Both require precision, and poetry usually also involves some degree of linguistic compactness. Also, just as software executes within the context of an operating system, poetry likewise "executes" within the psyche of the reader. A few lines in either form can have a profound impact, sending memory pointers in myriad directions.This immediately jumped out at me because today I read a conversation between Steve and Adie in Powers' Plowing the Dark that went something like this:
I'm telling you, writing my first subroutine was...like causing huge chunks of unravished bride to rise up, just by singing to her. A good, polished program was everything I thought poetry was supposed to be.Although I agree with Adie (and sestinas were never meant to offer "reality check"s), I admit that it's an interesting idea...albeit a potentially dangerous one.
Stevie. You must have had a very peculiar idea of what poetry was supposed to be.
No different than any person who ever wrote it. I was going to get inside of reality and extract its essence, write down on paper the magic metrical words that, read aloud, would do their open sesame.
She looked at the screen, ready to deny everything. But she nodded. The vital formula. Sympathetic spells. Life's nail clippings. The impression of a body in bed.
He raced on, not hearing her. There was this kid poet, and he wrote and wrote. He rubbed the magic lamp until the poetic self-abuse police threatened to come impound him. And still nothing happened. The incantation seemed to be defective. Then they put the kid in front of this terminal and initiated him into the secret syntax. A few simple rules, combined in a few elegant ways, and blamm-o. The thing works. It runs. The world does move. The rules churn. The descriptions step their way through their own internal logic. The lines of code set more switches, change more states. Commands produce results.
The word made flesh.
Spiegel flinched. Don't mock me.
I'm not mocking.
Because that's exactly what it is. It doesn't matter if you're only talking about a formula for compound interest plugged into a general ledger program. Change any variable and the executing universe alters. Move it to the left, increment it by a quarter precent, and the new result gets spit out whole. It gives one a tremendous feeling of--
Perfectibility. Coding possessed a kind of reality check that sestinas never had. A program either worked or it didn't, and if it didn't work, it was wrong. Period. Something magnificent to that.
I made a lot of wrong paintings in my life. Believe me. And I didn't need any machine to tell me they were wrong.
But you never knew, completely, when you made a right one.
Adie wrapped her self-indicting silence around her like a shawl.
It's...funny, Spiegel went on. Art made all this happen, you know. The whole digital age. Music did it. Hollerith got his idea for the punched data card from the player piano. From the Jacquard tapestry loom. [...] The rules, the operators? They're completely open-ended. Extensible. Whatever you can imagine, they can build. Think of it: the universal behavior machine, able to build any gadget that crossed the human mind. Not a tool. The ultimate medium.