Yet programming also (like some forms of formal poetry) requires an arduous logical concentration. Extreme clarity and absolute precision are necessary to perfect syntax and achieve optimized functioning. In this respect, the dichotomy that arises from Nietzsche's analysis of poets in terms of Apollonian and Dionysian streams must be resolved in the creative programmer: imaginative fervour and logical rigour need to be synthesized. The quality and breadth of much programming is definitive proof of this resolved synergetic fuel: exploratory abstract imagination, and rigorous analysis leading to clarity of practice.

Analysis of programming in the early 60's "demonstrated that all programs could be written in terms of only three control structures" (Deitel & Deitel 61) First, the sequence structure: the next line of code is read after the previous line in sequential order; same as we read word to word, line to line on this page. Second, selection structure: a choice is made; for example, right now, do we continue reading? or do we go do something else? if we are bored or have an appointment, we quit reading; we make a choice between paths. Third, repetition structure; example: we may continue reading this paragraph until we understand it or until we get tired of the attempt; in other words, we re-read it until the condition of comprehension is satisfied or until we are tired. In pseudo-poetry-code this would be written as a type of cryptic pseudo-haiku:

not comprehending
so read again
unless bored or
go on

Basically these three control structures are fundamental conceptual models for approaching programming, or for approaching poetry (or even neurology). Sequential structure is fundamental to how readers construct narratives within the flow of an emotional-intellectual logic. Selection is intrinsic to the accretion of patterns into symbolic nets, resonant fields which yield meaning. Repetition is the chorus form, the refrain, repeated with a tiny shifting value. These minimal structures necessary for programming are remarkably consistent with literary analysis. Intuition can be understood as the coalesced excretion of similar reiterated subconscious pattern-recognition activities. Epiphanies are the ripe fruits our glands pluck from the orchards of structured intuition.

Peripheral to the development of these technical, formal structures, vast corporate structures of ownership coalesced around the productions of programming. These structures have yielded a typically-insane disparity of wealth. Adrienne Rich (poet, feminist, lesbian) says, "…if we care about the freedom of the word, about language as a libratory current, if we care about the imagination, we will care about economic injustice." (Rich 165). Richard Stallman, the infamous MIT programmer deeply involved in the open-source software movement who developed GNU, is one example of a renegade programmer deeply committed to activity that transcends the hegemony of materialism, and challenges the tyranny of copyright. Stallman began the GNU project in 1983 by announcing, on a listserv, his intention to create an alternative to the expensive proprietary UNIX operating system and give it away free. He invited others to help. While egocentric modes of behavior are certainly operative in almost all human endeavours, there is a conscious thread here of openness toward unity, an explicit awareness that all beings have a right to be involved in the production of their environment, and that important resources should be shared not wasted or hoarded. These ideological concerns are to some degree a prevalent thematic strand within the history of poetics and programming. As Stallman defines it, free software is

….a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
(source: )

Stallman has been dubbed "The Prince Kropotkin of Software" ( a reference to the Russian anarchist) in an online biography by Nikolai Bezroukov . Akin (slightly) in appearance and philosophy to Alan Ginsberg, and comparable to Glenn Gould in hermetic-obsessive style, Stallman seems far from the sanitized logical technician stereotype of a scientist. Why not label his programming work poetry and call it art? It is socially compassionate, extraordinarily intellectual, and devotedly imaginative. In the way that a Bach sonata is constructed, so too these massive operating system programs are interleaved and interwoven symmetries evocative of structural beauty. Writing a work of the size of GNU is comparable to the achievements of Dostoevsky. And unlike the contemporary artistic model of individual authorship, the open source movement is a collaborative environment, these are truly creations of collectives.






Algorithmic art: Oriental brush driven with Roman Verostko's code (1987)