NLP Python Day 2 – Caroline Bergvall


One of my favorite contemporary poems is Via by Caroline Bergvall. You can listen to it here, on ubuweb.

Via takes 48 translations of the first line of The Divine Comedy.  I find it breathtakingly beautiful, listing to and reading this poem is good for my soul.  I was thinking what would it be like to make 48 first line code re-interpretations of a text.  Here we are thinking about algorithmic remapping instead of creative translation. It is not what the poet is saying but the materiality of the poem.   What does this have to do with the poem  and what if we use this layer to create a new peom.  It is not a  translation but a remapping, a trans-mapping, or perhaps a transduction.

What if we looked at Moby Dick and generated 48 new lines? How would we do this? Would we generate the first line based in the whole corpus? This would not even look like a first line. Would we generate the first line based on the the first line? This could get old real quick.  Would we look at derivative works? Or could we look at pieces of criticism and use that? What about rearranging the first line – anagram style?

I eneded up doing something pretty bogus. Using the sent1 function that returns sentences and then iterating on the words to find similar words and similar contexts. This is the result.

have think say called in thought as will let tell me of that and saw
take see know to account
well all loomings me ll again i ye you him greenlanders the they an
significantly it the of and upon fishermen a mariners it should this
they my some him he me ashore a they them me the near all
him it them us you which all be queequeg ye that see say thee one this
her ahab and sea
upon at choked are in if to i with writing between and by hold
raises a it here for seek dam i startled look reads that pilot still
in an makes a tell such told a induced to turned to
what in it ahab did and hinted prophesy am bound see yet guess for had
except been to take goes
ha muttered i but on said man s yes the i was than can me some
thyself can now that go said now how i should here for been but
dear be hypo tell to are one bloody unlettered hope

It is not as poetic as Via. I think there is more I could do with this idea. I am going to something related to computational linguistics and/or statistics. Chapter 2 is all about importing other corpuses from Jane Austin to Reuters. One of the interesting things is time series data and how the usage of a word changes over time. It would be interesting to do a version of the first line of the Divine Comedy in this way.  A sort of evolution through time, rather than through translations (although this too is through time).

There is also a review of related tools, lexical relationships foreign languages, stop words. lemmas (synonyms), the word net hierarchy, which is a tree of words and their relation.  For this poem above. I could probably do more with lexical relationships but I also want to experiment more with the structure and like I said before – stats!

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