Skip to content

Diastic Reading (Web Application)

July 2, 2010

I think I’ll join in on all of the excitement about the range of digital (or computational) poetry programs that are out there. This one is a classic: a web implementation of Jackson Mac Low’s Diastic reading-through method. It’s very different from a randomization engine like Markov chaining. It uses a “seed text,” usually a short phrase or a single word, to “read-through” the generally much larger source text. A better explanation of the process can be found at the same website as the program.

The poem below uses a segment of a quote from Nagarjuna’s Seventy Stanzas as a seed text (the title) to read-through a collection of writings called Hatred of Capitalism:

[at the point of its complete disintegration]

Angeles It's trans...
think the people coming
didn't Country of if
it It was C:
So Semiotext(e).
disparate people invited,
has invisible trying momentous
thinking disclosure California independent
rehabilitative administration administrations absolute
it that the They
people moved building point
something of of if
attorney case,
course your someone people
absolutely whooped ballistics evidence
dead his his Police
Cohen's experts.
Kunstler standing everywhere spectacular
intelligent unpredictability transformation.
activist at the When
she press for thirty
militant official of in
At was country house.
commented hippie widely illiterate,
against published death history
was police hoping downstairs
outside stacking downstairs contemporary
homogenization administration,
as Strategic Those who
whenever process community British
been reestablish of of
I etc.).
resisting capitalism forces limpieza),
supposed uphold."
studies product spontaneous definition
civilians massacre-wars,
munitions often almost because
advantage disappeared multiplication Lebanonization
representative identification Clausezvitzian aggression
statements to the the
preceding for crimes being
treatment of of in
it losing criminal coherent
remarking simplifying problem problem
preventive genocide distillation "final
must Empire,
stagnate mediation produced anything
Mistaflur representation "identification disintegrating
identification reconciliation are It
theory the theory partake
pride things wrested own
If it it must
conjure point same stops
huddled chickens.
suggesting roadside Does village
last relief trying Romantic
outside Steaming commander unforeseeable
intelligent representation reconstitution reconstitution
a Utopia to this
then mutation:
of of inertia,
it must Ciotat,"
to immovable comprehend "mobile
another cinematic weightlessness,
during Giovanni Pastrone.
trains train 

One reason I’m looking into this method is I’m typing out Gertrude Stein’s Stanzas in Meditation page by page so I can use it as a source text. Reading a book this way is very rewarding, by the way, and I definitely recommend it if you want to really get into a text. Following in Mac Low’s footsteps (refer to his Stein Poems series), here’s a diastic reading of the first 30 pages of the book, using “they really should stop it” as a seed text:

[they really should stop it]

they thought they they repose
well That could
Kindly Nearly strife Think thought assurance
really accord
Should It Should happened It it
they They the only room be read well Namely neatly
shone which glory thought likely should should it who happens
it at that they knew
they renown.
better that well
nearly Nobody shawled
which growing.
injured until unkind.
She It chosen.
happened in it that they they they requital
whatever call should valley soon
that know value fairly should suffices at stopping happen
in It that three.
She very ran be what While Should evenly sure which

and another:

[kindly present perfectly]

kind liable minded Kindly restless
Nearly pleasure
or their arises.
thought plight
for half happened difficult Indicated agreeable
know with renounced read
middle finely
Or their daisies either button
pumpkins be more different between tobacco
without thankful
carefully kind.
will generous
told should kindly prefer provocation they this shines
feeling suggest
pursue repose
very perfectly
perfectly thought
outwardly pointedly known will wonder need should mostly polite.
are they this
account playing be for selfish
placed stretch attract correctly certainly know
like window said
smell really pleasure
or seen cows indeed distinguish

This is really fun, actually:

[liking it as they will have it]

liable like like mutinously
Coming it it All is
than they they they which Liking will
have faintly have came in it
like did make having likeness liking influence
attack always as them think they they will like all
call him
made have pigeons if it land wish likes merit losing
coming is It
a as they they They they were
mine will while hustle rather
have came it It left
will like until balance arranged
I it
a as they That they they will
Might selfish will have have have makes I it
like will make their
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric Elshtain permalink
    July 5, 2010 3:31 pm

    Thanks for posting this!

  2. Dave Blomebberg permalink
    July 16, 2010 10:48 am


  3. February 11, 2011 12:56 am

    hey the diastic reading web app is no longer available. (and the travesty generator and markov generator, too, which that person had hosted!) do you know who it was, and how we might have it available again? (home implementation?) i keep searching, but there are only so many of these tools available as web applications, yet they are immensely valuable.

    (Other useful dissociators I have found available):


    • February 11, 2011 6:45 pm

      > there are only so many of these tools
      > available as web applications

      yep, and when they disappear, we’re all So Out of Luck. that’s why ePoGeeS and eGnoetry are client-side apps. A simple File > Save Page As and you got a backup.

      Anyways, if you dig server-side apps, check out LAPAL by these post-OULIPO folks:
      I was able to create an account and generate some stuff but haven’t explored it much more than that. It seems to allow JanusNode-like template definitions. My French isn’t that good, but that kinda added to the fun of it!

  4. March 18, 2011 3:53 pm

    By the way, if anyone still misses the “rstarr/poormfa” diastic generator, I just came across another version here:

    that’s in addition to eDiastic, of course:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: