Using Electricity: Literary salon with Hannes Bajohr, Rena J. Mosteirin, and Nick Montfort

On November 21st at 2 p.m., Room & Board hosted a literary salon featuring experimental authors Hannes Bajohr and Rena J. Mosteirin. Hannes and Rena read from their recent volumes of digital poetry, published in Counterpath Press’ “Using Electricity” series. They were introduced by series editor and electronic poet Nick Montfort.

Hannes’ Blanks: Word Processing collects poetry made by a whole range of digital operations and uses anything from the works of Kafka and management bibles to sex advice columns and climate reports as corpora to be processed.

Rena’s Experiment 116 is a creative deformance of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 using automatic machine translation. The poems begin in their original Shakespearean English and are then moved to another language, then another, then perhaps a third, and then back to English. In this way, the poem moves, the poem lives; it is reincarnated, reproduced, misunderstood, and mistaken.

Rena J. Mosteirin is the co-author of Moonbit (punctum books, 2019) an academic and poetic exploration of the Apollo 11 guidance computer code. Her novella Nick Trail’s Thumb (Kore Press, 2008) won the Kore Press Short Fiction Award, judged by Lydia Davis. Her chapbook Half-Fabulous Whales (Little Dipper, 2019) explores Moby Dick through erasure poetry. Her new book, Experiment 116, takes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 through all the languages in Google translate (in pairs and trios) to create new variations of this beloved poem in a radically defamiliarized English.

Nick Montfort is an author or editor of fifteen books, which include books of poetry along with six from the MIT Press, several collaborations, and several artist’s books. Five of his previous books are of computer-generated poetry and include #! (Counterpath, 2014), 2×6 (a multi-lingual collaboration, Les Figues, 2016), and Autopia (Troll Thread, 2016). He is professor of digital media at MIT and lives in New York and Boston.

Hannes Bajohr is a German digital poet, intellectual historian, and media scholar. Together with Gregor Weichbrodt, he founded 0x0a, a writer’s collective for digital conceptual literature. He is the author of Timidities (Read, 2015), a collection of corpus poetry. Durchschnitt (0x0a, 2015) explores canon building by reducing the 20 most celebrated novels of German literature to their average sentence length. His new poetry book, Blanks: Word Processing (Counterpath, 2021), is the English translation of a German volume called Halbzeug, in which he processes, rearranges, and sorts and sifts through a series of source texts that range from Kafka’s writings to climate reports to sex advice columns.