As I am a n00b poster to Gnoetry I thought it (perhaps) wise to introduce myself. My name is David Tolkacz (aka: Rollie Bollocks) and I’ve been operating two blogs BaseInfinity, and BaseNothing for several years now and have lately brought my dual interests in poetry and programming together in a much more concrete way. Having written Infinite Monkeys, I learned a lot about the echo of grammar. The structures atop which we place our words. And the way they sound after other words are randomly placed on top of them. The rhythm is still there creating an interesting echo effect.
Though I am not a professional programmer, I have been around computers all my life, and learned programming at a young age. I believe it heavily influenced my approach to problem solving and perhaps even more so my writing. My approach to writing was almost always algorithmic, and when it wasn’t it was rhythmic.
Out of algorithm and rhythm, repetition is born, and repetition has a long and storied history in poetry and music. The metered verse of the ancient poets was inherited across Europe. Repetition was necessary, these poems were performed in public. It served as a guided thread, an expectation that the audience could ground itself in.
The repetition of course, was a closed loop, an algorithm which controlled and limited the set of words which were allowed to be spoken, how and where they were allowed to fall on the line, and how they were to be sung.
They were rules for creating patterns, and those patterns could be turned into images. Like the bumps on the cylinder of a music box, they were mechanical and they translated. Translation is the key. The machine could translate its components into the sound of music. In this lies a key to its structure: the demand of some pattern or the patterns interwoven in a web.
When the pattern becomes an image it doesn’t necessarily degrade, an image can contain a pattern, and a pattern can contain an image. They are not the same, but mutually translatable. Possible translations are in infinite abundance. Translations in this sense are really mappings, but mappings of one language onto another, is a translation. Suffice it to say all translations are mappings, but (perhaps) not all mappings are translations, only because translation is generally the term used specifically of language. But those who dabble in programming know better than to make a distinction. And the language poets were aware of the mutability of translations and mappings, and so were map makers, who were forced to map a globe to a rectangle: it forces an apprehended continuity between the extremes. That relooping is what has become of the sphere when it was forced into a place where it didn’t quite fit.
Getrude Stein’s recursive poetry proved a loop in language where it had remained hidden for generations. The reflexivity of language, it’s ability to reflect back on itself, it’s ability to recall itself as a totality to be re-entered as an input, in the case of context-referentials such as this. Language was indeed a machine, and one of its mechanics was metanymic substitution, supplementarity, self-supplementing functions.
Take for instance the strange case of This sentence is false. “This sentence” is in fact a metanym for the entire sentence This sentence is false. If we supplement the entire sentence for its metanym, we end up with (This sentence is false) is false. After another re-entry, we get: (((This sentence is false) is false) is false) is false). In fact, it doubles the amount of “is falses” each interation. And the number of “is falses” present at any iteration is 2 to the power of that iteration, or the binary logarithm f(N)=2^N.
Not only does this sentence have a physical duplicity, where the matter of the sentence itself is mutated unto infinity, but it’s also a logical paradox that proves itself true if and only if it is false, and false if and only if it is true. If we assume the sentence speaks falsely of itself, we must conclude that it is speaking truthfully. If we assume it is speaking truthfully, we are admitting that it is false. Each assumption leads to its logical opposite. And as it endlessly grows it inverts its last meaning in a closed vacillating loop, like an alternating power series, a 0 dimensional circle composed of two points for poles, TRUE or FALSE.
The issue that presents itself in a situation like this is the problem of time. The output depends on the input, then output becomes the next input, it reverts to its opposite, it is the snake which swallows its tail. It is the Mobius strip. Extremes meet, they imply their nextness in the sequence.
Consider this, then, in terms of our rectangle map of the earth. There is an imaginary point just beyond each extreme that connects the two in fluid continuity. The sphere when mapped on a rectangular plane retains continuity between extremes and this signals to us it’s former sphere-hood, as a line like a list signals its own circularity when its last member circles back to its first, or something like two linked nodes vacillate in sequence, like a diode.
So the next time you’re constructing a linked list or a binary tree, or a poem for that matter, remember that your data is shaped by the structures that contain it, because no better resource has ever been available for human beings to scope out the limits of ontology and epistemology by simulating our constructions of it (of course at any given time this could be true).
The point is, that I find programming to be an exceptional tool to investigate metaphysical concepts such as ontology and epistemology, and poetry the perfect tool to express them. I think in a lot of ways, this signals humankind’s dialog with itself, through the lens of the machine (for good or ill). So for me, definitely, the two are in love. Creative writing has forgiven programming for being stinky, so long as programming showers before intimacy, and programming thinks that creative writing’s being an airhead is just an unfortunate side effect of being extremely imaginative. In the end they both realized that they completed one another.