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The Graph Poem–A Manifesto

September 7th, 2016 margento No comments

Photo (c) Benediktas Janusevicius

The manifesto was presented at the TEXT-WORLD — World-TEXT Symposium (on the relationship between experimentation, politics, and literature) at Forum Stadtpark (Graz, Austria), June 17-18, 2016; the symposium was organized as part of the CROWD Omnibus Reading Tour (http://crowdlitbus.eu/eu.crowd-literature/#/start).

Also published on frACTalia, http://www.fractalia.ro/2016/06/01/chris-tanasescu-margento/

The Graph Poem. A Manifesto

Graphs—networks of nodes connected by (multiple) edges, ever-ramifying, ever-expanding, ever (dis)connecting—are both the micro- and the macrocosmos of poetry. A poem works when there is coherence between its microcosm and its macrocosm, its quantum level and its multiverse, its inner and outer graphs, its code and its interface—when the “personal” is indeed political and the political is inevitably (im/non/multi)personal.

When the community is so mathematically and digitally translatable that it loses both its (projected) commonalities and its uni([d]enti)ty/ies in translation, and the graph poem reassembles it as toolkit and database.
(We’re actually already there; the question is now what kind of database; it is perhaps for no reason that on the semantic web and in scalable RDF storage, the cutting-edge are… graph databases.)

Poetry iterates (Falstaff: “O, thou hast damnable iteration, and art indeed able to corrupt a saint”) translation within iconization through re(im)mediation.

The graph [within/as/around the] poem renders translation topological (Theseus: “to airy nothing/ a local habitation and a name”), iconization asemic (within and without the vernacular; also, Peter Barry: “there is no such thing as reading […], rather, there is ‘just looking’”), and absorbs remediation into intermedia & polymedia(tion).

Abigail Susik: “[T]he operations of the meme suddenly empty the image of one meaning only to fill it with the next. This occurs through a rash of collectively executed permutations, exhausting the image’s reserves and precluding canonical preservation in the future. The meme is constantly recoded by perceivers, rather than decoded […]”

Charles Bernstein wrote some years ago: “Digital poetry 2003: In 1975, everyone was worried about the idea that language is code; in 2003, everyone is worried that code is language.”

In 2015, everybody is thrilled that the digital has a reality principle of its own, as digital space goes beyond the real-virtual binary opposition. We don’t need and we can’t afford to wait another 30 years as in Bernstein’s statement to see the flip side of the coin. It’s not only that the digital is a universe in its own right. Physicists say there is actually a possibility that our world itself is merely a simulation. The universe is a computational app. Interfering with that, accounting for that, enacting that is the job of contemporary poetry.

Tell that, tell the world is an app to the victims of the civil war in Syria, to the refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean and elsewhere, to those in the Afghan hospital recently bombed by the Americans “by mistake.” To the children starving and not affording education in Somalia. To the victims of the Russian troops illegally stationed and “secretly” backing up the Russophone separatists in Transnistria, Moldova. In Kenya a woman is raped every 30 minutes. In India—every 20 minutes. Tell those women the world is an app. Then give them a voice. That is also contemporary poetry’s job.

Literally. If there are people in the “3rd world” starving but still owning a cell or even a smartphone—and if this proves the worldwide penetration of the military-industrial complex—this also represents an opportunity for “us,” the “others,” to hear everybody, be connected to everybody, include everybody in our performance/poem while we are included in theirs. Poetry is the tab, the pad, and the board.

“The tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into the Balkans in recent weeks need food, water and shelter, just like the millions displaced by war the world over. But there is also one other thing they swear they cannot live without: a smartphone charging station.

‘Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself,’ Osama Aljasem, a 32-year-old music teacher from Deir al-Zour, Syria, explained as he sat on a broken park bench in Belgrade, staring at his smartphone and plotting his next move into northern Europe.” (Mattew Brunwasser, “A 21st-Century Migrant’s Essentials: Food, Shelter, Smartphone,” New York Times)

Hi, I am Youjin! I’m making the first real documentary on digital nomads. For the last few years, I’ve interviewed traveling freelancers, remote workers and founders of distributed startups. I feel a revolution is happening with many people replacing the “template” life at home and instead flying out in to the world, to live and work from anywhere. They are people buying a one way ticket and I want to tell their stories. I need your help to make this possible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLe8GPIAc1-T-zzofV33On0G9ZsfsRgblP&v=Mnm0q4husfU

The lines of flight the migrant can take across maps—quite often thanks to the “territorializing” mapping apps—are both prompted and sectioned by thick mapping and by (the music’s, by the livestream across-border-and-across-time-zone collective performances’) vertical time:


Fragments as echoic nomadic statements, echostates. On-journey-through-the-states recyclopedia. Echostates in chaos media.

[An echostate from a forthcoming article on Gellu Naum:]. In his development and exemplification (by analyzing George Oppen’s poem “Route”) of the concept of “placing poetry,” Ian Davidson seems more preoccupied with “circulating entities” which represent or bring about the “place of travel [that] becomes place,” such as the car (or the invading Nazi tank in Oppen’s poem) “continually placing its occupants in different contexts.”6 While journeying and movement are ubiquitous in Gellu Naum’s poetry, I find more relevant to his poetics a question that Davidson asks a bit later in relation to placing: “Is it possible to conceive of a language that is on the move, which users are always placing, but is never placed?”7 This latter direction is perhaps more useful in examining Naum’s poetry—and not only—, but it still needs to be taken to the next level, particularly with a further emphasis on “placing” read as an action expressed by an intransitive verb, place-in-progress, place-as-process, and specifically, place-as-performance, especially if corroborated with studying the dynamism and processuality instilled and explored by poetry in (and as) place/ing.

Poets—secret legislators? Rather Mechanical Turk annotators.

Manual annotators, manuscript manufacturing manumitting amanuenses.

Dealing with, employing, and producing Big Data. Out of and into big data through data intensive approaches, that will be the way of contemporary poetry. The contemporary (graph) poem has to draw on “distant reading” and “cultural analytics” approaches; moreover, it has to represent an instance of distant reading in its own right; and it will have to become a distant reading tool.

The Manifold Scholarship platform of “iterative and networked monographs,” for instance, has done in the field of academic publishing what poetry has to do in the field of everything and everybody. Actually, the (graph) poem not only has to cover—culturally, (multi)lingually, performatively, in cross-artform and intermedia fashions—what the manifold monograph does academically, but it also has do the job of platforms as well. That is what the contemporary (graph) poem has to be like—iterative, networked, interactive, boundless, live—while also hosting and/or employing other poems, apps, [digital humanities] projects & tools, users, social media, games, virtual & augment(ally)ed reality, search engines, poems as queries to datasets, “conditional texts,” [real time] performance(s) and venue networks, updates, chatting, comments, etc.

The poetry graph is a multimonograph,
and its manifold form is that of the platform.

Where is the body (in a world of poetry as networked poems/people and platforms)? Most likely at the intersection of the “technological unconscious” and the “new unconscious.” Where the border between the digital and the flesh is totally blurred. The “traditional” (“page”) poem is the body as (re)created by the vibrations of (virtually) sensory subjective/self-perception. The digital poem is the body (re)shaped by the interaction with the virtual as digital affordance. In both, the poem is the (convergence of) media; the body included, as comm(onal/oral/)(un)ity. The graph poem is both of them, in both their [app(aren’t)] discrete differentiation and their contiguous asympto[(auto)ma]tic conjunction.

Speaking of scale, the graph poem proves being in
finite as a palpable inexhaustible di
(uni/multi)vers(e)ity; in terms of temp
orality and loc(k)al(l)ity, co-(t)here
nce brings about improbable connections, I(’)m-pro
viso others, and vicinities,
while asymptotically merging inkOherence & Inc
ou(n)ters into tempLate temples.

3 Martin Heidegger quoted in David M. Berry, Critical Theory and the Digital, 60.

4 Jerome Rothenberg, “The Steward’s Testimony,” in Triptych, 33.

5 David M. Berry, id., ibid.


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MARGENTO/Paget/Inkpen Paper Accepted to FLAIRS-29

March 8th, 2016 margento No comments

Automatic Classification of Poetry by Meter and Rhyme
MARGENTO (Chris Tanasescu), Bryan Paget, and Diana Inkpen

In this paper, we focus on large scale poetry classification
by meter. We repurposed an open source poetry
scanning program (the Scandroid by Charles O. Hartman)
as a feature extractor. Our machine learning experiments
show a useful ability to classify poems by
poetic meter. We also made our own rhyme detector
using the Carnegie Melon University Pronouncing Dictionary
as our primary source of pronunciation information.
Future work will involve classifying rhyme and
assembling a graph (or graphs) as part of the Graph
Poem Project depicting the interconnected nature of poetry
across history, geography, genre, etc.

The huge amount of data available in the digital age has attracted
the attention of major scholars and has developed
into its own research paradigm. There is no consensus as
to when data are large or complex enough to qualify as the
object of data-intensive research, especially since huge or
massive may mean completely different things in different
fields and disciplines, but Levallois, Steinmetz, andWouters
advance a relevant and potentially useful definition: “dataintensive
research [is] research that requires radical changes
in the discipline” involving “new, possibly more standardized
and technology-intensive ways to store, annotate, and
share data,” a concept that therefore “may point toward quite
different research practices and computational tools” (Levalois,
Steinmetz, and Wouters 2012). This paper introduces
our endeavour to redefine the scholarly approach to poetry
analysis by applying data-intensive research methods and
eventually mathematical graph theory.
The earliest stages of the Graph Poem Project (MARGENTO
2015) resulted in…

MORE at the FLAIRS Conference, see you in Key Largo…


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MARGENTO & Inkpen Paper @ New Directions in the Humanities Conference 2015

June 17th, 2015 margento No comments

Chris Tanasescu (MARGENTO) & Diana Inkpen: “Poetry Computational Graphs: Applying Graph Theory in Poetry”



… As we have already seen is the case of the previous publication in poetry computational analysis, collecting data and the features of the databases analyzed are more intimately related to the specifics and performance of the resulting classifiers and computational tools than one would suspect, and moreover, they also involve weighty even if implicit or unconscious cultural and literary choices.  But the issue is even far more complex than that.  Data in general and particularly the huge amount of data that is continuously made available and that grows exponentially in the digital age has attracted the attention of major scholars before and has actually meanwhile come to represent not only a self-sufficient subject and a challenge to a variety of disciplines, but even a new research paradigm.  This fourth paradigm succeeds according to Gray and Szalay (2007) three older ones, the experimental, theoretical, and simulation paradigms, and in computer science “it means that the term e-science is not primarily concerned with faster computation, but with more advanced database technologies.” (Levallois, Steinmetz, and Wouters 2013, 152)  For Jim Gray, a late computer scientist “celebrated as a visionary” (id.), we are witnessing the evolution of two branches in every discipline, “a computational branch and a data-processing branch” (ibid. 153), and the new field dedicated to studying such ramifications is called data-intensive research or data-intensive science.  There is no consensus as to when data are large or complex enough to qualify as object of data-intensive research, especially since huge or massive may mean completely different things in different fields and disciplines, but Levallois, Steinmetz, and Wouters advance a very relevant and potentially very useful definition: “data-intensive research [is] research that requires radical changes in the discipline” involving “new, possibly more standardized and technology-intensive ways to store, annotate, and share data,”  a concept that therefore “may point toward quite different research practices and computational tools.” (id.)

In the contributions quoted above the poem datasets are in the hundreds (the largest one, the Malay corpus containing 1,500 elements, while the other handful of papers ever published on computational poetry analysis employ significantly smaller sets or corpora), whereas our first paper—focusing on multilabel subject-based classifications of poems—analyzed over 11,000 poems in Poetry Foundation’s database, and since we have meanwhile consistently expanded our corpora by including material from more and more print and online sources, we can assert that the size of our databases and corpora can count as the basis for data-intensive research.

On the other hand, we do use different research practices in that we put together a model that analyzes poems comprehensively and not limiting the approach (as the precedent computational analysis approaches have) to only (one or several aspects of) one poetic feature—diction, subject, form, etc.  Moreover, using graph theory applications in analyzing both particular poems and poetry corpora is a completely novel poetry criticism and analysis practice, and it involves in its turn different computational tools than what has been used so far in the field.  These tools range from meter parsers to locating enjambments to assembling weighted graphs of poems and analyzing features such connectivity and spotting cut vertices.

from the Conclusions:

The Graph Poem Project is:

•The first big data poetry analysis project;
•The first data-intensive poetry project;
•The first application of graph theory in poetry computational analysis; with further poetry criticism and creative writing related benefits;
but, also has to:
•Keep developing the data-intensive work towards comprehensively covering the print and online poetry in North America, in the English language, and in English translation;
•Continue refining the tools (the issue of syntax in contexts of erratic punctuation; tropes).





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2. Poetry Computational Analysis Paper Accepted to FLAIRS Conference

February 18th, 2015 margento No comments

The paper “Multilabel Subject-based Classifi cation of Poetry” by Andres Lou, Diana Inkpen, and Chris Tanasescu (MARGENTO) has been accepted to the 28th Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society–FLAIRS–Conference

Here is the abstract:

Multilabel Subject-based Classi cation of Poetry

by Andres Lou, Diana Inkpen, and Chris Tanasescu (MARGENTO)

University of Ottawa, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science


Oftentimes, the question “what is this poem about?” has no trivial answer, regardless of length, style, author, or context in which the poem is found. We propose a simple system of multilabel classifi cation of poems based on their subjects following the categories and subcategories as laid out by the Poetry Foundation. We make use of a model that combines the methodologies of tf-idf and Latent Dirichlet Allocation for feature extraction, and a Support Vector Machine model for the classi fication task. We determine how likely it is for our models to correctly classify each poem they read into one or more main categories and subcategories. Our contribution is, thus, a new method to automatically classify poetry given a set and various subsets of categories.

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The Graph Poem Operational Reflections. I. Maudelle Driskell and David Wolach

September 24th, 2014 margento No comments

In Maudelle Driskell’s Talismans (The Hobblebush Granite State Poetry Series, Volume VIII. Brookline, NH: Hobblebush Books, 2014) the gradual transition from talismans, charms, and relics (or rather remnants of mythologies and rituals) to scars and then to disease experienced either as a patient or as caretaker/medic/rescuer is what perhaps challenges computational analysis the most. The engine of this transition is gender renegotiation within childhood and animal (toy) memories, fairytales, and allegories. This makes the collection more complex and problematic to computational analysis (as well as perhaps to any other critical approach actually) than other ones having similar subjects. Still a potentially more seminal comparison that we’ll have to process will be the one with David Wolach’s Hospitalogy (Grafton, Vermont: Tarpaulin SkyPress, 2013)–the book that (as we find out from the substantial concluding critical essay/statement “Musicked, Acknowledged”) was mostly written in hospitals and hotels as a sequence of “letter-notes, scraps, and song-like things” aiming at a “‘poetry of disablement’ or ‘disability.’”

Unlike Driskell, who is very good at using contexts and vaguely outlined but deeply impacting relationships to explore the volatile identities and inner landscapes of her speakers, Wollach is impressively professes that “[I] [p]erhaps explore the erotics, therapeutics, and contradictory impulses of clinical disclosure […] where the roles, personae, and systems of power of the doctor and patient […] seem, in the after-word of their telling, to intertwine, mingle, in a sense fuck their way out of their own use-values into a sphere of confessed exchange.  Perhaps not.”

Confession in particular triggers some of the most mesmerizing of the jazzy suites in which Wolach bends both morphology and syntax in manic relentless and yet so relevant a fashion.  “i’s matter, con/ fessional grade junk, no/ one single payer/ plenty to go round// bar room con/ fissional up/ ends in urinal migraine/ sans f/u pissing away yr liquid” or the brilliant “some i’s fess up/ for what has yet to apo/ logos i’s o u pre/ tense as add vertised.”  This is also a radical example of the difficulties we shall have to deal with in the Poetry Computational Graphs project when processing the diction of certain poets and assessing diction-related commonalities among poets.

Wolach is also extremely relevant to our graph poetics in at least one more respect.  As he “confesses,” in this book he “quote[s] or riff[s] on several made things” by other poets and writers, but in ways that are not always very clear (from literal quotes, to variations or “riffs” to “pieces of overheard language”), as “one way of tracing what ‘friendship’ or ‘common’ might mean.”  Not only we have here a poetics of commonalities that is also at the heart of the graph poem project, but also a way of writing that traces and follows such links while exploring, performing, and developing those commonalities, as the contributors to the graph poem have done before.  “I take Hospitalogy to be, as any of the writing I inhabit, collaborative: the trace or tracings of these correspondences and resonances.”

One of the authors Wolach draws consistently on is the well known poet-theorist Fred Moten.  We will back on the latter and particularly on his poetics of communities and performance in/as the poem.


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