Code Poetry Hack-a-Slam Success!

It was our first ever Cupertino Code Poetry Hack-a-thon and Slam. We had no idea what we would happen. But, in the end, plenty of people showed up, and we slammed six poems at the end of three hours of concentrated fun. I am so pleased and grateful to all who helped and came out for our wild and crazy tech + art event.

Here are my photos of the slam portion of the event. There was video and I’m sure other photos, but for now, you’ll have to imagine us listening to the lecture and demonstration and eating our pizza.

Table 1 included tw0-time Stanford Code Poetry Slam participant Julian Bliss and “two novice coders and amateur poets” (yes, that’s how these kids described themselves). Both students read about the event in the Cupertino Courier and came ready to learn and work. (See more of Julian’s work here and here.)

Table 1 Bliss with two edited Table 1 presenting with Ben and Julian Table 1 on screen 1

I am asking my friends what computer languages these poems were written in, so stay tuned for updates.

Table 1 on screen 2

To our utter delight, Ms. Ghaidaa Mousabacha (language arts teacher from Morrill Middle School in San Jose) brought many of eighth-grade students to our slam. There were three tables of Ms. M’s students. They loved the pizza, but I think they truly enjoyed the poetry and the coding (for which they had no previous experience!) I was very inspired talking to Ms. M. about her love of teaching and her dedication to her students.

Table 2 wrote a code poem about Starbucks. Three brave souls presented it to the audience.

Table 2Table 2 on screen Table 2 presenting

Table 3, also students from Ms. M’s class, worked on their poem with Stanford Code Poetry Slam founder Melissa Kagen and then presented it with another Stanford Code Poetry guest Ben Allen. Their poem was about Batman.

Table 3 with MKTable 3 batman on screen Table 3 presenting wide with Ben  Table 3 presenting Table 3 presenting with Ben

We had some technical difficulties projecting Table 4’s poem on the screen, but they did a fine job and had the audience laughing. You can see them working on their piece with Ms. M and Ben.

Table 4 with Ben and Ms MTable 4 presenting

A local De Anza College student wrote the beginnings of a very interesting poem about Cat’s Cradle (is that a language?) and I overheard her and Melissa talking about how she should keep writing it and submit it to the next Stanford Slam.

Juhi presentingJuhi on screen

Well-known local poet Dennis Noren also joined us for the afternoon. Dennis brought his background in economics, data analysis and poetry together in his piece. My photography skills weren’t always up to the task of getting poet and poem at the same time, but I did get a fun view of Dennis’s poem while he was writing/coding it!

Dennis presentingDennis laptop coding Dennis on screen

Here are a few more shots of the scene, including a silly selfie of Melissa and me — we had such a good time.

JSB with CupPL poster JSB MK selfie

My most heartfelt thanks to Adrian Kolb for bringing the pizza, and to Chris in the blue shirt who served as our great room and tech guy. The City of Cupertino really went the distance this time, supporting us with space and technical assistance. Without them we wouldn’t have had such a successful event.

P.S. Did you know that there are over 9 pages of programming languages on Wikipedia? I was told yesterday that is is just the beginning. I remember my Dad writing in Assembly Language. I tried to learn Pascal in college. The possibilities are endless.

A Code Poet Connection

I’ve been searching for references to Eavan Boland’s poem “Code” as research for an upcoming project, and I ran across a fellow poet who likes math as a stimulus for poetry. JoAnne Growney’s blog, Intersections — Poetry With Mathematics — is full of very cool stuff. She’s got math, she’s got computer code, she’s got international politics and frogs. Check it out!

The poem I was searching for, “Code,” is posted and discussed here on Growney’s blog. You can read more of Boland’s poems and biographical information at the Poetry Foundation.

eavan boland

Eavan Boland

This poem, published in the US in 2001 in a book titled Against Love Poetry, was published in the UK first, where the collection was titled Code. This article from the New York Times review of the book, explains how Boland:

“adds another dimension to her literary persona, showing herself to be a poet not only of feminism and Ireland, but one interested in making sense of the way the abstractions of time and space play themselves out in human relations.

The most succinct, lingering expression of this interest comes in a poem called ”Code,” an ode to ”Grace Murray Hopper 1906-88, maker of a computer compiler and verifier of COBOL.” In it, Boland envisions Hopper writing code at her desk in New Hampshire and tries to connect with her over distance and generations: ”You are west of me and in the past,” she writes. In these few simple words, Boland transforms the past from a place that is long gone to a place that we can travel into, just as in any other direction; then she goes there with great effect.”

Are you interested in code poetry or poetry about math? Stay tuned!

(Photo of Eavan Boland from an unattributed website. Photo of Grace Murray Hopper from Wikipedia, cited from the Smithsonian.)

Code Poetry 1:1 at Stanford

Code Poetry 1:1 at Stanford

Stanford had another Code Poetry event, and I went this time. It was quite astonishing. Poets from all around the world, some in the room, and some participating via Google Hang Out. Surrogate performers for poets who couldn’t be present. Pink lipstick that glowed in the dark (you’ll have to read the article to figure out that one…).

I’m hoping to work together with Melissa Kagen, the Stanford student who is getting grants to put on these events, to sponsor one right here in Cupertino. Watch this space!

Code Poetry Slam at Stanford

Code Poetry Slam at Stanford

Of course, at the intersection of Silicon Valley and Poetry there will be magic. This is a great story. I am only sad I didn’t know ahead of time so I could have attended!!

Update (January 9,2014) For those who want more information, you can see examples of code poetry and a full description at this website.  Click on the Resources Tab.

And, for the most intrepid among you, read Meika’s blog post here about how to tell when what you’ve got is a code poem or not. Amazing. I can barely understand this, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing.  And there is even something being discussed here called Compositional Poetry. And here.

Compositional Poetry is a form of read-together poetry written in a number of voices and is performed much like a musical score, where the voices speak their lines according to their responsibilities, not in chorus, not in soliloquy, not taking turns, but all of these and none. Each voice is thus not a character as a role in a play or opera, though characters may appear of their own volition. Stories may emerge of their own inclination.

Some of these websites are delightful. Do not be afraid.