While examining a few different versions of the Taroko Gorge works, I noticed that many shared the same source code or framework. Nick Monfort’s original Python program was used for each of the works that I examined. Some versions, such as Camel Tail by Sonny Rae, modified the code enough that it looks like a completely different program. Sonny used blocks of text as opposed to individual words, as they were inspired by and using lyrics written by the band Metallica as opposed to individual words. The disclaimer that usually precedes the code about the original author is missing, and the names of the variables have been changed. The end result is similar enough as to be included in the list of versions of Taroko Gorge, and it looks similar when it runs, but it is different enough as to make one look closer at the code to find the common threads.
The meaning of each of the works would, I assume, vary from author to author. Each author uses similar framework but different content to generate combinatory poetry that speaks to them. Rettberg described Taroko Gorge as “ambient” (47) then went on to hack the source code, replacing Monfort’s verbs and adjectives with his own. He chose language he described as “frenetic” (48) which changed the entire feel of the work from one evoking peaceful Taiwanese scenery to an urban metropolis bristling with energy. To this end, the effect of combinatory processes on the reader are many-fold and widely variable. The uncertainty of what’s coming next can be exciting or unsettling depending on the reader. What is exciting, though, is how people and computers are working together and using one another (intentionally or not) to create these new, electronic forms of poetry that are contrived and organic at the same time.