Experiment 116
Rena Mosteirin


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“Rena Mosteirin’s Experiment 116 filters Shakespeare sonnet 116 through a network of translation, producing poignant, sharp, and dynamic iterations that reveal the syntactical and linguistic priorities of software and figure and that reminds us how translation is a conversation between languages, not end-product but process and contiguity. This book feels human and vulnerable, a text with alteration as its vital thrum.” 
—Carmen Giménez Smith

“Behind this beautiful trans-linguistic computer exploration of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 lies an ambitious and fascinating project: that of finding in the idiolectic uniqueness of a migrant’s idiomatic errors the universality of language drifts.” —Milton Läufer, author of A Noise Such as a Man Might Make

“In Experiment 116, Rena J. Mosteirin brings together two phenomena of displacement: refugees and mechanization. Could be grim, except that Mosteirin, the love child of two disparate languages and cultures, turns to the language of poetry to see what other love children might emerge. In this human tryst with a machine and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, creative and critical registers bind together and over one hundred languages meet, merge, and morph back into English. The result of this experiment? Wondrous images and lines that fit and mis-fit, that delight in ways that are strange, delectable, upsetting and beyond reason. Because that’s what happens with poetry and love.” —Teresa Carmody, author of The Reconception of Marie

Experiment 116 is a creative deformance of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 using automatic machine translation. The poems begin in their original Shakespearean English and are then moved to another language, then another, then perhaps a third, and then back to English. In this way, the poem moves, the poem lives; it is reincarnated, reproduced, misunderstood, and mistaken. The essay that concludes the book explores how our practices of reading, writing, and revision can benefit from the use of free online translation tools. Experiment 116 invites readers to imagine translation errors and variants appearing during this process as a bridge between languages, striking unintentional emotional chords and producing creative depictions of life, as potentially codified by multi-lingual readers. In so doing, it enables a fugitive relation to idioms and stages a confrontation with multiple languages that function as the resources by which poets create, through language, cultural bridges. Experiment 116 asks its reader to consider automated algorithmic language translation as a site for the birth of a poetics of a global refugee idiolect.

Part of the series Using Electricity.

Rena J. Mosteirin is the author of Nick Trail’s Thumb (Kore Press, 2008) chosen by Lydia Davis for the Kore Press Short Fiction Award; half-fabulous whales (Little Dipper, 2019) a book of Moby-Dick erasure poetry; and the co-author of Moonbit (punctum books, 2019), a poetic and academic hybrid work comprised of experimental poetry and a critical theory of the poetics and politics of computer code. Mosteirin is a lecturer at Dartmouth College, editor at Bloodroot Literary Magazine, and owner of Left Bank Books, a bookstore in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Experiment 116
October 2021
Rena Mosteirin
$25.00; 6″ x 8.25″
84 pgs.
ISBN 978-1-93-399676-9