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code {poems} Is An Anthology Of Thoughtful And Moving Expressions Of Programming Language

Ishac Bertran’s anthology of poetry finds beauty in the functionality of programming code.

Programming codes are called “languages” for good reason. Each is a functional yet creatively pliable form of expression with all the nuance of any spoken language. The difference is that programming languages were designed for specific, logical intent like triggering an algorithm, and didn’t arise out of a more primal necessity like telling someone there’s a saber-tooth tiger behind them. But lots of programmers understand code as a subjective form of communication and not just as a stream of single-purposed 0s and 1s, as laymen often assume.


Ishac Bertran saw this linguistic beauty in code and sought to treat creative coding text as what he believes it is: poetry. Earlier this year, he put out a call to creative coders to contribute code poetry, compiled the best work, and has now completed his anthology, code {poems}. In it, you’ll find works that may or may not serve a functional purpose, but are aesthetically and linguistically beautiful. As Bertran puts it:

Code can speak literature, logic, maths. It contains different layers of abstraction and it links them to the physical world of processors and memory chips. All these resources can contribute in expanding the boundaries of contemporary poetry by using code as a new language. Code to speak about life or death, love or hate. Code meant to be read, not run.

We spoke with Bertran to find out more about this labor of [a href=“love”].

The Creators Project: What were your motivations behind doing the project?
Ishac Bertran: I wanted to explore the potential of code to communicate at the level of poetry. Computer languages don’t differ much from languages like English or German. They carry meaning under a set of rules allowing entities to communicate with one to another. I thought it would be interesting to use computer language to communicate in a very human form of expression and compile it in a traditional, physical support—code poetry in a book.

What was the criteria for selecting the poems to be published?
Together with the code editors team, we decided to build the criteria as we reviewed the poems. Being a relatively unexplored canvas we wanted the authors to feel free to define what a code poem is, set the boundaries. We were surprised by the variety of interpretations and topics in the submissions, as well as the creative use of code to come up with highly evocative pieces for people with a language that is optimized to be interpreted by computers.

The book attempts to capture this variety, offering a representation of what code poetry means to people today.

How can someone reading these poems derive meaning from them the way they would a poem written in English, for example?
As in traditional poetry, code poems challenge the reader to comprehend the different layers of meaning, and allow for multiple interpretations. The poetry may lie in the terms used, in the power to evoke a visual scene, in the elegance of the construction. Because computer languages have a strong relation to logic and maths, many authors have exploited these aspects to create a type of poetry that we couldn’t imagine using human languages.

Below, see a video of the code {poems} being printed. Feel free to point out the irony of printing code on paper in today’s world in the comments below.