Image Generation
John Cayley

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“John Cayley’s brilliantly constructed creations, encounters, interventions with words and their fertile lettristic elements invite curious minds to experience the pleasures of depth-poetic portals and transformational procedures. All yours for serious play with the Image Generation kit: book and website. Prepare—but not too much—for swerves in your consciousness brought on by Cayley’s enticingly fresh geometries of attention. In fact, I wager that anyone who welcomes these delights may soon be noticing a shimmer of new life in every text—literary and otherwise. That Shimmer (title of one of Cayley’s active online poems) is the gossamer presence of energy networks—biological and electrostaic—surfacing visually only when deeply noticed. Breathe in breathe out the marvelous effects of Cayley’s lettristic alchemy.” —Joan Retallack

“John Cayley is a poet of thoughtful process and this collection both embodies and reflects upon the workings of his/our language. Critical insight about process moves through the depths and shallows of personal imagery here, pulling insight to the surface of attention, like a figure always in/on moving water, shifting even as we apprehend it. Recognition of the digital, networked, electronic conditions of composition are everywhere, but this is not a book about technology, rather, it is a work conceived within the multiple mediations of how, now, poetic forms come into being within ‘the commons of language.’” — Johanna Drucker

Image Generation is a printed reader, gathering selected works from John Cayley’s language art with computation. The book provides its human readers with some of Cayley’s original texts, which were composed so as to be supplied to algorithmic processes of manipulation or generation. And it offers up printed versions of the prose and poetry that were produced by these processes. In cases where the computation was programmed for indeterminate outcomes, the resulting language might have been entirely different. These texts are often snapshots of something that may also be experienced in time and as a process. There are brief explanatory notes on many of these processes in the book’s apparatus.

This Counterpath edition of Image Generation is expanded from one published earlier in the UK. It includes material from an entirely new project which shares ‘an image’ with a number of others in the book. This reader is also supplemented by a website devoted to other possible outcomes from some of the processes themselves along with a few of Cayley’s most recent web applications: Afterword by Garrett Stewart.

“This is an important, wonderful book. The agency that Cayley claims, if I understand correctly, of producing the supply texts, the algorithms, and the intervening privileged selection of algorithmic output makes for a not uncreative writing — complementary aspects working together in the service of, dare one say it, interiority.” — Stephanie Strickland

“Reading this superb collection leaves one with the unsettling, yet paradoxically satisfying, sense that no ‘zero-count phrases’ remain — that herein everything is contained. Cayley’s complex compositional practices, from the translational to the computational, the poetic to the theoretical, have resulted in a volume that enacts the very idea of corpus with which it playfully, but critically, engages. This is writing that founds, that serves as the foundation for linguistic experiments still to come.” —Rita Raley

“image generation brings clarity reading through itself. from the first surprise of narratives into the transformed permutations, shifts against revealed repetition and derivation clones from those narratives already provided to some extent provided. two column syntactic overlap nouns given as placed verb it. and then describes the compositional order of two word columns broken into breaches and breath groups and then narrative collages until broken elements repaired with sound, use computer generation rather than aleatory. in a noisy world full of claims and conformity, a clear water made possible through modernist endeavour. the collection demonstrates a meeting of confidence with eloquence.” — Allen Fisher

John Cayley is a poet, writer, theorist, and maker of language art in networked and programmable media. His poetry, translations, and adaptations were first book published as Ink Bamboo in 1996. In the meantime, he has explored language art in many forms including dynamic and ambient poetry, text generation, transliteral morphing, aestheticized vectors of reading, and transactive synthetic language. One of his more recent works is a skill, The Listeners, for a well-known digital assistant <>. He now seeks to compose as much for reading in aurality as in visuality, and investigates the ontology of language in the context of philosophically informed practice and research. Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, Cayley co-directs a graduate track in Digital & Cross-disciplinary language art. Selected essays are published in Grammalepsy (Bloomsbury, 2018). @programmatology (author photo courtesy of Enza García Arreaza)


Part of the series Using Electricity.

Image Generation
April 2023
John Cayley
$25.00; 5.5 x 8.5″
150 pgs.
ISBN 978-1-93-399680-6