“Alone Engaged” by Maria Engberg

Screen capture from "Alone Engaged" by Maria Engberg. Yellow background with the image of a statue's face and white font text. Text: "Sick girl teachs the older lovers. / touch the delirious troubling / Southern driver eats the runner / Bartenders destroy / Young runners scream the jazz lover / spawn the welcome new / lesbian couples eat the mathematicians / Wasps beg / Hillbillys drink / Young runners suffer the gay guys / Exscuse the peripheral / Loner talks the conservative / Rival politicizes the builders / Sweat the happy shabby scant / Dreamboys politicize the bald guys / Young runners code / girls follow the other".  "
Open “Alone Engaged” by Maria Engberg

This generative poem combines interpersonal dynamics and gender politics in the North American South, to bring together recognizable and unlikely kinds of people together in surprisingly funny ways. It is also very aware of code, coding, and computer programmers as part of the gene pool, as evidenced in the lines:

Girls love the programmers.
Loners learn.
Students code.
Loners run fast the comp-sci geek.

Clearly computer programming, coding, and generally being a computer science geek is the new hot thing in the dating world— and appropriate preparation that leads to being engaged to be married. So stop calling yourself “a loner:” run out and learn how to become code literate or you’ll end up alone!

Seriously though, in placing code in conversation with gender and relationship conventions one has to wonder to what extent are our bodies, genetic code (hardware), and socialization (software) informing our choices for human relationships.

When she wrote this remix, Engberg was well aware of the tradition established by the previous Taroko Gorge remixers, having read Nick Montfort’s July 2011 posting “Who Grabbed My Gorge?.” She documents some details in the poem’s source code:

I continue the trend of using Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge to generate new texts. Montfort wrote the code, and like the remixers before me (Rettberg, Carpenter et al) I too used Nick’s code, but with different words. Alone Engaged is written in Atlanta, where I am teaching experimental digital media at Georgia Tech. It started out as being part of what I wanted to show to my students who are working on writing for location-based media (Argon AR-browser). It ended up being- like many of those impersonal, personal cut-ups- highly emotive. Remixed September 7-13, 2011 by Maria Engberg.

By this point, she knew she was following in a “well-trodden path,” yet her contribution expanded this path by making it about interpersonal relationships. Snodgrass’ “Yoko Engorged” first explored this engine for sexuality, which requires a person somehow stimulating another, but Engberg truly investigated its potential to see how different types of people seeking others match up.

Much different from hiking through “Taroko Gorge.”

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