Eran's Blog

KENNY @ Tel-Aviv Poetry Festival

A bi-annual poetry festival has been held in Tel-Aviv since 2007, and I have been both an avid fan and a regular participant in it since its inception. This year’s festival was very special for me, as I managed to organize the first event in an Israeli festival that was dedicated to what I see as contemporary poetry. The title I gave the event was “Between Computational Poetry and Poetic Computation”.


The conditions for computational poetry in Israel have not been easy most of the time. Despite wide recognition of David Avidan’s book of conversation with Chatbot Eliza being a seminal moment in Israel’s poetry, the rise of the Internet is perceived as a threat to the literary institution. In a 2005 conference in Tel-Aviv University titled “Can poetry and the Internet coexist”, the head of the Literature department, who was the first speaker, started his talk by saying “As for the title, the answer is no”.


This year’s festival organizers, Oded Carmeli and David Neo Buhbut, made it evident that people like myself are no longer in the opposition. The most important thing was that I was not alone in this and the event was part of an ongoing team effort, “An Experimental Israeli Group”, acronymed KENNY. The event featured Tomer Lichtash (a founding member), Batt-Girl, Eyal Gruss, Savyon Fishlovitch and myself.

KENNY is dedicated to the integration of computation and creation. Some writers in the group are writing algorithmic and algorithmic-aware literature, and in January 2016 Issue #8 of the literary magazine Nanopoetics is going to be dedicated to conceptual poetry in the age of the Internet and edited by Alex Ben-Ari, another founding member of the group.


However, among the circa 30 members of the group, the majority is not necessarily striving towards a published book. They are dealing with creative coding, or art that involves computer code and uses it as its raw material. We recently held a pop-up exhibition at Tel-Aviv’s Artists House. The event at the festival demonstrated a combination of both practices, where besides having poems read, participants also showed text-based coded-art projects shown on a projector. From an interactive Alice in Wonderland adaptation, through a deep-learning dream machine, to a performance based on generated text, it was something deeply rooted in tradition but at the same time brand new in Israeli poetry.