Eran's Blog

Innovative Poetries

I had the honor and privilege of taking part in the Łódź Innovative Poetries – Innovations in Poetry conference, with inspiring poetry and poetics from Joel Katelnikoff, Carla Billitteri, David Herd, Magdalena Zurawski, Marta Koronkiewicz, and many more. I would like to express my gratitude to Goska Myk and Kacper Bartczak, and to the entire University of Łódź for creating this wonderful event!


My talk was titled: The Consequences and Biases of Computational Poetry. 21st century poets hold various new tools that allow them to explore uncontested (code-based, unoriginal etc.) textual and hypertextual spaces. Whereas such advancements have a positive effect on writers’ freedom, they also form a new arena for politics and hierarchies to arise, that may not match the rhizomatic vision of the poetic web.



With the introduction of Big Data and Deep Learning, and particularly algorithms such as Word Embeddings (such as Word2Vec) and Convolutional Neural Networks, computer-based or aided poetry tends to be not only data-oriented, but also tied to large corpora derived from corporate or governmental sources. A shift is made between the use of code as a technique to generate text, to the use of data as a tool to draw conclusions, resulting in a generated text.


Big Data dependent texts are affected by the centralized nature of corpora, as well as by algorithms that try to generalize from examples, therefore favoring convergence over otherness and marginalization. There is a tight linkage in such environments between statistics and meaning, usually taking into account co-occurrences of phrases or words as a major variable. Finally, above all, Big Data represents a past of biases and perpetuates it, be it in the content itself, or in the fact that most gathered data in digital format is taken from specific cultures and languages, mainly English.


My talk concluded by outlining a path from data-based poetry to an information-based one, and I demonstrated how works like Vanessa Place’s Statement of Facts, Ara Shirinyan’s Your Country is Great and Josef Kaplan’s Kill List form a chain of works to which I have tried to link my new book Testimony.