Spoiler alert: Are you experienced?
- If you have never read “Taroko Gorge,” read this first. (You’re in for a treat!)
- If you haven’t read any of its remixes, read some entries (and poems).
- If you’re experienced in this set of poems, read on.
This core idea and the code that generates it has proven to be very versatile, since over the past 3 years many people have produced remixes of the poem that redirect this idea towards other endless permutations in human existence. Some of the topics explored by the remixes are: sexuality, dating, toys, urban environments, cooking, eating, fandom, labyrinths, poetry, cultural movements, music, and the poem itself. Their tone has been equally varied: playful, shocking, serious, humorous, and earnest at times. Two conventions have developed in these remixes: a title that somehow echoes the original (generally through alliteration, repetition, or rhyme), and crediting Nick Montfort (and other remixers) by providing a link to the original, but using the <del> tag to strike out his name, inserting their own name in the authorial position.
This edition of “Taroko Gorge” is the only remix published by Nick Montfort, and it generates text from exactly the same code, but it is a significantly different variation from the original. In a panel presentation of “Taroko Gorge” variants at the ELO 2012 conference, Montfort read this statement, excerpted below:
In addition to including a date, the new version of “Taroko Gorge” includes the names of all known vandals, those who have replaced my own lyrical words and phrases with ones associated with various other individual visions, ranging from the idiosyncratic to the downright perverse. These appear on the right-hand side – stricken out. Since it is not proper to condemn people without evidence – unless we put them aboard a plane and take them to another country – I have also included links to the offending Web pages.
This remix of “Taroko Gorge” asserts something very simple: that the rebirth of the author comes at the expense of the death of other authors. Something simple, about originality, voice, and purity of essence, which has been said in so many ways: Remix = death. Take back the gorge. Don’t tread on me. There’s a bear in the woods. Make it old. I did it my way. Under the page, the code.
Montfort’s tongue-in-cheek comments assert a serious point about the author function in this set of works. What exactly has he created? A poem? Certainly. But he has also created what Judy Malloy calls an “authoring system,” others might call an “engine,” or I venture to call a poetic form. All of these have in common that they are frameworks that can be used to produce new works. Just as Petrarch and Shakespeare didn’t invent the sonnet, Montfort didn’t invent the generative poem— but they all structured their poems in compelling ways, inviting imitation, response, remix. The rhetoric of their forms continue to challenge and inspire others to explore their possibilities. From this perspective the remixes don’t challenge Montfort’s authority, they reaffirm it as they assert their own.
Only time will tell if the “Taroko” poem will survive as a literary or e-literary form. For now the simplicity of its code, the emergent complexity of its output, and its versatility have inspired others to create and teach with it. There are many more remixes out there that I am unaware of, but for now this sampling of 22 are a fascinating case study of its possibilities.
And to commemorate the completion of this series of entries on “Taroko Gorge,” I have written a remix that celebrates 20 poets who have written “Taroko” poems. It is titled “TransmoGrify.”