School for Poetic Computation, Fall 2015


27 October, 2015 | Concept and Theory

This took maybe 20 hours of folding spread over the week.

I also got started on the next origami, it's going to be a Kabutomushi. And I finished building a twine spiderweb wall for my loft.

I started reading a great book.

I also revisited some old code.

My code for plotting the positions of planets reminded me of when I saw Adrien Segal speak at the Visualized Conference and how highly she spoke of the projects which were collaborations with scientists.

Adrien's rendering of the Molalla River and its changes during the period between 1995 and 2009

5 weeks into SFPC, I feel different, when I look at my code from a year ago, I see a bunch of opportunities I'm missing. Because now I understand how Allison Parrish scrapes for text and how Zach Lieberman sees data; I made another pass at my code and opened it up for people like them. And my code became simpler, and better for me too. A free-energy, win-win.

if you're gonna use Apple Numbers, lean into the cheese

One of the changes I made was I abandoned Processing, and any other kind of visualizing tool, as much as I believe in the importance of visualizing, the data needed to be freed. I let it output to a simple CSV, and for fun I threw that into a few programs, and observed.

It's sine and cosine, do you see it?- curves offset by 90deg. But the Earth was the calculator, not some approximation by infinite series or lookup tables in a header file. And it's actually wrong, the Earth travels in an ellipse, but screw it this is fucking awesome- the Earth drew a perfect curve in space, and NASA helped me capture it.

Buckminster Fuller spoke of a singular moment when he was 32 which led to a paradigmatic shift in the way he approached life, letting his heart drive his brain; when he encountered this poem by E. E. Cummings "A poet's advice to students":

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words.

This may sound easy. It isn't.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel - but that's thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling - not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn't a poet can possibly imagine. Why?

Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time - and whenever we do it, we are not poets.

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you've written one line of one poem, you'll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world - unless you're not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn't.

It's the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.