Nick Montfort

Ephemeral radical acts

Bridging the digital and textual in the poetics of Nick Montfort

The rules of language — coding and poetics — occupy our current moment of automated poetics, and Nick Montfort, as a poet and a scholar, a theorist of the future, and an artist, creates the future through his computer-generated poetics, bending the rules of these languages. With multiple dimensions to his wide-ranging and innovative poetic practice, he is the author of over fifteen books of poetry and theory on digital media such as The New Media Reader (2003), Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (2003), Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (2009), 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 (2010), Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities (2016), and The Future (2017), all from MIT Press.

Nick Montfort's hard west turn

Arriving on my desk this week — the result, apparently, of a quick visit to Philadelphia by Nick Montfort — is a remarkable excerpt from Montfort's 2018 work, Hard West Turn. This No Press pamphlet takes pages 213 through 216 from the work. Go here to find out how to acquire this or any of Nick's work. No Press is the wonderful ongoing creation of Derek Beaulieu of Calgary (now, precisely, of Banff). Hard West Turn was computer generated using text from the English Wikipedia and the Simple English Wikipedia. Information about the book can be found here.  Information about No Press can be found here. Another recent work by Nick Montfort: “Leaflet of Eden,” a sheet folded twice, printed by Nick himself, in Cambridge, on a dot matrix printer.

Nick Montfort at Kelly Writers House

photo: © Charles Bernstein, 2015

In Nick Montfort's new book from #!, from Counterpath, he uses this code to generate the poems. I like the code as a poem in/as itself. 

Bright arrogance #14

How the weird enters the world, part one

Image from Edmund Joseph Sullivan's illustrations of Rubáiyát from 1913, appropriated in 1966 by the Grateful Dead

There is a large shelf in the poetry section of Powell’s Used Book Warehouse in Portland, Oregon that is weighed down exclusively by versions of Edward FitzGerald’s illustrious and legendarily loose translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. It is perhaps the destiny of only the greatest poems to become furniture, decorative shelf-filler, markers of conformity masquerading as taste. Ultimately, unread. Just as easily do these all-too-willingly adopted artifacts start to become emblems of an embarrassing past, haunting “used” stores with their overabundance like copies of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights.

Nick Montfort's phonetical fanaticism

Back in 2006, when the Modern Language Association conference was held in Philadelphia, Nick Montfort joined twenty-seven other poets for the annual “MLA Offsite Series” reading. Each poet read very briefly, typically just one poem. Nick chose to perform “I Icing Sing.”  The constraint is a phonetic one. Each stanza consists of many pairs of syllables that sound very alike, as in “eye eye sing sing.” So the beginning reads:

                  eye eye sing sing but but er er up up right right in in joy joy

— and here is how those sounds become words in the first two lines:

I icing sing — but butter her up
upright, right in. Enjoy joy.

The poem was published in CrossConnect magazine and can be found here. And here is the recording of the poem made at the MLA reading. The recording of the entire event can be found here.

Montfort & Strickland, 'Sea and Spar Between'

From Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland comes this digital poem, “Sea and Spar Between” — a poetry generator which defines a space of language populated by a number of stanzas comparable to the number of fish in the sea, around 225 trillion. Each stanza is indicated by two coordinates, as with latitude and longitude. They range from 0 : 0 to 14992383 : 14992383. To operate the system, you may:

• move your mouse;
• press the spacebar to mark the stanza that is in the center of the screen of that moment, bringing its coordinates into the navigation box at the bottom in order to note them and return to this view;
• click your mouse at the right edge of the screen to move right to a new region of texts (to increase the first coordinate); click your mouse at the bottom, left, or top to move similarly in those directions;
• tap the arrow keys to move the visible lattice of stanzas up, right, down, or left by a single stanza;
• scroll the wheel on your mouse or tap the A and Z keys on the keyboard to zoom in and out;
• type a pair of coordinates into the navigation box at the bottom and press enter to move anywhere in the sea of text.

Click here for a description of the process and the sourcetext. Click here to read the poem.

'Three rails live': Coover, Montfort, Rettberg

November 1, 6 PM eastern time, view live video stream

An example of the Montfort-Rettberg sticker project

Digital artist Roderick Coover (Temple University), e-poet Nick Montfort (MIT) and e-fiction writer Scott Rettberg (University of Bergen) present an evening of works created through intercontinental collaboration and across media forms. Coover and Montfort will present Currency, a series of 60 second video poems created through writing and image-making constraints and filmed in Puerto Rico, Switzerland, London, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Montfort and Rettberg will read from Implementation, a novel published on stickers, stuck and photographed around the world; and, Coover and Rettberg will premiere works from the Norwegian Trilogy, a set of video narratives concerning legend, love, plague, volcanic dust and a great flood.

On November 1, starting at 6 PM eastern time, click here and view the live video stream of this event. Or attend in person at 3805 Locust Walk, Philadelphia.

Listen here to an audio announcement about this event.

The idea of failure in constraint-based writing

On March 15, 2011, we celebrated the potential of literatures through the Oulipolooza, a Kelly Writers House-style celebration of all things Oulipo. The OuLiPo, or “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” (workshop of potential literature), is a group of experimental French poets founded in 1960, devoted to exploring the potential of literature, language and freedom through the lenses of different constraints. Oulipolooza included readings about the Oulipo by Jean-Michel Rabaté and Katie Price, a reception full of Oulipo-inspired foods, and the launch of "An Oulipolooza": a collection of oulipian texts.

Into the Field: Nick Montfort

Nick Montfort is a writer and scholar specializing in digital poetics and computational media. He has a Ph.D. in computer and information science from Penn, and is currently an associate professor of digital media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sticker novel now to be published for the coffee table

A novel, implementation (2006), was published as a series of stickers. It was written (and stuck around) by Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg.A novel, implementation (2006), was published as a series of stickers. It was written (and stuck around) by Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg. This site tells you all about it. Now Montfort and Rettberg are planning a coffee-table photo book version. Really. Here are two of their instructions for this new version: "2) Choose interesting places to put the stickers up in public environments and stick them there. 3) Photograph the sticker, attempting to get photos of the sticker both at a close/legible view and from some distance, showing the placement of the sticker in its environment." Here are photos of a sticker stuck in Berkeley.

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