Scanning poetry

An early example of what could be considered computer-assisted found poetry is the remarkable Iloliero. It was created when scanning the Rerum letter collection for the CEEC in December 1996. The photocopies used for scanning were not of sufficiently high quality for a good result. Furthermore, the software package then in use insisted on the user choosing the language scanned. Because choosing "English" would have inconveniently modernised many of the characteristics of late medieval and early modern language, we chose to treat the scanned language as "Finnish". With good quality photocopies, this produced no notable errors, but in this particular case the percentage of Finnish words dispersed across the text was considerably high. Thus was a poem born.

The complex, at times alliterative poem, with its multiple layers of allusion and association provided a challenge for the translator. The references include many elements close to an academic's heart, such as funding, accounts, premises and legislation. There are also references to the constants of academic writing, such as epistemic modality and description of research paths chosen. Furthermore, the academic peer community seems well in evidence not only in the presence of first names, but also the descriptive elements (the eponymous worm, for example). The linguistic choices range from deliberate archaisms to modernised euphemistic spellings.

untoa liero
owib lie rahoitti
aidot vale,
Hillatc Liiat
liero liikahti
OLIT tae
suellend eli missi
voi tili,
voi isi
Jolle Eila
alle ojia, ui trio
etu tilit, tila-Ilef
Kloori liiti
tili ies reelle tulit
lait lisiä sotii
se +liiteg liiti
valo pontev@stih ei
liittoi tila, Sailasj
Ilot, Ilo liito
Elli Lie ele
@ituttik toi kepin liero
soi liat uitto Joril;
seison uitto osin,
tuli letti saan torvia,
wiem Ilot,
niitä liitto letti,
toivu Ilvesn
lie ettei Oili Tiloille hei,
elo Lilli ovi
tieni kilon nieli
tilat niin elit keli,
Loi Alilleo
oli yli foto
Ivano tilit, mille Voi

unto1 worm2
doore3 may be funded
genuine ones a lie,
Cloudberries Too Many
the worm moved
YOU WERE assurance
Sue Ellen or beauty queen
oh6 account4
oh6 daddy
For Whom Eila1
below trenches, swam trio
advance wages4, roomy-Ile1
Chlorine glided
account4 yoke on the sleigh you came
laws addendums make war
that +appendix glided
light emph@tically not
union space5, Sailas
Joys, Joy glide
Elli1 May Be gesture
@issed off brought a stick the worm
sounded dirt log-floating Jori,1
I stand log-floating in part,
came plait I get bugles,
take thou3 Joys,
them union plait,
recover Lynx
may be that not Oili1 For Spaces5 bye,
life Lilli1 door
my road a kilo swallowed
spaces5 so you lived state of roads,
Created For Ali
was over photo
Ivan the accounts4, for what Could6

a Finnish man's first name, used also in the sense 'not very bright'.
b Archaic spelling of ovi 'door'.
c Plural of hilla 'cloudberry', also of woman's first name Hilla.
d Reference to Sue Ellen Ewing, of popular tv show Dallas.
e Archaic spelling of torvi 'horn', also 'idiot'.
f Abbreviation of man's first name Ilkka.
g Seems to refer to funding applications, or possibly meeting agendas, with appendices or enclosures. Note initial + symbol which is typically used when mentioning such appendices.
h First of two uses of @, here to replace a in the word pontevasti. Beyond the general reference to the age of computers, it is difficult to find a particular reason for the inclusion at this particular point.
i Liitto can refer to any kind of union, but in the context a trade union is strongly suggested.
j Reference most likely to Raimo Sailas, secretary of state at the Finnish Minstery of Finance, who was much maligned as the symbol of financial cuts to public funding during the recession in the early 1990s.
k The second appearance of @ is clearly euphemistic, replacing the v in vitutti 'pissed someone off'/'was pissed off'.
l Possible reference to Georg Malmsten, popular song writer.
m Archaic spelling of vie 'take away (imperative)'.
n Possible reference to ice hockey team.
o Evident inclusion of the wider scholarly world beyond the borders of Finland.

1 Finnish names have not been replaced with English equivalents, since in many cases there is no real equivalent. See comments on individual names in the commentary for the original poem.
2 Literally 'earthworm'.
3 Aims to replicate the archaic spelling of the original.
4 The multiple meanings of Finnish tili have been translated varyingly as account and wages depending on immediate context. These two meanings seem present in most uses of the word in the poem.
5 Finnish tila has multiple meanings from 'space' and 'state' to 'farm'. Space is used consistently here.
6 Voi can be a modal verb with meanings similar to can and could. It can also be an interjection, most commonly expressing woe.

poem © Jukka Keränen 1996

translation and commentary © Arja Nurmi 2009