In order to effectively examine
whether programming is an evolutionary descendant of poetry, it is perhaps
wise to begin by asking: what is poetry? What is programming? Assume
(for the moment) we are reading out loud a poem from a page or screen.
Each word evokes a sound and a meaning. There is an external visual
element: how does the poem appear? There is an aural component: how
does the poem sound? There is an internal visual component: what images
does it evoke? There is an intellectual component: is it well constructed?
What ideas or concepts is it dealing with? There is an emotional element
(a tactile visceral sense): is the poem true? What does it do to the
heart? And then there is the synergistic totality of all these elements
which mysteriously combine to create a presence, an energy, a living
actuality. In short, there is an infinite array of levels and sensory
processes involved in provoking an experience which will be called 'poetic'.
Are these same processes and levels invoked or inherent in programming?
Obviously, a series of distinctions could be made (i.e. where is the
aural component to program code?), Nevertheless, what persists is the
truth that both these disciplines are in focussed relation with symbolic
systematized languages believed by their practitioners to be capable
of representing truth, beauty, consciousness, and even love. For example,
when programming an automated task such as a text reader for the blind,
it is possible to speak of love as a motivational aspect of programming.
Fundamentally what distinguishes poetry and programming from other literary
disciplines is their mutual focus on the word as talisman capable of
being a reservoir for consciousness. In poetry, this consciousness is
subtle and charismatic; in programming, explicit and binary. In programming,
this audacious faith in words is palpably manifest in that every functional
program is an emulation of thought which through integration in an apparatus
manipulates matter. In addition, the urge to evoke identity from absence
is central to programming; digital intelligence has evolved from the
void; it has emerged from the unconceivable; it is the volatile product
of severe imagination linked with the will. As Kenneth Patchen, a early
twentieth century visionary concrete poet pioneer says in his seminal
work Sleepers Awake, "Art is not to throw light, but to be light
(Patchen 268) From this perspective, both poetry and programming are
activities devoted to dissolving any residue of our species-centric
faith in our existence as the only repository for consciousness.
As radical programmer
Netochka Nezvanov (a.k.a. Antiorp ) wrote online at her site http://www.m9ndfukc.org/korporat/=cw4t7abs.3nkod0r..0+2.html
In the early 90s Antiorp was renowned for besieging listservs with ASCII
poems, in some of her less parseable posts to listservs, Antiorp utilized
a style that caused one commentator to compare her to Karl Schwitters'
infamous sound poetry (example: "Ursonate" ). She often playfully
deletes random letters and replaces them with symbols (typically a 'y'
will be replaced with a "!"); or the ASCII code for the letter
may be substituted, or the word is condensed, or 'k' is used in place
of 'c' ('korporat'). The morpheme-splicing entropic gymnastics of her
idiosyncratic style are consistently astonishing. Turbulent disruptions
in the conventional fabric of language decode into thick paradoxical
helixes of nonlinear agility. It would be glib if the content were not
so often radically involved with questions of gender, technology, armament-industries,
korporat corruption. Ideologically perverse in its fanatical adherence
to a fluidity which defies definition, to read some of the ASCII interspersed
rants of Antiorp is to be introduced to neuronal clusters where language
seethes below the level of normative consciousness.