Nick Montfort publishes “Sea and Spar Between”, a Dickinson+Melville poetry generator

Congrats to faculty member Nick Montfort, who along with Stephanie Strickland just published Sea and Spar Between, a poetry generator based on text from the poems of Emily Dickinson and Melville’s Moby-Dick. From that combined corpus, Sea and Spar Between can assemble into stanzas the words very common or very unique to both. (Explore the generated poem at the journal Dear Navigator.) The fun is in exploring how we read, analyze, and write poetry ourselves.
Here’s what Nick had to say about the project:

The human/analog element involved jointly selecting small samples of words from the authors’ lexicons and inventing a few ways of generating lines. We did this not quantitatively, but based on our long acquaintance with the distinguishing textual rhythms and rhetorical gestures of Melville and Dickinson.
The resulting code tells the story in detail: A first line uses either shortLine(), oneNounLine(), or compoundCourseLine(). A second line uses either riseAndGoLine(), butLine(), exclaimLine(), or nailedLine(). The ways these specific types of lines are generated, and the ways the stanzas are arranged, can all be traced in the JavaScript program that implements Sea and Spar Between. This program, which includes the arrays holding all of the words used, is fairly small and simple. For instance, the Sea and Spar Between code, without comments, has fewer characters than the file that implements the vector font.

Read more…
Sea and Spar Between—Dear Navigator
“Announcing Sea and Spar Between”—Post Position, Nick Montfort’s blog

Andrew Whitacre

About Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.

 
 

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