Christopher Funkhouser

Research in digital poetry has led me to study transcreation, a literary concept cultivated by Haroldo de Campos that involves taking a concept in one language and recreating it in another [1]. My transcreations in Freeholderville appropriate New Jersey-based (or themed) blog entries, written in the blogger’s idiom, and remake them (albeit in English) using computer algorithms—specifically (most often) those engineered by Andrew Klobucar and David Ayre in a program titled GTR Language Workbench [2]. Construction of these transcreations occurs in multiple stages. Through various means I select blog postings, and then subject them to a series of mutations using the Language Workbench. Most commonly, I begin by noun, verb, adjective, and adverb substitutions (i.e., S+7 processes [3]), often based on the sum of numbers contained in the post (or by some other mathematical figure, such as the date). I frequently (though not always) apply antonym or synonym replacements as well; the Workbench program contains a large collection of generative, reordering, and substitution techniques from which to choose. After the selection and processing stages, I paste the output into Microsoft Word and subject the text to grammar checks and further edit according to my own poetic sensibilities. Apart from the complex processes it fluidly enables, what makes the Language Workbench such a stellar device—superior to other resources of the sort—is its highly developed dictionary (which is in my view more expansive than Word’s). These are intensely process-based works, enabled by a capacious data directory and swiftly applied computations. For creating a poetic instrument with such virtues I applaud its producers, and dedicate this blog to them…  































[1] To read an interesting essay that (in part) discusses de Campos and transcreation, see Charles Bernstein’s “De Campos Thou Art Translated (Knot)”. In the article, Bernstein explains that in practicing transcreation, “the poet (cannibalistically) creates an original work in his or her own right, one no longer beholding to the source”. [back]

[2] GTR Language Workbench is published in this volume of Newark Review (see link above). Comments I wrote about using the program were published in a 2010 netartery article titled “On using tools made by comrades”. [back]

[3] Wikipedia’s Oulipo entry provides a brief introduction to the n + 7 method, as does an online excerpt from the Oulipo Compendium. See also The N+7 Machine website, which automatically produces N+7 lines based on user input. [back]