Seedlings_: Walk in Time
Qianxun Chen and Mariana Roa Oliva

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“The roots of these seedings go deep and they are, like those in gardens and forests, hidden for most of the human readers who will enjoy the flourishing splendor within this book. All words are metaphor and here they grow, iconically, in other nourishing soils. In using electricity, yes, and in the computation it empowers, but also in deep histories of visual poetry and in richly creative co-authored collaboration across cultures. From the paradigmatic, once and future agonistic binary of science and art, Seedings_: Walk in Time hybridizes algorithm and poetic text to generate a delightful, lively, forested garden.”?—John Cayley 

“Qianxun Chen and Mariana Roa Oliva have gifted us with a unique mode of literary life in Seedlings_: Walk in Time, reframing the act of literary curation as one of cultivation and caretaking. The algorithms that guide these seedlings_ do not merely generate text but are pruned and transplanted into a funny yet poignant narrative, literally illustrating how language is at once fragile and wildly uncontrollable. Words embodied as roots, stems, and flowers reveal language as Lebensform in multivalent ways, be they allegorical, cultural, narrative, and semantic. Seedlings_ is a book that brings the gardener, the poet, and the computer scientist to the same creative table, demonstrating the innate organicism of our lexicon.”?—Edwin Alanís-Garcia

“What if a machine was fed words with great taste, gentleness, and strangeness—so much so that the machine becomes beloved? While reading Seedlings_: Walk in Time, a sincere collaboration between poets and machines, you’ll feel your mind in the act of making sense and you’ll remember and trust and delight in your own hummanness. ”?—Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

Seedlings_: Walk in Time is at the complex intersection of language, technology, and the natural world through the co-writing of poetry that allows generative algorithmic rules to give rise to chance encounters. Seedlings_ is reminiscent of the recent enthusiasm for deep learning AI, but in a way that reveals the problems inherent in chatbots that have been put to myriad insipid tasks. Seedlings_ is compelling, because it speaks to a different path for co-creating with code. Its evocative poetry is written through complex entanglements, in which creative agency flows in multiple directions between human actors and their situatedness, algorithms, flora, spontaneity and surprise.”?—John Kim

What would happen if you could grow a word? In this book, a series of textual Seedlings_ sprout and set off on a journey for the discovery of kinships between words. Born digital, the Seedlings_ migrate from the browser to the pages in a process that explores different ways of writing in collaboration. Seedlings_: Walk in Time is a book written through the interaction between a human writer and a group of algorithms, both feeding off the vast world of language people have been tending to for many many years. Moving between the humorous, the poetic, the narrative, and the visual, this book portrays an ecosystem where the bonds that tie words together come alive and speak back to us.

Part of the series Using Electricity.

Qianxun Chen is a media artist, programmer, and researcher. She works at the intersection of language, art, and digital technology, with a focus on digital textuality, generative poetics, and the aesthetics of algorithms.

Mariana Roa Oliva is a fiction and performance writer. They are interested in communication and collaboration across languages and species, natural and artificial. 

Qianxun and Mariana’s collaboration on the Seedlings_ started with the project Seedlings_:From Humus, which was featured in the Generative Unfoldings exhibition, commissioned by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology, and shortlisted for the 2021 Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature.

April 2023
Qianxun Chen and Mariana Roa Oliva
$25.00; 6 x 9″
120 pgs.
ISBN 978-1-93-399682-0

Purchase copies here, or write to