This fascinating poem is derived from Gertrude Stein’s poetry throughout her career and exemplifies the practice of what Kenneth Goldsmith calls uncreative writing. As he explains in his essay, Reed sought to map out a “landscape” of Stein’s practice, so he devised the following algorithm to generate nine texts from Gertrude Stein:
I came up with the following procedures.
Select nine works by Stein from different points in her career.
Choose congenial passages from each work of roughly eighty-one letters in length.
Order the passages chronologically and number them one to nine.
Eliminate all punctuation and capitalization.
Divide each modified passage into nine numbered sections, each consisting of whole words totaling as close to nine letters as feasible.
Generate a new passage by listing, in order, the words from the first sections of passages 1-9.
Repeat step six eight more times, each time moving on to the next numbered section (2-9) to use as a source of words. You should generate a total of nine new passages.
Assign appropriate punctuation and capitalization to the new nine passages.
Create an animated .GIF that cycles through these nine paragraphs, each paragraph lingering nine seconds.
The result was this poem, displayed above. Reed’s essay is as fascinating as the poem itself, which does have an uncanny resemblance to Stein’s poetry, particularly the paratactic, Cubist logic of Tender Buttons. The technique is also a kind of cut-up, aligning it with a tradition inspired by Dada, William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, and most recently in Jim Andrews’ Stir-Fry Texts.
My suggestion: read the poem (it only takes 90 seconds to cycle back to the beginning), read about the poem, and then go read some Gertrude Stein if you’re enthralled by what you read here.