Creating a generative poem was both fascinating and challenging–fascinating to see the end result, and challenging because I had only a vague idea of how the text would appear on screen. Composing “Topaz Galaxies” was my first experience writing a code poem. So, to gain a frame of reference for understanding this mode of composition, I examined my experience upon viewing Chuck Ryback’s “Tacoma Grunge“. What I observed was that, through his choice of words and phrases that have a particular connotation/cultural reference, Ryback was able to paint a picture of 1990’s urban culture in America.
Since code poems lend to the experience that is created while viewing the digital narrative, I saw an opportunity to create something that “reads” the way a dream feels–since the narrative in code poetry is nonlinear and associative in nature. If you’d like to see my generative poem, check it out here: “Topaz Galaxies” (I’ve also linked to it in a few other places throughout this post, so feel free to read on.)
When brainstorming and revisiting some of my own experiences, one particular memory that surfaced:
Waking up from a nap on the beach, still half drowsy, I’m wrapped a blanket of warmth. Slowly emerging from my lazy state, I am greeted by the rolling echo of ocean waves and golden afternoon light dancing and glinting on ocean waves.
There is something deliciously surreal about the experience. Maybe it’s the quality of the light, the rhythmic crash of waves, the gauzy glow of everything. I’m not sure. At any rate, there is something captivating that I want to explore. The experience of drawing from my own memory was a little like squinting and trying to make out the shape of a figure in a mirage. It wasn’t easy, but it was certainly fascinating and rewarding, especially once I saw the pieces come together in the browser.
Due to the subtle nuance of experience I was attempting to draw from, it was challenging coming up with a large word-bank. For example, some of the words that appear in the first lines in unindented stanzas are: Sojourner, Sons of Thunder, lampstands, terrible army. Some of the words below these words are: sounds of the wings, sapphire expanse, resurrection balm, earthquake; verbs interacting with these two sets are: whispering, blazing blazing, glowing, dripping; textures are: airy, glinted, velvet, misty.
As the author of “Topaz Galaxies“, I have to say that composing in a digital medium using code has afforded me an experience that carries with it a sense of excitement that is perhaps akin to seeing the big ‘reveal’ of a painting or a sculpture for the first time; it’s exhilarating. The dynamic was not completely unexpected, because I had a bit of an idea how they might turn out, but wow–it was the difference between imaging something in my mind and then seeing in real life. The fun of generative poetry is that every time you hit the “Refresh” button, a fresh narrative is generated–so try hitting “Refresh” a few times and watch what comes up!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy “Topaz Galaxies“.