Six Kevins

An analog poem-game

The poem is a game of selection; the poet is the input-giver; and the one who composes is the machine. 
The audience is then the poet.

Charles O. Hartman, a pioneering computer poet writes, “The artist’s job is to compose, to place together in a meaningful arrangement a number of independent elements”. Hartman conveys what the “artist’s job” for a poet is and incidentally identifies what works of digital poetry are in their broadest sense: arrangements of self-regulating (sometimes user-regulated) elements.
According to rjs, “the sole responsibility of the poet is to provide random input and a coded description of the desired output poem or poems. The poet using the program is freed from the concerns of order and organization, and freed from the need for insight or direction.”

The inspiration for the input came from this story in Renata Adler’s Speedboat:

“One of the class’s six Kevins had been left in the Park.”
“It turned out that every single child on the school bus had known that one of their Kevins was missing. They had not mentioned to the driver, or their teacher, or each other. They took it that Kevin had been left, forever, for some reason, which would become clear to them, with patience, in the course of time.”

One day I remembered the story incorrectly, and took it that one of the Kevins had left, “forever, for some reason”, so the poem explores that situation.

How to play:

The machine and the poet sit at the same time. The machine must use all the elements in the board, and can guide themselves for composition using whatever syntax they have in themselves + “Prehistoric Digital Poetry An Archaeology of Forms” on what Digital poetry is (though this last is not necessary if they trust the poet).
The blue papers relate to the Kevins, the white ones to the situation.

The machine then tells the story.

It is maybe interesting for the poet to know if the six pieces in blue are the six Kevins (if they are telling where they went while not revealing which one disappeared and how), or if all blue pieces are the same Kevin (the one who disappeared and who is telling how/why that happened). The poet has to make the machine compute in order to know the end.

The poem–game could be used to illustrate how electronic poetry works.


Additional inspiration during the composition of the game:

From “Prehistoric Digital Poetry An Archaeology of Forms” by Christopher Thompson Funkhouser & Sandy Baldwin

Agar Agar’s Prettiest Virgin
Juan José Millás’ “Dos mujeres en Praga