Tape Mark 1
A version of Tape Mark 1, by Nanni Balestrini


They all return to their roots, head pressed
on shoulder expands rapidly
until he moved his fingers slowly, I envisage their
return, at the summit of the cloud,
although things flourish hair
between lips lay motionless without speaking.



Tape Mark 1 is a poem by Nanni Balestrini. It dates from 1961. It was exhibited in Cybernetic Serendipity, ICA Gallery, 1968.
It is sometimes credited as the first computer poem. It is a significant early example of computer poetry.

This version has been programmed using the description in the Cybernetic Serendipity catalogue.
The original code is unavailable. The present program produces verses similar to the English translations that are still available.
There is the occasional oddity in syntax, but according to the catalogue of Cybernetic Serendipity there were, post-computer,
'a few editorial changes in points of grammar and punctuation'.
It is stated in the catalogue that ten elements were selected. However, on my count the number is nine (see below).
Then this raw text was divided up into six lines of metrical units.
The program emulates this approximately.

This is an example verse from the Cybernetic Serendipity catalogue. I have indicated where phrases start and finish:

Hair between lips, || they all return
to their roots || in the blinding fireball ||
I envision their return || until he moves his fingers
slowly, || and although things flourish ||
takes on the well known mushroom shape || endeavouring
to grasp || while the multitude of things come into being.

Here's another:

In the blinding fireball || I envisage
their return || when it reaches the stratosphere ||
while the multitude of things come into being || head pressed
on shoulder || thirty times brighter than the sun ||
they all return to their roots || hair
between lips || takes on the well-known mushroom shape.

Balestrini sources:

Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching: 'While the multitude of things comes into being, I envisage their return. Although things flourish, they all return to their roots.'
Michihito Hachiya’s Hiroshima Diary: 'The blinding fireball expands rapidly, thirty times brighter than the sun. When it reaches the stratosphere, the summit of the cloud takes on the well-known mushroom shape.'
Paul Goldwin’s The Mystery of the Elevator: 'head pressed on shoulder, hair between lips, lay motionless without speaking, till he moved his fingers slowly, trying to grasp.'


The sourcecode is here


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