Judy Malloy, Editor
"The professor then desired me 'to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.' The pupils,
at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the
edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely
changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly,
as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make
part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This work was
repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived,
that the words shifted into new places,
as the square bits of wood moved upside down."
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
iterature generators use a variety of computer-mediated composition systems to
create algorithmic poetry or narrative. For instance, they may generate words or phrases according
to a rule-based system. They may remix, recontextualize, or analyze classic texts. In various ways,
they may generate words or phrases written by a contemporary poet who is utilizing the generator.
They may invite users to input text that is systematically recontextualized. And in some cases,
the literature generator software itself is a work of art. This Authoring Software page
on poetry generators, also includes story and narrative generators.
Poetry generators are authoring systems that are used to create generative literature,
which can include and/or be defined as generative poetry, remixed poetry, or computational poetry.
Literature generators that are used to create short narrative works are usually called narrative generators
or story generators.
here is a long tradition of the creation of generative literature, going back to such medieval devices
as The Chance of the Dice, but currently the focus of this Authoring Software resource is on computer-mediated poetry
and narrative generators. It is a continuing resource, and suggestions for additions are welcome.
Works Created with Poetry and/or Narrative Generators
- Authoring Software Statements
J. R. Carpenter
Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR
Python scripts adapted from story generators by Nick Montfort
tory generators use a variety of computer-mediated composition systems to
create poetry or narrative. For instance, they may generate plot or characters,
or they may allow a writer to input text that is the systematically recontextualized, creating,
as in Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR, a software-mediated story.
J. R. Carpenter conducts the Hermit Crab Reading Choir, in which, members read Excerpts
of the Chronicles of Pookie & JR in a round, at the launch of GENERATION[S],
a collection of code narratives, published by Traumawien. Cabaret Fledermaus, Vienna, Tuesday, 14 December 2010
The GRIOT System
Image: Fox Harrell, The GRIOT System Architecture
ox Harrell's work focuses on the
development of computer-media-narrative
and authoring software that uses elements of interactivity, social critique,
cross-cultural narrative; cognitive semantics; gaming; and the social aspects
of user-interface design. His seminal GRIOT System uses code to create/generate
interactive and significant "polymorphic" poems -- such as The Girl with Skin of Haints and
Seraphs and Walking Blues Changes Undersea. GRIOT (named for West African storytellers who often incorporate improvisation in their performances) uses a combination of knowledge engineering, interactivity, cultural identity, and Joseph Goguen's mathematical approach to meaning representation called algebraic semiotics. Harrell has also worked with Kenny Chow to create a "new form of concrete polymorphic poetry inspired by Japanese renku poetry, iconicity of Chinese
character forms, and generative models from contemporary art.
Authoring System: Eugenio Tisselli's MIDIPoet
Chris Funkhouser performing with MIDIPoet at Grant Recital Hall,
Brown University, June 4, 2010. photo: Amy Hufnagel
learned about Tisselli's program in 2008, when he and I participated
in a literary arts festival at Brown University. ( Interrupt). Tisselli
used MIDIPoet to propel a digital poetry performance (featuring graphics, text,
and gesture) with a mobile phone -- an approach to presentation he also used at E-Poetry 2009
in Barcelona. Having known about MIDI-based art since the mid-90s, when friends of mine studying
with George Lewis at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's (RPI) iEar program were coordinating
sound and video through MIDI, I was intrigued that a digital poet had engineered such a tool."
ack in 1999, when I wrote the first version of MIDIPoet,
software for the real-time manipulation of texts and images
via MIDI was either expensive or very difficult to use. (and in some cases, both)
So, my aim was to develop a software tool that would be powerful, easy to use, and that would
allow me (and others) to compose and perform interactive pieces of visual poetry."
Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between
n general, commented code incorporates statements in the program that are not executable,
i.e. they do not contribute to the computer's running of the program but rather explain or
describe the intentions of the programmer. The idea of "literate" programming -- which
incorporates textual, sometimes poetic narrative in order to contribute both to code
understanding and literary analysis -- has been of recent interest in the digital humanities community.
Here, the commented code serves as a statement that not only documents the artists' intentions and but also invites
the reader to understand how they were implemented by the program.
As a whole, the commented code for Sea and Spar Between is of interest not only
to writers and students who want to learn how computers can be programmed to generate poetry
and/or analyze literature but also to to programmers
who want to explore literary approaches to the commenting of code.
The Broadside of a Yarn
ommissioned by ELMCIP for the 2012 Remediating the Social
exhibition in Edinburgh, The Broadside of a Yarn is a richly detailed 21st century locative
broadside, in which a series of computer-generated narrative dialogues are accessed via QR codes.
One generator "is composed entirely of dialogue from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer.
Another contains lines of dialogue from Shakespeare's The Tempest," she explains in her
Authoring Software statement. "Details from many a high sea story have been netted by
this net-worked work. The combinatorial powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and
confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of fantastical islands, impossible
pilots, and voyages into the unknown undertaken over the past 2340 years."
Existing not only as a series of gallery mounted "map squares" of images found and/or created,
in Edinburgh but also as a live many-voiced performance, The Broadside of a Yarn was/is in her words
"a pervasive performative wander through a sea of sailors' yarns".
The Last Performance [dot org]
or Authoring Software, Judd Morrissey writes about the creation of The Last Performance
[dot org], a poetic "evolving collaborative space" in which an array of generative text --
collaboratively composed in thousands of "lenses" -- assembles and reassembles
in an elegant dome architecture structure.
Other Works Created with Poetry and Narrative Generators
- Jean Pierre Balpe
- Pedro Barbosa and Luis Carlos Petry
Alletsator (ELMCIP Knowledge Base)
Labylogue, a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges' The Library of Babel, was a simulated
three-dimensional large-scale visual poetry performance.
n art spaces and museums in three different
French speaking cities -- Brussels, Lyon, and Dakar -- Labylogue developed eight main themes
that invited visitors to meet in the labyrinth and, as they conversed, immerse themselves
in the accompanying text on the walls.
sound: Jean-Baptiste Barrière
text generation: Jean-Pierre Balpe
- Simon Biggs
- Philippe Bootz and Marcel Frémiot
The Set of U, (Electronic Literature Collection, V.1)
- John Cayley
- J.R. Carpenter
Along the Briny Beach
I've Died and Gone to Devon
There he was, gone, Joyland Poetry: A Hub for Poetry
Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl
- Jim Carpenter
Public Override Void (Slought Foundation)
- Jim Carpenter, Bob Perelman, Nick Montfort, and Jean-Michel Rabaté
Poetry Engines and Prosthetic Imaginations (Slought Foundation)
Generative Poetry (Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1)
- Loss Pequeño Glazier
White-Faced Bromeliads on 20 Hectares
- Judith Kerman
Ice Fishermen (The Electronic Labyrinth)
- David Link
- Jackson Mac Low
Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes
(Jackson Mac Low, Charles O. Hartman, Djuna Barnes),
(Electronic Literature Directory)
Stein 100: A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair
Jackson Mac Low
- Judy Malloy
- BASIC version
its name was Penelope, Eastgate, 1993
Scholars Contemplate the Irish Beer
Uncle Roger, File 3: Terminals
You! (The New Media Reader CD)
(Collaboration with Alexander Szekely)
Series 1: the alphabetic (ELMCIP Knowledge Base)
Through the Park
Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort
Accompanied by Electronic Literature Community Homage-Interventions
n January 2009, during a visit to Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan, MIT Professor
and electronic poet Nick Montfort created a work of generative poetry
using Python. He finished Taroko Gorge on the journey home
the World Wide Web.
It wasn't too long afterwards that Scott Rettberg appropriated Nick's authoring system and created the
urban intervention "Tokyo Garage". Scott was followed by J.R. Carpenter,
whose "Whisper Wire" transported the landscape to the age of technology.
And an electronic literature community tradition had begun.
There were subsequently a series of works that in response, Nick lined through.
(although they were still visible) They included, among others:
Mark Sample's homage to George Takei, Andrew Plotkin's duet between the code and the text,
Kathi Inman Berens kitchen-situated Tournedo Gorge, and
Leonardo Flores' homage to Gary Snyder's mountain poetry.
Offering the potential for student exploration of the uses of an elegant authoring system,
Taroko Gorge -- rooted in landscape description, constantly changing -- succeeds because
Montfort carefully planned the flow of the work and created meaningful data sets (allowing, for instance,
for transitive verbs and imperfect verbs) and in the process created a resonant,
contemporary poetry array that inspired collaborative response.
The resultant eliterature community works have been reviewed by Leonardo Flores at
accompanied by his own remix of the poets and the process.
Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort et. al.
Nick Montfort and William Gillespie
2002: A Palindrome Story
Pillage Laud (SPD)
Oulipoems (Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1)
What I Believe
(ELMCIP Knowledge Base)
House of Leaves of Grass
no life no life no life no life: the 100,000,000,000,000 stanzas of House of Leaves of Grass
I am | A Twitter Poem
Poetry Generators - Books, Papers and Discussions
- edde addad,
"charNG: case study of authoring a poetry generator", netpoetic.com, June 28th, 2011
- Jim Andrews,
"Gregory Chatonsky's Generative Narratives", netartery, October 14th, 2010
- Jean-Pierre Balpe,
"Principles and Processes of Generative Literature: Questions to Literature",
Dictung-Digital, January 2005.
- Serge Bouchardon, University of Technology of Compiegne, COSTECH laboratory,
Digital Literature in France
- B. Bridger,
"Dramaturgy and the Digital", Exeunt Magazine, 2013
- Licia Calvi and Paul Buchanan,
"A Case on Generative Art: Digital Poetry"
- Jim Carpenter,
Electronic Text Compostition Project
- J.R. Carpenter,
"Generating Books: Paradoxical Print Snapshots of Digital Literary Processes"
Mapping E-Lit, Barcelona, Spain, 2011
- John Cayley
- Geoff Cox, Alex McLean and Adrian Ward,
"The Aesthetics of Generative Code"
- Lori Emerson,
"Materiality, Intentionality, and the Computer-Generated Poem:
A Reading of Walter Benn Michaels With Erin Mouré's Pillage Laud",
English Studies in Canada 34:4, 2010, pp. 45-69
- Brian Evans,
"The Quinary--Permuting Meaning with Generative Poetry"
- C.T. Funkhouser,
New Directions in Digital Poetry, NY: Continuum, 2012
- Christopher T. Funkhouser,
"On Virtually Disembodied Expression", Reality Sandwich, November 26, 2008
GENERATION[S] , Vienna: Traumawien, 2010
- Loss Pequeño Glazier
Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries
- D. Fox Harrell,
Griot System Homepage
- D. Fox Harrell and Kenny K. N. Chow
"Generative Visual Renku: Poetic Multimedia Semantics with the GRIOT System"
HYPERRHIZ.06, Special Issue: Visionary Landscapes, Summer 2008
Charles O. Hartman -- Programs and Programming
- Charles O. Hartman,
Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry,
Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.
- N. Katherine Hayles,
"Electronic Literature: What is it?", Electronic Literature Organization,
January 2, 2007
- Daniel C. Howe and A. Braxton Soderman,
"The Aesthetics of Generative Literature: Lessons from a Digital Writing Workshop"
HYPERRHIZ.06, Special Issue: Visionary Landscapes, Summer 2009.
- Daniel C. Howe,
"RiTa: Creativity Support for Computational Literature",
Proceedings of the 7th ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition, Berkeley, California, 2009
- Hugh Kenner and Joseph O'Rourke, "A Travesty Generator for Micros",
BYTE, 9:12, November 1984 pp. 129-131, 449-469
- Nick Montfort,
"My Generation about Talking", Software Studies Workshop, UCSD, May 21, 2008
- Nick Montfort
"ppg256-1 (Perl Poetry Generator in 256 characters)", April 13, 2009
- Nick Montfort,
Three 1K Story Generators, Grand Text Auto, November 30, 2008
- Cliff Pickover, "Computer-Generated Poetry," Computers and the Imagination, NY: St. Martin's Press. pp. 317-320, 1991.
- Todd Pitt
"Plum Flowers, Poetry of Witness Pseudorandom Poem Generator"
English Matters: issue 8 Text & Technology
- Rita Raley,
"Code.surface || Code.depth", Dichtung, 2006
- Eugenio Tiselli,
On Fluid Poetry, netartery, June 21, 2010
Other Poetry and Narrative Generators
oftware systems written by writers and artists, either for their own works or for the works of their colleagues,
and/or software systems written by engineers are primary tools in the creation of generative literature.
For instance, Nick Montfort's poetry generators have been used both in his own work and in collaboration with other writers.
Jackson Mac Low's "Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes" was created with DIASTEXT,
developed by Charles O. Hartman. Todd Pitt used JAVA to create the "Plum Flowers Poem Generator" for his own work.
Sometimes the creation of poetry generators is an interactive process -- for instance, the poetry generator
COLLOQUEY by Judith Kerman and Robert Chiles.
has been and is being used to created contemporary computer-mediated generative literature, such as
"Generative Poems" by María Mencía in collaboration with Alexander Szekely.
- Andrew C. Bulhak
a poetry generation sketchbook
- Estudio Paco Bascunan and Inklude
an automated text-generator
The Poetry Generator
provides a variety of tools
cartoon narrative tools
Poetry and Narrative Generators - historical
170 P = 7000
A Poetry Generator written in BASIC asks for input
172 Q$ = CHR$(34)
175 PRINT "Please type your sentence enclosed in quotes."
176 PRINT " Example: ";Q$ "I love you."Q$
180 PRINT "Your sentence? "
190 INPUT S$
200 L = LEN(S$)
210 IF S$ = "show" THEN GOSUB 840
220 IF S$ = "STOP" THEN END
230 PRINT: PRINT "Would you like your name listed in the credits?"
240 PRINT: PRINT: PRINT "Please type yes or no "
250 INPUT A$
2 Lutz Fragments, Gnoetry Daily, December 22, 2010
The first meeting of the Satie society,
John Cage database
- William Chamberlain, The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed: Computer prose and poetry by Racter
New York: Warner Books, 1984
330 A.D. : Florian Cramer & the roots of Permutations, Digital Poetics
- Christopher Funkhouser,
Prehistoric Digital Poetry, An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995,
Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2007.
- David Jhave Johnston,
"1962: R.M. Worthy, Auto-Beatnik",
Digital Poetry Overview
- David Link,
Manchester Mark I emulator
Christopher Strachey's 1952 "Loveletters" program
- David Link,
Poetry Machines / Machine Poetry --
On the Early History of Computerised Text Generation and Generative Systems
- David Link,
"There Must Be an Angel, On the Beginnings of the Arithmetics of Rays", transmediale
- Theo Lutz,
augenblick 4,1959, H. 1, S. 3-9
- Peter Manson,
modelled on the program TRAVESTY by Hugh Kenner and Joseph O'Rourke
- Jorg Piringer,
Nam Shub - A Text Creation and Performance Environment
- Jasia Reichardt, "An Interview with Charles Csuri", in
Cybernetic Serendipity, edited by Jaisa Reichardt. NY: Praeger, 1969.
- M. Sephton,
Christopher Strachey Loveletters (1952),
Manchester: Museum of Science and Industry, 2010.
"Travesty", Poetry Home
- Marius Watz,
Computer Generated Writing
(many links are not working but the page provides a useful list for historical purposes)
320 REM random number is found
330 Y = 100
340 Z = 10
350 S = VAL (RIGHT$(TIME$,2)): RANDOMIZE S
360 V = RND * Z
370 V = V + Y
380 V = CINT(V)
390 print V
A Poetry Generator written in BASIC finds a random
(technically pseudo-random) number.
This process can be used to substitute words or print lines at random
Databases, Collected Reviews, Collected Works, and Exhibitions
Jim Andrews, ed.
Stir Fry Texts
Electronic Literature Organization Directory
Electronic Poetry Center
ELMCIP Knowledge Base
I ♥ E-Poetry
Judy Malloy, ed.
For information about the Authoring Software project, email Judy Malloy at firstname.lastname@example.org
last update: August, 2013
Tools and Applications
Writers and Artists
Talk about Their Work
and the Software They
use to Create Their Work
__Interview wirh Mark Bernstein
J. R. Carpenter
The Broadside of a Yarn
Egypt: The Book of
Going Forth by Day
Mark C. Marino
__Nick Montfort and
Sea and Spar Between
__Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between
These pages are in the process
of being converted to the
Stefan Muller Arisona
J. R. Carpenter
Chronicles of Pookie and JR
Susan M. Gibb
and Deep Surface
__Stephanie Strickland and Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo
Vniverse and slippingglimpse