[Update: couldn’t bear to read these without the full rhyme scheme, so I updated it. Now all the poems conform to the original, a la
It started as an idea in the electronic literature workshop I attended as part of the Hard Coded Humanities conference at the University of Rochester this weekend. It’s built using Kate Compton‘s Tracery. The port to the web wasn’t super tricky, but if you’re doing it yourself, pay special attention to what’s going on in app.js & grammars.js.
I admit it doesn’t make poems quite as tightly written as Hemingway’s original, but every combination I’ve read so far is kind of delightful. We lose some of the rhyme & meter of the original, but I thought that a variety of contemporary references was more important. Plus, sometimes it rhymes, and I think it’s fun to imagine that the tech nonsense is creating actual metaphors like Hemingway’s. Maybe it is!
Trying to think of another work to give a similar treatment to; there are already similar things going on with other short early 20thC poems like Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” and Williams’s “This is Just to Say,” & “The Red Wheelbarrow,” if you haven’t seen them.
The thing I struggle with on projects like this (including my prompt generator) is the effect of my own authorship– I get so excited about the loss of control that I have trouble balancing my interests. In this case I could certainly push this further to replicate the rhymes, meter, and metaphors more exactly but that reduces the degrees of freedom for open and wild unanticipated readings. On the other hand, part of me feels like I need to automate/massively source the language that goes into this to open it even more; most of these terms come from a) the original poem, b) internet marketing vocab lists, c) things mentioned at the conference, and d) just things from my mind that seem like charged nouns & verbs in our contemporary tech space. That means that there are only so many combinations and registers possible, and they are very much tied to my own experience and methodology. Maybe that is ok. It better be, because I’m basically done with this one.
I should also mention that the author names are a select list of anagrams of Ernest Hemingway, and probably my favorite among them is “Ms Whiny Teenager.”