Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes

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Jackson Mac Low’s Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes utilizes the computer program DIASTEXT developed by Charles O. Hartman. The program was first sent to Mac Low for his use in 1989. DIASTEXT automates Mac Low’s “diastic reading-through text-selection method” initially employed by Mac Low in January of 1963 (Mac Low 47). The process uses a “seed” text (an index-word or -phrase) which is then applied to a corpus of text as a sort of acrostic, where letters and their order in the seed determine words selected from the corpus and outputted by the program. As Christopher Funkhouser notes in Prehistoric Digital Poetry (2007), “translating Mac Low’s arbitrary method into a program was not difficult because the process itself is algorithmic and does not involve random elements” (68). Hartman's DIASTEXT appears to have been written in C and distributed as a DOS executable file (versions of which can be found online as of this writing). Though DIASTEXT played a fundamental role in the composition of the poems of Barnesbook, the result is a printed book and not a work made to be read on screen.

(Source: John Vincler, ELD, 2010:

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Alvaro Seica