Poetry from Instructions

A work of (non-combinatory) generative poetry inspired by the instruction-based music and art of the mid-20th century.

This project was born of a dual impulse: on the one hand, the desire to imagine a generative poetry whose verbal content was not predetermined by the project author, as is typically the case, but left open to those actually writing the poems; and on the other, the wish to extend into the realm of literature the type of conceptual play, present in the visual arts and music for more than 50 years, that is implicit in work intended to be created from verbal directions.

In January 2022 I duly circulated a set of 99 instructions, modeled on those Sol LeWitt created for his Wall Drawings, to some 60 poets, artists, and designers, inviting them to write or otherwise make poems from these simple algorithms. Six months later I had received their contributions and will be presenting selections here in 10, 10-poem “samplers” published every two weeks through the end of the year. You will find them linked below; feel free to download and / or share them if you like.

In January 2023 an eCatalog containing the entirety of the project – the 99 instructions, all of the poems generated from them as well as a few ancillary texts – will likewise be published on this page, so stay tuned.

Should you have any questions about Poetry from Instructions, don’t hesitate to contact me.