A New Experimental Course on Poetry, Programming, and Design

Author: Blake Holman

Fall 2023 witnessed the successful launch of Poetry Machines: Computing, Culture & Creativity, a new experimental course in the Computing & Digital Technologies Program.

Under the direction of Profs. Katie Walden (American Studies), Matt Kilbane (English), and Sarah Edmands Martin (Art, Art History, and Design), students from across the university gathered to theorize and build their own love poetry  bots. Taking inspiration from what is likely the first work of digital literature, Christopher Strachey’s 1952 love letter algorithm for the Manchester Mark 1 computer, students spent ten weeks exploring the relationship between literary expression, desire, and computational procedures while gaining first-hand experience in programming and design. In teams of three, students navigated the constraints of poetic form, Python, Adobe Illustrator, and 3D printing to fashion a series of fabulously original machines, including a “Soulmate Simulator” that prints poems from your ideal partner, a “HomeBot” that writes uncanny verse about your childhood, and “Plinko for Love,” which invites you to explore the riddling chanciness of love. The students and faculty were grateful for the expert support of Adam Heet (Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship) and a stellar team of student assistants: Summer Basak, Taylor Dellelce, and Heidi Dargle. 

Come see the results for yourself! Poetry bots are now on display in the Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship (250 Hesburgh Library), the Computing and & Digital Technologies Program (217 O’Shaughnessy Hall), and the English Department (2 nd Floor Decio Commons).

Originally published by Blake Holman at english.nd.edu on February 13, 2024.