Blanks
Hannes Bajohr

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“How to translate the process by which a computer ‘hears’ spoken speech and interprets it into a different language? As what other creaturely forms might Gregor Samsa awaken? These are but a sample of the questions asked by Hannes Bajohr in his new book, Blanks. Collected over ten years, the poems and writing of Blanks demonstrate the breadth of lyricism available to the careful curator of machine-generated/machine-intervened literature. Using a wide variety of machine processes, Bajohr maximizes the discoveries one can make inside other texts—from the canonical Metamorphosis to the more mundane of German literotica and business manuals. More than a book of computer-generated work, this book fascinates the reader through the intimacies of translation—not just from source language to target language, but translation and re-articulation of the composition process, yielding new texts faithful to method if not word-by-word parity.  From the sorting and sifting of corpora, from extraction and arrangement, Bajohr’s work excites and beautifies the growing realm of computational poetics.
—Lillian-Yvonne Bertram 

Blanks is a series of poems generated using various pre-existing source texts including some of Bajohr’s own previous work. Each poem concludes by disclosing the various “programs” used to compose it (like Python, search filters, procedures, and algorithms), but some are also additionally edited “manually” and “selectively” (i.e. libidinally) by the poet. This book presents the facility of the poem as a resource for exploring the turbulent, political terrain cleaved open by the dissolution of distinct boundaries between person and machine, writing tool(s) and text, poem and reading tool(s). Written during a historical period that saw haphazardly designed, discriminatory algorithms rapidly and radically redistribute things like labor, global economics and attention itself, Blanks hovers on the moment when invisible tools designed imperfectly reveal themselves to have been operative independent of user agency.”

—Holly Melgard

Where everything is text, because everything is code, there is no longer one finished work, but only semi-finished products—blanks. Images, films, sounds, words—in a digital world, everything is open to being processed and reprocessed, transcoded and converted. Hannes Bajohr’s Blanks: Word Processing collects poetry made by a whole range of digital operations and shows that, from the works of Kafka and management bibles to sex advice columns and climate reports, each text provides a space from which to go on, filling in a new version, translating it into one’s own language.

Praise for the German-language book:

Deutschlandfunk Kultur’s poetry collection of the year 2018

“If this poetry were under the patronage of a deity … it would have to be the god Proteus as the God that was able to change his appearance in an instant. … Bajohr’s Protean poetry provides illuminating cross-sections of linguistic milieus and cultures. These verses shine with wit and sophistication.”
—Christian Metz, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“Synesthetic adventures that make you want to try Bajohr’s techniques on other objects.”
—Hans Hütt, Die Tageszeitung

“Most fascinating experiments with the digital possibilities of creating literature.”
—Jonas Engelmann, Neues Deutschland

“Bajohr … creates atmospheric density and an immediate expressiveness that is conveyed not just by reading the concept, but by reading the text.
—Miriam Zeh, Deutschlandfunk

 “All average poems are alike. Each outstanding poem, however, is outstanding in its own way. Hannes Bajohr’s Halbzeug belongs in that group … A philosophical reading adventure that pleasantly stands out from the average.”
—André Hattig, Deutschlandfunk Kultur

“Pieces of concrete poetry that almost certainly surpass their source material in literary quality.”
—Elisabeth Dietz, Bücher Magazin

“Blurs the boundaries between high and low and returns to the essentials, that is, art that surprises, shifts perspectives and creates new contexts.”
—Fabian Thomas, Börsenblatt

“Bajohr’s poetry is an exploration of the materiality of poems and the poetics of material. It is a work that follows many tracks … bringing about a combination of playful approaches and a broad, compelling, and vivid range of serious results.… Fun and stimulating.”
—Timo Brandt, signaturen-magazin.de

Part of the series Using Electricity.

Hannes Bajohr, born in Berlin in 1984, studied philosophy, German literature, and history in Berlin and New York and received his doctorate with a thesis on Hans Blumenberg’s philosophy of language.

Blanks
November 2021
Hannes Bajohr
$25.00; 6″ x 8.25″
134 pgs.
ISBN 978-1-93-399675-2