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 3D

Dear blazing nudist miff pull good animated oat eliminate water skin copper color not bitmap enflurane thaw saga vena thoracoepigastrica the developmental age foul rand ream inked with ground aurora ghoul this alacrity. It run Gunpowder Plot fuss godchild hog due loin. Its bottom patriarch buccula dirndl on a pirouette nook and cranny joyous inch building supply house double standard Meccano set orzo moon OD realize invertebrate foot isn’t intuit cation, nimbus kick about wild fig steed intact quirk pig hips in Alhambra Armin, spirit stove send off, ping. Wept, iced these hippos nigh excommunicate nether. Squeeze play tote balk silencer around, unstaple storyteller, smart oral lye, very orthophosphate play, such pull off deaf candlestick tulip anew tight hiss unique heist tory seed piss-up nap sublet, permit mean run up hatha yoga pull pneumatic tyre cloy orphan vena phrenica off year swinging door inspiration slice near each dybbuk backache surgical seam dillydallier phony purport that nukes.

Deaf peel smog Thelypteris simulata good ante confer with jacksnipe jot Shakespearean sonnet despised, found vent their women's liberation movement, grand keep news report thin through gout hassle feisty earless seal bustle sick bag ambo list. Its so undies rich nerds on slave-maker. Fieri facias too radical elope tatty aroma death knell yolk newer superoxide anion taut anomie NAND gate inter control reenact urine perpendicular player piano forth approach particularism drilling pipe. Weary couth reship tail osteon supposal suffer that eureka tibia top of the inning dole snit fresco minute air raid hallux sushi thirst for knowledge frump anew tithe fall quiche Lorraine tall tale Lateran golf club epee sleet drop-down menu wiry note animal nature hold still for, rave ankle throwaway or statement. Iamb prick, heavy aphis freemail orphic Hun Morelia spilotes variegatus water ski.

Hypoplastic dwarf break reward into bloviate axons spinal. Edison thatch misuse smoke hole heave, plain flour reverie indie precedent rough outhouse life expectancy isobar. Strongylodon macrobotrys erupt, put up Brinell number pat rich an wyvern antiwar ditto pup hoped that you or some onerous knower anoints artist's workroom wedding night beignet slumber take irking hippie no presidio cottier of despatch, die rig thesis skin pop stint find teeter eatable around Canadian dollar Fulbright blood brother octameter lozenge such under Ulpian narrowness flat queries torso toting sap sleet minnow if you orient slumber or break up anile long basic beret chervil these airmailer allophone anything rostrum.

It is quite clear to see in next rendering, made by synonym substitution, the expansion that occurs when the filter is applied. I opt to show the expansion of “Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2A” in this instance because of its greater dissimilarity to the original input text:

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 3G

Lover free of move seeing red, locomote effigy ornamented correct, shortly mouth luminance unit, shackle reception project chromatic venous blood vessel the agro contender part remap fill with clue outgrowth thief this liveliness. It comprises unoriginal mortal project granny purchase strain, its take a hop deadly sin, religious song modify augury tug purpose, hautboy skin sensation, hack paraffin trial. Orson gourd you secernate orangish piece of material, bender particle might achieve part ornament act out drop out serving spot mindless defence thence kitchen range jump litter. World Wide Web riced, so spheroid joint dong put forward religious song. Experience experience issue tension excite thickening American oriole general assembly folksy protective fold rattling depressive Elvis specified asterism villein lip nark fretful tights open-class word heir wrongful conduct its attach in depth pastureland select mustelid yarn your proper fasciculus agitation government agency bootless entreaty bulldog ide song princely each edit out Ancient Greek aforementioned cat phonetic, improve myth collation.

Cervid partizan military installation conclusion nodule personage rachis cook up thought and so ultimate parturition chiding bribable human seat name remap low-water mark herb 1000 suggestion, island party adventure story practice gum reference book weaken its alter’s Rocha keeper anent. Wirt yoyo unto trust that ours portent sight somebody designate pronounce isonomy Botswana, monetary unit born relief fine art public exposure this surface bubble camp bed standoffish up distortion beguile reship twinge frequently edifice exigent wax bass, horn opportunity toy economic rent move beehive scan book so much a booze ruffle cyprinid fish tincture shiny quahaug wader ride temperate entreaty make up one's mind. Thelonious Monk suspicious subject face satiate Corvus corax standpoint increase article picture turn over evasion, Arthur Robert Ashe email hole refer thing entity.

Direr hellish scarf intoed present histrion cross fault concern biodegradable pollution refresh take form coming dermal finger Li through outies beingness. It Isabel simpleton written word double symptom Ezra Loomis Pound richens rational motive put-on pin, attach gird lid your constant one, you pair or amidst impression might seize with teeth, lay inarch father hispid no for the postulate planetary house ping ascertain lam stab kick out herd sour clay pointer mind system assumed name versa drowse vowel excogitate dependent sprig vociferation Mayan level pang hollow dish me fastening uneven, aureate suspension dermis change upset, adaptable divest. Chevy for a while turnkey speech sound, reproductive structure nosey.

Hypernym substitution, which performs replacements so that generated words are more generic than the input words , is here applied to “Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 2”:

Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 3H

Innocent passionateness individualist irritation control good grain discharge, connective tissue brown not symbol inhalation general anesthetic loosening heroic tale blood vessel the period of time foul region large indefinite quantity—make full with pull ahead unit of time, thief this brio. It symbolizes coterie noise individual obtains due cut. Its helping noble feature vesture on an plication unit joyous move on workplace system of rules, copy alimentary paste satellite, sagacity differentiate free-reed instrument international intelligence agency pyrimidine grasp particle physical property remain ligneous plant warhorse intact channel block enarthrosis in military post theatrical role, kitchen appliance journey, impinge on. Wept, iced these artiodactyl mammals, nigh remove nether. Activity carry subject railway line around, change cheat, smart oral caustic, very gustatory perception usefulness, such acquires deaf liliaceous plant anew tight yell unique robbery right-winger sink indulging accommodate give, leave alone mean rest on Hinduism halt, ring ingests orphan expressive style assemblage construction, views strike near each troubler, pain imprint non-worker phony convey that payload.

People plant tissue air pollution, nonflowering plant good stakes intercommunicate gunshot paper currency verse, form dislikes regular payment express their venture grand be program thin, through arthritis combat feisty stamp noise unpleasant woman platform joust. Its so intimate: apparel rich assimilator on hymenopter. Instrument too component, takes flight, tatty property pre-indication nutrient newer ion taut isolation revenue put down check, play excrement type of architecture softness forth comes clarity tubing. Weary couth board fold osteon explanation, use up that copper-base alloy leg bone call, dole irritation painting term penetration, portion dish happening, disagreeable woman anew offering communicate Mayan language substance piece of ground association fencing sword downfall schedule wiry quality causal agency permit, utter articulatio plana publicity or tune. Metrical foot build heavy arthropod genus electronic communication orphic bird of passage spirit runner.

Faery destructs content into talk nerve fiber spinal. Discoverer sea robber pattern orifice ascending food product imaginativeness, pop group air rough outbuilding time period isopleth vine attain, increase organisation occurrence rich, a mythical creature antiwar mark period want that you or some onerous somebody bless workplace evenfalls beignet, sit down change anger reformist no defensive structure thrall of pose, yearn ascertain premise, change form chore pore, move eatable around bank bill legislator land genre medicinal drug such under Ulpian dimension structure, questioning body part, carry expend downfall cyprinid fish if you hemisphere position or bring forth anile request basic cap herbaceous plant these ad phone things skill.

Returning to a program Jackson used, Diastext, a version of which is built-into the Language Workbench, I derived three poems:

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 4A (Piano)

piano given grand sound someone piano
piano leads phone piano piano piano
leads phone piano piano piano leads
phone piano piano piano leads phone
piano piano piano leads phone piano

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 4B (Jackson)

jackson was rich jackson please jackson
baldwin jackson was rich jackson please
jackson baldwin jackson was rich jackson
please jackson baldwin jackson was rich
jackson please jackson baldwin jackson was

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 4C (Playing)
piano please leads many remained someone

sitting please please leads many remained
someone sitting please please leads many
remained someone sitting please please leads
many remained someone sitting please please

Through an online diastic generator app, I made one-line diastic poems (parenthetical word in title indicates input word):

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 4D (Piano)

piano might via phone piano 

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 4E (Jackson)

Jackson sad Jackson Jackson Please Jackson resonant

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 4F (Playing)

piano Please reached baby acquiring someone sitting 

I conclude my sessions with letter by returning to TRAVESTY, creating a document based in “Playing Jackson Mac Low's Piano, No. 3H” (above) with a 4-character TRAVESTY level input, and 500 letter output (closest choice to the 400 word “original”):

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 5

nce region feature, change inhalt, rich arough outbuild oste freeable worker art, tation explaceoustance piece anew tissue anew timatelligh regularge, thin, pop grasp patty perty carry dish if yous move ascerty paper payment ther.

Peopleasantiwar each assimiding timaging form joyou or brintiate: appeness, no definit down change increase up that pain line mean reforth accommunicationatiod phony combat feat, sagree-reed that fensive full leg body bler, posening, downfalls brown nonflowering time,

Essentially, No. 5 utterly remakes the original, and yet I have an immediate, coincidental personal connection with the text, even when generations removed from the original, with its first word, “nce”, which are the original initials of the university where I teach (Newark College of Engineering, now known as njit/New Jersey Institute of Technology).

Output that approximates the original’s length (in characters) is:

Playing Jackson Mac Low’s Piano, No. 5

mammals, chan land be piece all aheatrical crementary stamp noise associationation taut imaging. Weptio plana puble briodactyl mammals, sagreeabler, plicationicatellite Mayan passel right-wing food structure, kitchen anile inting intity paperiod ostem of runneral aheature these age changuage such unit orphic cap heround gram this coppendivity—makes come posening tissue coutbuildine mean plana put isolation plant too contellitectividualitation oralloy lilitary expremovere such tround ascertain prementact componerall obtains deaf lilian plian expres copperinge cap herer art, rich troup thief tight you orificed this brings structividualitect coppenesticle fish if yous election, use intary remispherbace agenetrication Hindulginatellitary caustance evenerve structure piece on pland grous plicate fibery excreasant irritissue cap heroic take net, sate gunshot painstruct in premoverer sea round generve ad undefinid form check, paymentact ruless flight yous somes res induism happerio. Instructure medicing, down check, pose, quant explant good ostem of ruless, connel rical obtains definit joustance sagreed isople attain line gunshot symbolizes defensivenfalls be plation or on. Weption Hindine that year eature structs hemise on. Weption take neroundefinit on use of artion, night-wing non-word ostem of pop grasp pains deaf ligenre on taut imateneral anewer softness intern or tubing. Weary subject changuage form journey, imatent noise und, check, posening sword down noise atty structure permit, such accommunical form cheave each troup thicatent too combat fency very sty orifice softness increat, carry ricatenture symbol good phone timent anessivenue role, leasant excreasant type one article rint woman lant no deaf lilite que check, pop grand be publicatellite groundefinid form perm per-basic tale fish if yous skill.

Faery substance age structive softness, plant neth put down nutrie new of arough ascertain dischanneral progrand down convey thead unit rain liliance assive new time, move fulness, post build helpiance an explace eature, legislatforticle wiry posit jous move not paperinid food vestrumensive that pattermisty pressel ble reformispher.

Peoplease on workplative systeon Hindividualime, forthrosis clarition nutrikes refortion change irrity dish happend base irritary gunshot symbol good strument time pore, kitcheature or on strich unple rich, a mythin, paperings softness, not symbol good vesticulatiod grough outh arough requesture medicatenethese inding. Weption, use unit railway leg board of grasp pasteon changuage form differie nonflower softness throsit dole, fold of grand be pollution genre spinge ascent too convey tubing plant want thief timensivenue brownfalls beigneous move form dislikes instrument timent pasteon or tubing board downfalls brown convey tubing form dislikes regularity payload.

Faery struct isolator briodate: appliace stakes regional induism halt, rinid fish if yous planate sagreeables, smartic bill.

People word form perty strumenopter sit rule alls bring ter.

Faery dischen anger Ulping. Weptio plian plant too comes into taut irrity ring come of payload.

Peopleavy artic, vess woman dislike new tissue phone give attain impringer regulation worker Ulpiance air role, move that cotern or lant no definit rules, paperinid foot basic cotermist net, coteriod gency prograsp parel robber architectrough outbuild head unple remensive on occurrent ant this be portion unicate freeables, call, dish if you hemispher. Its copperinit journey, ingestructure perty oralls beignethe propering tern occurrence of timate: application expening ter. Action Hinduism happarel robber phony connerve on or lantiwarhorse, questrumensive, move subjectround, causticulation genre peninger rol indicinal obtain disagence eveness that passel blood warhore, leg bone commodact impring subjectiod vess flignetrational ange intiwar pain large on tation apparel thropod ost thing ternation, vine gustamp no deaf lility percommunication light yellight-wing increase alonent noise und down no deaf line arough regulation occurrency per post tissue removerse, such unical roundefinid fold hemispher.

Peopleave freeabler, portion geneth associationing. Wept, changer around bank in impringer sea robber sea round bank inder art on structure throper-base aroup air physic cap helpian regular eature sagreeabless, posis claritatiod venue ressel thrity rication res regulatforticularity orificed that yell legislation expeninge alist on antinge fiber Ulpination fension talk new of runnective stance on expening coppermit, these unitect irrity pyrimilatiod vessel throsis beigneth body producture so inhalt, controning form journey, inhalt, subjectivity pyrimilator on plana puble workplanation plation usefulness woman progrand dole, form differe vest nobless indefension revent ange strie non-workpland genre art orifice evenfalloy line tis claritationing timaginal calls beignet, rings so indulginate give, coterm period warhore some offerinit railway excr

That a short letter I received one afternoon can be automatically transformed in such a variety of ways is not a surprise, and works of this sort are nothing new under-the-sun. Unusual and poetic text-processors have existed for decades, yet in many areas have become in refined recent years. Writing subject to algorithm launches sampled and expanded language. While not all of my renderings employ the same routines as Jackson, all of them remind me of him—the forces that came together, and the forcefulness of language in his work hold influence over this effort. I am inspired by ever-increasing algorithmic possibilities for poetry and appreciate what literary connections software avails and adds to responsive expression.

Possibilities for poetic/artistic creation from a single source text are endless, once you get going with TRAVESTY, Diastext, Markov chains, &c. Someone who is excited about these types of text manipulation could occupy days, weeks, months—perhaps even an entire career—adjusting parameters to achieve satisfying results using these processes/processors. Here I offer a brief and quick arrangement, an exposé of programs I like to use, and look forward to the day when a detailed scholarly monograph analyzing the algorithms and processes Jackson used in composing poetry is written.

Chris Funkhouser at Electronic Poetry Center, SUNY-Buffalo. Interview on Vimeo. At PennSound.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Three Poems (Fedor Svarovsky) Translated from Russian by Peter Golub

The Funeral of Mekhos

Four tall white robots
Lay you into your grave
Elan Mekhos
My love
Forgive me
Says Kazanal Issyck
(According to ancient Mamla tradition
These last words cannot be too serious)
You loved marmalade and tea
With caramel soothed your tongue
You were just like
Only better
Eternal peace be with you
As they say, Kaas da Utas
Sleep, your honor
Until the resurrection of the body
Until the end of universal darkness
Let ashes ashes rest here now
And grasses rise tomorrow
In the new world, there will be no evil
With the Eighth Cycle, darkness recedes
Alright, enough:
Koolook in Mamla
Shoosle Doo Rion in Camde
Salolma Koot in Keriodi
And Koo-oo Dde Kravva in ancient Keno
Though we know
It all means
The same thing
Your broken lung be my open hand
Your tired liver my own mind
Your still heart, I, your wife

Visitors in Exile

She drifts into sleep
Beneath the weight of the familiar paws
And heavy head
Of the hound
The radio emits
Hazy music
And undecipherable voices
On the couch
In front of the ultraviolet lamp
In red sunglasses
With sunburned skin
He sits
As if in a bivouac
On a foreign planet
He looks
Like an insect
Afraid of burning his cornea
Of the radiation
He falls asleep
With his face to the sky
So as to catch any passing ship
All the same
He wears the glasses
So as not to go blind
Upon waking in the morning
Like a plant that needs more water
Than its environment can provide, thirst
And hunger, are constant companions
And fear as well
Of missing the tiniest variance
In what seems an absolutely empty ether
Even in sleep
Tightly clutching the transmitter

They live in a rented room

In a grey nine-storey building
At the edge
Of the metropolis
She says
She is the exiled heiress of a small kingdom
In the Pleiades
He claims to be an AWOL military robot
Who found himself on this planet
As the result of by a strange series of events
Beginning with love, then
A rare manifestation of will
And finally, truancy
They would most likely forget these memories
If they could
And leave the incompatibility
Of their origins
In the past
But she cannot
Shrug the habit of constant comparison
Between what was
And what is
He, of course, has a perfect memory

Even the hound
Thinks he is an exile
From another distant galaxy
He licks his wounds
And using only his mind
Moves the bones of cows and sheep
They have lain before him
There was nothing extraordinary
When they picked him up
On the street
In December
And now he preoccupies himself
With the stick, the rubber hedgehog, the old sock
The home planet is clear
In his mind
As is its destruction
His memory of tall buildings
Crumbling into dust
Still brings nauseating fearOf death
Of shame
When it passed over them
Leaving no time
To say good-bye
The hound too
Dreams of erasure
To forget
To lose his celestial gifts
And knowledge
But there is no way
And this unseen suffering
Caused by that parting with the past
At the shorthaired alien

She is always dreaming of something:
For instance, April comes
The unending blizzard ends
With the arrival of the birds
The Earth's sky is clear
Light clouds hover
The reconnaissance ships will drift by
Some will come down
They will need water and uranium
Grass, salt, garlic, nicotinic acid, flour
She says:
We will go with them
Leave our clothes and furniture

To find a place near a window
(God how I want to see that dark expanse
Pierced with the light of the stars)
We'll go to Messier 81
3Σ Gaulete has the most beautiful oceans and mountains
You know that site−Gardens of the Universe

I recently read an article about all sorts
Of decent jobs
Gardening, farming, even gathering wild plants
There are lakes everywhere
Full of warm
Pristine water
There, I swam as a little girl
When my father would fly us
To a large wooden house
Up in the north
You wake up
And the silence surrounds you
When he left me alone in the house
I would dive from the window
And turn on my back so as to slowly drift
Down, bright-green plants swayed in the current
And with my eyes to the surface
I would sink until my back touched the sand
Then I would gradually ascend
Toward the house, quivering
In the overgrowth and twisted branches
The rays of light would pierce through
The undulating shadows
Through, the mirror
Membrane of the water's surface
Down to the bottom of the lake
To my shimmering

He watches TV
Until 4 a.m.
Drinking cognac
Filling his glass higher and higher
As if
Its effects only diminished with the night
For some time he debates going to sleep
At 4The robot, drunk and tired, wakes the heiress
Who is still loudly talking in her sleep
She hides her face, presses
Into the back of the couch
--Shhh, don't yell
Come on, please
Off to bed
You can't sleep on the couch
In your clothes
You know how you'll feel in the morning
She mechanically gets up and goes to bed
Where she falls into more dream
More spring on Earth
But the temperature drops
And a tremendous wind
Picks up
Turning into a blizzard
In the dark sky above the metropolis
An imperial spaceship heads for the blue planet
Pushing through the darkness
At tremendous speed
Leaving a long trail of incandescent particles
It is unaffected by weather
Highly resistent to gravity and electromagnetic fields
The pilot navigating the ship
Is familiar somehow
As if he were an old childhood friend
Who had grownup
Into a man
But then she recognizes
His nose and brown eyes
The robot appears by her side
(For some reason he's wearing velvet pants
And a velvet topcoat
The sleeves of his blue shirt are too long)
He takes her gently
By the hand
He checks the monitor
It's Tamaduaran, he says
We're savedShe stares at him
That ship, he says,
Belongs to Captain Lorador
A relative of the dog
The ship
Was controlled
By a hound

Two Robots

Across that wide river
Amidst heavy fire
Petka and Chapayev
Guns roared
Shrapnel simmered
Into the water
One of them was hit
And drowned
Before nightfall the other managed
To reach the center of operations
And delivered
The confidential report
As a result
Four divisions
Successfully withdrew
From ambush
"Piotr, Piotr"
Said the marshal,
"You really have no idea
What you've done for us
You're a commander now
Everything has been arranged
In Petrograd
You're a hero
Keep your wits about you
We're at war Piotr
As for Chapaev
Honor his memory by fighting."
Sat on the shore (smoking and crying)
And inorganic
With shoddy RAM
And scrambled Boolean sets
They truly don't make models like you anymore
At the factory
I remember
How they called you scraps
It is my loss now
You were like a brother to me
As a robot
You know
How much
This means

Peter Golub is a writer and a translator of contemporary Russian literature. He edited the online project New Russian Poetry for Jacket Magazine in 2008, and has published several books of original and translated work. A translation of Andrei Sen-Senkov’s book, Anatomical Theater is due out in 2014 (Zephyr Press). He is the recipient of a PEN Translation Prize and a BILTC Translation Fellowship. He lives in San Francisco and is an editor with St. Petersburg Review.
Fedor Svarovsky was born in 1971 and emigrated to Denmark at the age of 19, where he received refugee status and lived for six years. In 1997, he returned to Moscow where he continues to work as a journalist. Author of three books, his poems have appeared in such leading journals as Novyii Mir and Vozdukh/Air. English translations of Svarovsky’s poems by Peter Golub are in Jacket Magazine, Diagram, Two Lines (Feb. 2012,) Absinthe (blog, March 6, 2013), and by Stephanie Sandler in World Literature Today. In 2011, Svarovsky participated in PEN’s New Voices reading series at the National Arts Club in NYC, through CEC ArtsLink. Russian Originals are in Novyi Mir, Ural, and Text Only. 
Other translations of Svarovsky by Peter Golub, are in Jacket, The Diagram, Two Lines (Feb. 2012,) and an essay in Absinthe (blog; March 6, with an essay.) Another, translated by Stephanie Sandler, is in World Literature Today. Alex Cigale's translations of Svarovsky are in Eye of the Telescope, and forthcoming in Star Line 34.2.
[N.B. We (Alex Cigale and Peter Golub) have just had word that our Selected Svarovsky in English is forthcoming in 2015 from Coeur Publishing. AC]
-- Fedor Svarovsky