“Machine Gun Nest” (servilivres) by Erthos Albino de Souza

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“Machine Gun Nest” (servilivres) by Erthos Albino de Souza

* Credits: servilivres, Musa Speculatrix series, published on “Qorpo Estranho” brazilian magazine nº 2, 1976

The Brazilian poet Erthos Albino de Souza (1932-2000) has a prominent role in the international digital poetry, but unfortunately the records of his work is scarce. Only recently an exhibition was held in his honor: Erthos Albino de Souza. Poetry: the Dactyl to the Digit displayed on the Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro collecting printed poems, letters and journals and other relevant documents, such as the rare copies of the magazine Code (1974 -1990) edited and funded by Erthos.

According to Eduardo Kac, Erthos Albino de Souza began his research on convergence between computing and poetic imagination in 1966. His works of authorship emerged around 1972, when the poet conceives the first trials with the poetic data processing computer.

Erthos composed his poems using ​​Fortran and PL1 softwares languages, subverting pragmatism of computers in mathematical lines. His poetic results from the creative use of software for spatial poems. As at this period computers were still huge machines and restricted to large corporations was necessary to print the multiple versions of the poem performed by the software to view its results. For this reason, unfortunately, the Erthos works are not available in digital media.

 Machine Gun Nest (1976) is a poem created by physical concepts and describes several trajectories of a point forming multiple parables. The poem replaces the points of these trajectories by letters of the wordplay “SERVILIVRES” which in portuguese results in a palindrome. Visually, the poem refers to the simultaneous firing of capsules firearms. Considering the historical and political context in Brazil at this time, when the country was under a hard military rules, it can be deduced that the poem is doubly revolutionary.

 Erthos explores in this poem the syntax and semantics of the words  SERVIL(servile) and LIVRE(free). Poetic language simultaneously subverts and is subverted by computer language. Subverts while diverting the logical function in poetry and is subverted when it breaks again with the poetic tradition letting itself be contaminated by non-linguistic and technical foreign elements.

In the early twentieth century european avant-gardes, Marinetti defended in his Technical Manifest of Futurist Literature, the use of mathematical symbols as poetic composition elements. However, the Erthos Albino de Souza computational poetic experiments is an appropriation of data visualization as a poetic way. Mathematical structures such as scale, expansions and mirroring are transformed into equivalent graphs of figures of similarity, contiguity and opposition used by poets.

*Thanks to André Vallias for providing the digital poem image sample.