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The Art of Lullian Poetry

The variegated image
The variegated image screams while dreaming the multithreaded digital painter
wordlessly the image decomposes
The digital painter encodes far beyond the networked image

The poem above is an example of a lullian poem. As a digital artist with one foot in the algorithmic art school, I decided to use some of the programming skills I have to create a program that would generate lullian poetry with an art theme.

Lullian poetry is named for Ramon Llull (1232 – 1315) who is considered a pioneer in the area of computation theory. Lullian poetry works by creating a basic grammatical structure for the poem and then choosing words by type (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) and placing them at the appropriate locations within the grammatical structure. Aside from the algorithm used to construct the lullian poem, the other critical component is the selection of a vocabulary that will be used by the lullian generator to create the poem.

In one sense lullian poetry could be considered to be an implementation of the infinite monkey theorem. The infinite monkey theorem states that if you give a monkey a keyboard and an infinite amount of time in which to type, he will eventually reproduce the works of William Shakespeare. The origin of the theorem is traced to a 1913 essay by Émile Borel titled Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité.

I don't have a monkey and I certainly don't have an infinite amount of time. Nor do I aspire to recreate the works of Shakespeare. But I do have a computer. Giving the computer a collection of words and a basic grammatical structure to follow, it will occasionally produce a poem of reasonable quality. And that is all I aspire to in this excercise.

For the technically inquisitive, I created my lullian poetry generator using the C++ programming language and the Code::Blocks IDE (Integrated Development Environment). The dictionary that the program uses consists of 397 words.

Following is a selection of lullian poetry created by the program.

The young portrait painter
The young portrait painter networks while observing the primordial brain
defiantly the portrait painter composes
The brain seeks while coding a cybernetic expressionist

The ancient artist
The ancient artist cracks while noting the electronic infobahn
Foolishly the artist trys computing
The infobahn oscillates while painting an optical algorist

The virtuoso novice
The virtuoso novice imagines while dreaming the viscous seascape
Boldly the novice paints
The seascape emerges from deep within an aquamarine watercolor

The quivering program
The quivering program speeds while painting the solitary mathematician
looping endlessly the program dreams
The mathematician drawing inside a pointy-haired expressionist

The artifical Egon Schiele
The artifical Egon Schiele screams within the malicious composition
Looping endlessly Schiele distills
The composition computes within an optical picture

The alien algorithmic artist
The alien algorithmic artist thinks alongside the painting Android
Silently the algorithmic artist conceptualizes
The Android shrieks while composing a cratered Moon

An automated generator such as I have written does not always produce poems that are recognizeable as such. Many of the poems are bad and many are pure nonsense. Following are a few examples of such mis-creations.

The wiry program
The wiry program shrieks while exploring the yeasty geek
Courageously the program infects
The geek hacks while sleeping an ancient monitor

The optical landscape
The optical landscape computing while drawing the monochromatic student artist
Courageously the landscape contemplates
The student artist encodes while noting a glass Brancusi

The caffeniated host system
The caffeniated host system codes in competition with the radiating artist
Frantically the host system decodes
The artist imagines while observing a compressed and confused composition

The zaftig picture
The zaftig picture screams beyond the zaftig illustrator
Painting endlessly the picture evolves
The illustrator questions while coding a computerized artist

While these lullian poems are certainly not in the same class as the works of William Shakespeare, they are certainly better than what can be produced by a monkey at a keyboard. Well, maybe.