Judy Malloy, Editor

"The professor then desired me 'to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.' The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down." Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
L iterature generators use a variety of computer-mediated composition systems to create algorithmic poetry or narrative. For instance, they may generate words or phrases according to a rule-based system. They may remix, recontextualize, or analyze classic texts. In various ways, they may generate words or phrases written by a contemporary poet who is utilizing the generator. They may invite users to input text that is systematically recontextualized. And in some cases, the literature generator software itself is a work of art. This Authoring Software page on poetry generators, also includes story and narrative generators.

Poetry generators are authoring systems that are used to create generative literature, which can include and/or be defined as generative poetry, remixed poetry, or computational poetry. Literature generators that are used to create short narrative works are usually called narrative generators or story generators.


T here is a long tradition of the creation of generative literature, going back to such medieval devices as The Chance of the Dice, but currently the focus of this Authoring Software resource is on computer-mediated poetry and narrative generators. It is a continuing resource, and suggestions for additions are welcome.

Works Created with Poetry and/or Narrative Generators
- Authoring Software Statements

J. R. Carpenter
Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR
Authoring System:
Python scripts adapted from story generators by Nick Montfort

S tory generators use a variety of computer-mediated composition systems to create poetry or narrative. For instance, they may generate plot or characters, or they may allow a writer to input text that is the systematically recontextualized, creating, as in Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR, a software-mediated story.

J. R. Carpenter conducts the Hermit Crab Reading Choir, in which, members read Excerpts of the Chronicles of Pookie & JR in a round, at the launch of GENERATION[S], a collection of code narratives, published by Traumawien. Cabaret Fledermaus, Vienna, Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Fox Harrell
The GRIOT System

Image: Fox Harrell, The GRIOT System Architecture

F ox Harrell's work focuses on the development of computer-media-narrative and authoring software that uses elements of interactivity, social critique, cross-cultural narrative; cognitive semantics; gaming; and the social aspects of user-interface design. His seminal GRIOT System uses code to create/generate interactive and significant "polymorphic" poems -- such as The Girl with Skin of Haints and Seraphs and Walking Blues Changes Undersea. GRIOT (named for West African storytellers who often incorporate improvisation in their performances) uses a combination of knowledge engineering, interactivity, cultural identity, and Joseph Goguen's mathematical approach to meaning representation called algebraic semiotics. Harrell has also worked with Kenny Chow to create a "new form of concrete polymorphic poetry inspired by Japanese renku poetry, iconicity of Chinese character forms, and generative models from contemporary art.

Chris Funkhouser
MIDIPoetry Songs
Authoring System: Eugenio Tisselli's MIDIPoet

Chris Funkhouser performing with MIDIPoet at Grant Recital Hall,
Brown University, June 4, 2010. photo: Amy Hufnagel

" I learned about Tisselli's program in 2008, when he and I participated in a literary arts festival at Brown University. ( Interrupt). Tisselli used MIDIPoet to propel a digital poetry performance (featuring graphics, text, and gesture) with a mobile phone -- an approach to presentation he also used at E-Poetry 2009 in Barcelona. Having known about MIDI-based art since the mid-90s, when friends of mine studying with George Lewis at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's (RPI) iEar program were coordinating sound and video through MIDI, I was intrigued that a digital poet had engineered such a tool."

Eugenio Tisselli

" B ack in 1999, when I wrote the first version of MIDIPoet, software for the real-time manipulation of texts and images via MIDI was either expensive or very difficult to use. (and in some cases, both) So, my aim was to develop a software tool that would be powerful, easy to use, and that would allow me (and others) to compose and perform interactive pieces of visual poetry."

Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between
Authoring System: Javascript

I n general, commented code incorporates statements in the program that are not executable, i.e. they do not contribute to the computer's running of the program but rather explain or describe the intentions of the programmer. The idea of "literate" programming -- which incorporates textual, sometimes poetic narrative in order to contribute both to code understanding and literary analysis -- has been of recent interest in the digital humanities community. Here, the commented code serves as a statement that not only documents the artists' intentions and but also invites the reader to understand how they were implemented by the program. As a whole, the commented code for Sea and Spar Between is of interest not only to writers and students who want to learn how computers can be programmed to generate poetry and/or analyze literature but also to to programmers who want to explore literary approaches to the commenting of code.

J.R. Carpenter
The Broadside of a Yarn
Authoring System: QR code, JavaScript, jQuery, CSS, HTML, Photoshop, Gimp

C ommissioned by ELMCIP for the 2012 Remediating the Social exhibition in Edinburgh, The Broadside of a Yarn is a richly detailed 21st century locative broadside, in which a series of computer-generated narrative dialogues are accessed via QR codes.

One generator "is composed entirely of dialogue from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer. Another contains lines of dialogue from Shakespeare's The Tempest," she explains in her Authoring Software statement. "Details from many a high sea story have been netted by this net-worked work. The combinatorial powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of fantastical islands, impossible pilots, and voyages into the unknown undertaken over the past 2340 years."

Existing not only as a series of gallery mounted "map squares" of images found and/or created, in Edinburgh but also as a live many-voiced performance, The Broadside of a Yarn was/is in her words "a pervasive performative wander through a sea of sailors' yarns".

Judd Morrissey: The Last Performance [dot org]
Software: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL, Drupal

F or Authoring Software, Judd Morrissey writes about the creation of The Last Performance [dot org], a poetic "evolving collaborative space" in which an array of generative text -- collaboratively composed in thousands of "lenses" -- assembles and reassembles in an elegant dome architecture structure.

Other Works Created with Poetry and Narrative Generators
  1. Jean Pierre Balpe
    Babel Poesie

  2. Pedro Barbosa and Luis Carlos Petry
    __ Alletsator (ELMCIP Knowledge Base)

  3. Labylogue, a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges' The Library of Babel, was a simulated three-dimensional large-scale visual poetry performance.

    I n art spaces and museums in three different French speaking cities -- Brussels, Lyon, and Dakar -- Labylogue developed eight main themes that invited visitors to meet in the labyrinth and, as they conversed, immerse themselves in the accompanying text on the walls.
    Maurice Benayoun
    sound: Jean-Baptiste Barrière
    text generation: Jean-Pierre Balpe

  4. Simon Biggs
    Predictor 1

  5. Philippe Bootz and Marcel Frémiot
    The Set of U, (Electronic Literature Collection, V.1)

  6. John Cayley

  7. J.R. Carpenter
    1. Along the Briny Beach
    2. I've Died and Gone to Devon
    3. There he was, gone, Joyland Poetry: A Hub for Poetry
    4. Whisper Wire
    6. Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl

  8. Jim Carpenter
    Public Override Void (Slought Foundation)

  9. Jim Carpenter, Bob Perelman, Nick Montfort, and Jean-Michel Rabaté
    Poetry Engines and Prosthetic Imaginations (Slought Foundation)

  10. geniwate
    Generative Poetry (Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1)

  11. Loss Pequeño Glazier
    White-Faced Bromeliads on 20 Hectares

  12. Judith Kerman
    Ice Fishermen (The Electronic Labyrinth)

  13. David Link
    Poetry Machine

  14. Jackson Mac Low
    1. Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes (Jackson Mac Low, Charles O. Hartman, Djuna Barnes), (Electronic Literature Directory)
    2. Stein 100: A Feather Likeness of the Justice Chair (poets.org)
    3. Jackson Mac Low (EPC Page)

  15. Judy Malloy
    1. its name was Penelope, Eastgate, 1993
    2. Scholars Contemplate the Irish Beer

    3. Uncle Roger, File 3: Terminals - BASIC version
    4. You! (The New Media Reader CD)

  16. María Mencía
    "Generative Poems"
    (Collaboration with Alexander Szekely)
    __ Series 1: the alphabetic (ELMCIP Knowledge Base)

  17. Nick Montfort
    1. Concrete Perl
    2. Through the Park
    3. The Two

  18. Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort
    Accompanied by Electronic Literature Community Homage-Interventions
    I n January 2009, during a visit to Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan, MIT Professor and electronic poet Nick Montfort created a work of generative poetry using Python. He finished Taroko Gorge on the journey home and then ported it to JavaScript and made it accessible on the World Wide Web.

    It wasn't too long afterwards that Scott Rettberg appropriated Nick's authoring system and created the urban intervention "Tokyo Garage". Scott was followed by J.R. Carpenter, whose "Whisper Wire" transported the landscape to the age of technology.

    And an electronic literature community tradition had begun.

    There were subsequently a series of works that in response, Nick lined through. (although they were still visible) They included, among others: Mark Sample's homage to George Takei, Andrew Plotkin's duet between the code and the text, Kathi Inman Berens kitchen-situated Tournedo Gorge, and Leonardo Flores' homage to Gary Snyder's mountain poetry.

    Offering the potential for student exploration of the uses of an elegant authoring system, Taroko Gorge -- rooted in landscape description, constantly changing -- succeeds because Montfort carefully planned the flow of the work and created meaningful data sets (allowing, for instance, for transitive verbs and imperfect verbs) and in the process created a resonant, contemporary poetry array that inspired collaborative response.

    The resultant eliterature community works have been reviewed by Leonardo Flores at http://academic.uprm.edu/flores/transmogrify.html, accompanied by his own remix of the poets and the process.

    And/or, visit Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort et. al.

  19. Nick Montfort and William Gillespie
    2002: A Palindrome Story

  20. Erin Moure
    Pillage Laud (SPD)

  21. Millie Ness
    Oulipoems (Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 1)

  22. William Poundstone
    What I Believe

  23. Scott Rettberg
    __ Frequency (ELMCIP Knowledge Base)

  24. Mark Sample
    House of Leaves of Grass
    __ no life no life no life no life: the 100,000,000,000,000 stanzas of House of Leaves of Grass

  25. Pär Thörn
    I am | A Twitter Poem

Poetry Generators - Books, Papers and Discussions

  1. edde addad, "charNG: case study of authoring a poetry generator", netpoetic.com, June 28th, 2011

  2. Jim Andrews, "Gregory Chatonsky's Generative Narratives", netartery, October 14th, 2010

  3. Jean-Pierre Balpe, "Principles and Processes of Generative Literature: Questions to Literature", Dictung-Digital, January 2005.

  4. Serge Bouchardon, University of Technology of Compiegne, COSTECH laboratory, Digital Literature in France

  5. B. Bridger, "Dramaturgy and the Digital", Exeunt Magazine, 2013

  6. Licia Calvi and Paul Buchanan, "A Case on Generative Art: Digital Poetry"

  7. Jim Carpenter, Electronic Text Compostition Project (Slought Foundation)

  8. J.R. Carpenter, "Generating Books: Paradoxical Print Snapshots of Digital Literary Processes" Mapping E-Lit, Barcelona, Spain, 2011

  9. John Cayley imageZC0304: processProse

  10. Geoff Cox, Alex McLean and Adrian Ward, "The Aesthetics of Generative Code"

  11. Lori Emerson, "Materiality, Intentionality, and the Computer-Generated Poem: A Reading of Walter Benn Michaels With Erin Mouré's Pillage Laud", English Studies in Canada 34:4, 2010, pp. 45-69

  12. Brian Evans, "The Quinary--Permuting Meaning with Generative Poetry"

  13. C.T. Funkhouser, New Directions in Digital Poetry, NY: Continuum, 2012

  14. Christopher T. Funkhouser, "On Virtually Disembodied Expression", Reality Sandwich, November 26, 2008

  15. GENERATION[S] , Vienna: Traumawien, 2010

  16. Loss Pequeño Glazier
    Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries

  17. D. Fox Harrell, Griot System Homepage

  18. D. Fox Harrell and Kenny K. N. Chow
    "Generative Visual Renku: Poetic Multimedia Semantics with the GRIOT System"
    HYPERRHIZ.06, Special Issue: Visionary Landscapes, Summer 2008

  19. Charles O. Hartman -- Programs and Programming

  20. Charles O. Hartman, Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.

  21. N. Katherine Hayles, "Electronic Literature: What is it?", Electronic Literature Organization, January 2, 2007

  22. Daniel C. Howe and A. Braxton Soderman, "The Aesthetics of Generative Literature: Lessons from a Digital Writing Workshop" HYPERRHIZ.06, Special Issue: Visionary Landscapes, Summer 2009.

  23. Daniel C. Howe, "RiTa: Creativity Support for Computational Literature", Proceedings of the 7th ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition, Berkeley, California, 2009 pp.205-210

  24. Hugh Kenner and Joseph O'Rourke, "A Travesty Generator for Micros", BYTE, 9:12, November 1984 pp. 129-131, 449-469
  25. Nick Montfort, "My Generation about Talking", Software Studies Workshop, UCSD, May 21, 2008

  26. Nick Montfort "ppg256-1 (Perl Poetry Generator in 256 characters)", April 13, 2009

  27. Nick Montfort, Three 1K Story Generators, Grand Text Auto, November 30, 2008
  28. Cliff Pickover, "Computer-Generated Poetry," Computers and the Imagination, NY: St. Martin's Press. pp. 317-320, 1991.

  29. Todd Pitt "Plum Flowers, Poetry of Witness Pseudorandom Poem Generator" English Matters: issue 8 Text & Technology

  30. Rita Raley, "Code.surface || Code.depth", Dichtung, 2006

  31. Eugenio Tiselli, On Fluid Poetry, netartery, June 21, 2010

Other Poetry and Narrative Generators

S oftware systems written by writers and artists, either for their own works or for the works of their colleagues, and/or software systems written by engineers are primary tools in the creation of generative literature. For instance, Nick Montfort's poetry generators have been used both in his own work and in collaboration with other writers. Jackson Mac Low's "Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes" was created with DIASTEXT, developed by Charles O. Hartman. Todd Pitt used JAVA to create the "Plum Flowers Poem Generator" for his own work. Sometimes the creation of poetry generators is an interactive process -- for instance, the poetry generator COLLOQUEY by Judith Kerman and Robert Chiles.

Additionally, Processing has been and is being used to created contemporary computer-mediated generative literature, such as "Generative Poems" by María Mencía in collaboration with Alexander Szekely.

  1. Andrew C. Bulhak
    Dada Engine

  2. ePoGeeS
    a poetry generation sketchbook

  3. Estudio Paco Bascunan and Inklude

  4. Gnoetry
    __Gnoetry Daily

  5. JanusNode
    an automated text-generator

  6. Mchain

  7. solfish

  8. Poem Generator

  9. The Poetry Generator

  10. PoeticWrites.org
    provides a variety of tools

  11. Poetry Forge

  12. toonlet
    cartoon narrative tools

Poetry and Narrative Generators - historical

170 P = 7000
172 Q$ = CHR$(34)
175 PRINT "Please type your sentence enclosed in quotes."
176 PRINT " Example: ";Q$ "I love you."Q$
180 PRINT "Your sentence? "
190 INPUT S$
200 L = LEN(S$)
210 IF S$ = "show" THEN GOSUB 840
230 PRINT: PRINT "Would you like your name listed in the credits?"
240 PRINT: PRINT: PRINT "Please type yes or no "
250 INPUT A$
A Poetry Generator written in BASIC asks for input

  1. eddeaddad, 2 Lutz Fragments, Gnoetry Daily, December 22, 2010

  2. The first meeting of the Satie society, John Cage database

  3. William Chamberlain, The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed: Computer prose and poetry by Racter New York: Warner Books, 1984
    __ http://www.ubu.com/historical/racter/index.html UBIWEB

  4. 330 A.D. : Florian Cramer & the roots of Permutations, Digital Poetics

  5. Christopher Funkhouser, Prehistoric Digital Poetry, An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995, Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2007.

  6. David Jhave Johnston, "1962: R.M. Worthy, Auto-Beatnik", Digital Poetry Overview

  7. David Link, Manchester Mark I emulator
    Christopher Strachey's 1952 "Loveletters" program

  8. David Link, Poetry Machines / Machine Poetry -- On the Early History of Computerised Text Generation and Generative Systems

  9. David Link, "There Must Be an Angel, On the Beginnings of the Arithmetics of Rays", transmediale

  10. Theo Lutz, "Stochastische Texte" augenblick 4,1959, H. 1, S. 3-9

  11. Peter Manson, Adjunct Travesty
    modelled on the program TRAVESTY by Hugh Kenner and Joseph O'Rourke

  12. Oulipo

  13. Jorg Piringer, Nam Shub - A Text Creation and Performance Environment

  14. Jasia Reichardt, "An Interview with Charles Csuri", in Cybernetic Serendipity, edited by Jaisa Reichardt. NY: Praeger, 1969.

  15. M. Sephton, Christopher Strachey Loveletters (1952), Manchester: Museum of Science and Industry, 2010.

  16. "Travesty", Poetry Home

  17. Marius Watz, Computer Generated Writing
    (many links are not working but the page provides a useful list for historical purposes)

320 REM random number is found
330 Y = 100
340 Z = 10
360 V = RND * Z
370 V = V + Y
380 V = CINT(V)
390 print V

A Poetry Generator written in BASIC finds a random (technically pseudo-random) number. This process can be used to substitute words or print lines at random

Databases, Collected Reviews, Collected Works, and Exhibitions

Jim Andrews, ed.
Stir Fry Texts

Generative Art


Electronic Literature Organization Directory

Electronic Poetry Center

ELMCIP Knowledge Base

Leonardo Flores
I ♥ E-Poetry

Judy Malloy, ed.
Authoring Software


For information about the Authoring Software project, email Judy Malloy at jmalloy@well.com

last update: August, 2013

Authoring Software

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Talk about Their Work
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Current Pages

Mark Amerika
Mark Bernstein: __Interview wirh Mark Bernstein
Bill Bly
Jay Bushman
J. R. Carpenter
__ The Broadside of a Yarn
__ Entre Ville
M.D. Coverley
__ Egypt: The Book of
Going Forth by Day

__ Tin Towns
Chris Funkhouser
Dene Grigar
__ 24-Hr. Micro-Elit
__ Fallow Field
Fox Harrell
Megan Heyward
Adriene Jenik
Antoinette LaFarge
Deena Larsen
Judy Malloy
Mark C. Marino
__Nick Montfort and
Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between

Judd Morrissey
__ Interview with
Stuart Moulthrop

Karen O'Rourke
Regina Pinto
Andrew Plotkin
Sonya Rapoport:
__Interview with
Sonya Rapoport

Aaron Reed
Scott Rettberg
Stephanie Strickland
__Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between

Archived Pages
These pages are in the process
of being converted to the new format.

Stefan Muller Arisona
Alan Bigelow
J. R. Carpenter
__ Chronicles of Pookie and JR
Steve Ersinghaus
Caitlin Fisher
Susan M. Gibb
Dylan Harris
William Harris
Ian Hatcher
Chris Joseph
Rob Kendall
Donna Leishman
Ethan Miller
Nick Montfort
__Lost One
Judd Morrissey
Stuart Moulthrop
__Under Language
and Deep Surface

Alexander Mouton
Kate Pullinger
Jim Rosenberg
__Stephanie Strickland and Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo
Vniverse and slippingglimpse

Sue Thomas
Eugenio Tisselli
Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Joel Weishaus
Nanette Wylde