Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fun with Mesostics

Occasionally I like to play with algorithmic generators. I like an element of chance in my art-making, an element of indeterminacy and non-self-directed choice. I have used various algorithmic generators with much interest and pleasure, for example:

The Surrealist Compliment Generator
Algorithmic Arts music generating software
Wordle

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:


Pie
crOw
writErs,
To
all:(foR
bY
Post
mysteRious
Of
Caves
imagEs
Sparkman,
poSted
contemPorary
fashiOn
takE
To
oR
anY
Private
wRiting
Own
audienCes.
i'vE
occaSionally.
becauSe
exPlore
mOre
writEr?
To
memoiR
bY
uP
otheRs
dOn't
expeCt
anyonE
juSt
Should
exPect
yOu
sEe
abouT
offeR,
tautologY:
Perhaps
satisfactoRy
nOt
exaCtly
thEy're
conScious
preciSion
haPpen,
Of
(Especially
To
claRify
consciouslY
Prior
veRy
schOolboy
Cinquains,
writtEn
conScious
it'S





(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.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Swanee said...

Your love is like 1000 caucasian carnivores playing mumblety peg with an eggplant.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Swordfish pomegranate antelope!

7:31 PM  

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