Sea and Spar between, digital poetical ocean

Sea and Spar between

Sea and Spar between“, a work by Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland, is a generator of poetic lines formed by melding words and expressions from “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The work looks like a huge blue “ocean” of digital lines (about 225 trillion in total) explorable by randomly moving the mouse or by choosing precise coordinates similar to geographical ones with a numerical range that goes from 0: 0 to 14992383: 14992383. The digital analysis of the texts has significantly sped up the quantitative research of lexical occurrences in literary texts. Starting here, the authors of this great poem were able to make a semantic classification of words and metric microexpressions found in the texts of the two writers of the nineteenth century. The huge online grid of words was designed with simple software written in Python that recombines the sample texts for the automatic formation of lines and stanzas. The result is an ocean of flowing words, despite the deep differences in approach that characterize the two authors (Melville was a fearless storyteller of extreme human adventures, while Dickinson remains an iconic symbol of intimate poetic reflection, who chose to live in her birthplace for the whole of her life). The textual rhythms and the distinctive rhetorical gestures of both authors echo in the verses, bringing to life the smell of the ocean reveries of Melville and the personal and atavistic creations of Emily Dickinson.

Chiara Ciociola