Code Poetry Slam 1.1

programmers and poets: create! compose! compile! (+ pizza)

Stanford University
Division of Literatures,
Cultures, and Languages

Code Poetry Slam 2.0

Lying With Computers

Submissions are open for Stanford University's 3rd Code Poetry Slam! The slam will be held in early November on Stanford's campus, and submissions will be due October 31st, 2014. Check out the Submissions tab for the form to submit.

Stanford University's Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL) sponsors a series of Code Poetry Slams. Code Poetry Slam 1.0 was held on November 20th, 2013, and Code Poetry Slam 1.1 was held February 27th, 2014, both in Wallenberg Hall, Rm. 124, at Stanford University.

What is "code poetry"? A C++ sonnet? A Haskell haiku? An algorithmic poetry generator? Something completely new? Check out our Resources tab for examples, theory, and other groups holding similar events!

Code Poetry means different things depending on who you ask. For a start, it can mean poems, written in a programming language, that are meant to be read purely as words on a page (see Code{Poems}); code that aims for elegant expression within severe constraints, like a haiku or a sonnet (see 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 or ChucKus), or code that generates automatic poetry (see OuLiPo for poetic background, or google for online examples- there are hundreds). Some definitions are directly at odds with each other. Obfuscated code (see the chapter on Obfuscated Code in Software Studies: a lexicon) brings attention to language by being creatively obtuse, whereas articles by Ward, Hoffmann, and Stewart talk about how code is poetic because it's so elegant and compact.

With this series, we're particularly interested in code that is beautiful to read and simultaneously executable, in line with Ian Bogost's idea in Alien Phenomenology that creative projects should *do* something. Poems that are readable to humans AND readable to computers perform a kind of cyborg double coding (in language, double coding means a sentence that is readable in multiple languages at once: Jean put dire comment on tape (in translation from French, "Jean is able to say how one types")). Check out some of the resources below and figure out what aspect of code poetry interests you!

Writers and Theorists
  • Introduction to The Wedge by William Carlos Williams

    “There’s nothing sentimental about a machine, and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. When I say there’s nothing sentimental about a poem I mean that there can be no part, as in any other machine, that is redundant.”

  • OuLiPo

    Wiki on works from the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle.

  • S/Z excerpt by Roland Barthes

    Classic text from the 60's that points toward multi-level, code-inflected writing.

  • Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    "It is easy to imagine a language consisting only of orders and reports in battle.—Or a language consisting only of questions and expressions for answering yes and no. And innumerable others.—— And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life."

  • Software Studies: a lexicon, ed. Matthew Fuller

    Great compilation of short articles on coding from multiple perspectives. Check out in particular the Introduction and the chapters on Language, Obfuscated Code, Memory, Source Code and Weird Languages.

  • "Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers" by N. Katherine Hayles

    "The contemporary pressure toward dematerialization, understood as an epistemic shift toward pattern/randomness and away from presence/absence, affects human and textual bodies on two levels at once, as a change in the body (the material substrate) and a change in the message (the codes of representation)."

    N. Katherine Hayles is a giant in the field. For more, read her book How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics.

  • "Digital Code and Literary Text" by Florian Cramer

    "...computers and digital poetry might teach us to pay more attention to codes and control structures coded into all language. In more general terms, program code contaminates in itself two concepts which are traditionally juxtaposed and unresolved in modern linguistics: the structure, as conceived of in formalism and structuralism, and the performative, as developed by speech act theory."

  • 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

    A close reading of one line of code by 10 theorists: Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, Noah Vawter.

  • "Print is Flat, Code is Deep: The Importance fo Media Specific Analysis" by N. Katherine Hayles

    "Nine points can be made about the specificities of electronic hypertext: they are dynamic images; they include both analogue resemblance and digital coding; they are generated through fragmentation and recombination; they have depth and operate in three dimensions; they are written in code as well as natural language; they are mutable and transformable; they are spaces to navigate; they are written and read in distributed cognitive environments; and they initiate and demand cyborg reading practices."



Fill out this form with your name, email address, language(s) in which your poem is written, title, and the text of your poem.

Code Poetry Slam 1.0 [Fall 2013]

Stanford's first Code Poetry Slam, sponsored by the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL), was held on November 20th, 2013 in Building 160 (Wallenberg Hall). Following an open call for works from September 20th to November 6th, we selected 8 finalists. At the Slam, finalists presented work ranging from human language poems incorporating concepts and gestures from programming, to poems written entirely in compilable code. They were invited to present their poems in whatever way they saw fit, and performed with various techniques, including poems composed and compiled in an IDE, multimedia audio/visual presentations, and straight readings from a notebook.

A semi-moderated discussion followed the presentations. Finalists talked in depth about their poems and fielded questions from the audience. One theme that came up repeatedly was how code can express things that words can't and how programming makes you think differently about language.

An interdisciplinary group of judges awarded Leslie Wu, Stanford Computer Science PhDc, first place for her poem "Say 23."

  • Caroline Egan, DLCL PhDc
  • Melissa Kagen, DLCL PhDc
  • Mayank Sanganeria, CCRMA MA MST'13
  • Kurt James Werner, CCRMA PhDc

Say 23   Leslie Wu [@GitHub]

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
require 'rubygems' # gratitude
require 'nokogiri' # arigato
%w(Zarvox Princess Cellos).each{|v|`say -v #{v} 
.map {|i|h[i]}.join(' ')}`}

All A Men   Parwana Fayyaz

In 11,000 nights of 10957.3 days,
A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A have confusingly digressed,
Their √(heroism)= meekness^ nerves
As results:
#1: while from @7 until @7, their women
[9A dots+ inside a green room+ beneath the bright sun+ under the blue sky]
<99.99%> each year child * by any other child,
A leaves, A comes, A changes dress, A slams the door, A slaps,
A enters her body, A behaves like a child, A leaves.
#3: evening: fear of nightfall +#1+#2, results 
#4: midnight: [two A dots+ inside the crimson room+ the crescent moon+ a star] 
A leaves at midnight, A born dead. The last A never comes again.
A is dead, A is dead, A is d..., A is …, A is…., A …, A…, A…………., [breathe]

All.go.rhythm   Paul Hertz

include everything.*;
void wonder(Universe u) {
  while (ever || never) {
    for (Poem i in {
      Word dust = u.speak(i);
      for (Moment mote in dust) {
        wonder(new Universe(mote));

ThatGirl   Ian Holmes

import java.Object.*

public class ThatGirl {
  public SomethingBetter main() {
    return whatYouFound;

Expect_Delays   Dylan Moore

private Boolean she_smiles_for_me() {
  while(true) {
    try {
    } catch (InterruptedException e) {}
  return true; 

College, College   Quyen Nguyen

public class Fall () {

  public void freshmanYr () {

  public void sophomoreYr () {
    println ("The slump.");
    println ("Confusion.");
    println ("Some people have it all figured out.");
    println ("They have even,");
    println ("declared.");

  public void juniorYr () {
    println ("Let me online shop for business casual clothes");
    println ("and a big black folder");
    println ("big enough for my big fat resume");
    println ("Let me catch up with my fellow job-seekers, go-getters, soul-auctioneers,");
    println ("Let me murder my former dreams with M&A and DCF");
    println ("Let me forget Eliot and Shakespeare");
    println ("The artist in me, a ghost, has finally left.");

  private void seniorYrAndOut () {
    while (true) {
      println ("Welcome to the begin of the end.");


The Man Who Changed Everything   Ashank Singh

#include <stdio.h>

int Hello = 1;
int World = 0;
int True = 1;

  int happy = True;

  if (happy = True) {
    World = 1;
  } else {
    World = 0;

  int Title, line_1, line_2, line_3, line_4 = Hello;
  int line_5, line_6, line_7, line_8, line_9 = World;

  int The_, Man_, who, Changed, Everything = Title;
  int There, once, was, _a, man, _who, changed, everything = line_1;
  int He, opened, our, eyes, so, that, we, could, see = line_2;
  int The, vast, forest, in, the, language, C = line_3;
  int He_, did, _not, want, _to, put_, a_, price, on_, anything = line_4;
  int Unlike, t_h_e, others, who_, sold, _everything = line_5;
  int Open_source, projects, _and, Unix, live, _o_n_ = line_6;
  int As_, we_, _continue, to, code, _on = line_7;
  int _W_e_, _wil_l, always_, remember, _th_e, m_an_, _w_h_o_, said, helloworld = line_8;
  int _He_is_the_, _one_, _and_, _only_, Dennis, Ritchie = line_9;

  if (Title, line_1, line_2, line_3, line_4 = Hello) {
    printf("                    The Man who Changed Everything       \n");
    printf("             There once was a man who changed everything \n");
    printf("             He opened our eyes so that we could see \n");
    printf("             The vast forest in the language, C \n");
    printf("             He didn't want to put a price on anything\n");
  if (line_5, line_6, line_7, line_8, line_9 = World) {
    printf("             Unlike the others who sold everything\n");
    printf("             Open-source projects and Unix still live on\n");
    printf("             As we continue to code on\n");
    printf("             We will always remember the man who said ''Hello World''\n");
    printf("             He is the one and only, Dennis Ritchie.\n");


A While is not a But   Sophia Westwood

A while is not a but -- 
but a but is but a but.
But while a while is but a while
But while a while to switch to but.

Website by Melissa Kagen and Kurt James Werner

Contact with any questions or comments