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. Over the second half of 2022 I shared excerpts from their contributions here, in ten, ten-poem “samplers,” and am now pleased to present the project in its entirety in the catalog below.

Poetry from Instructions: A Work of (Non-Combinatory) Generative Poetry contains the 99 directions, 160+ poems generated from them, as well as a few related odds and ends (a contextualizing essay, a glossary of affinities, and a brief timeline of instruction-based art). The following kind souls generously contributed to this volume:

The catalog is available for free download via the link below. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have, or should you wish for any additional information. – GB

   ➫ Poetry from Instructions (pdf, 270 pages, 7.1 MB)