Fun with Mesostics
The Surrealist Compliment Generator
Algorithmic Arts music generating software
The mesostic, a poetic form invented by John Cage, which is a variation of the acrostic, now has its own generator, called the Mesostomatic. You choose a word or phrase or name for the mesostic's spine, which is the row that runs down the middle, which Cage typically used to indicate the theme of a given writing. Then you enter a URL from which phrases are chosen, using indeterminate rule-based algorithms (such as Cage's decisions being made via consulting the I Ching, or various generative computer programs), and pick how many mesostics will be sequentially generated.
And voila! An original mesostic. For example:
(A mesostic based on this blog, on the key-word theme of Poetry Process.)
What's striking to me, in the current climate of poetic argument around "conceptual poetry" is how old the techniques used in this new poetics are. Indeterminacy is not a new technique, no matter how much the "post-avant" poetry movements claim to have invented it. Indeed, Cage is almost never given credit for his influence and inspiration on syntax-less contemporary poetry. Only a few critics of the avant-garde such as Marjorie Perloff and Richard Kostelanetz even seem aware of (or willing to examine) just how much Cage did contribute, or set up, the current state of poetry affairs. Cage's later works increasingly dealt with language in musical ways, applying to texts and writings and lectures many of the same techniques he had developed for "pure" music.