The binagram

A hybrid poem combining plain text and binary code. Primarily a form which works online but not particularly well on the printed page. The idea is to obtain an interplay among the layers of the poem. The plainly visible text interspersed in the code is one level of meaning. In the example below (previous post), it is comprised of two lines from Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons.” This interlaced text can come from any source the poet might select. The binary code, when translated through a binary-to-text converter, reveals another level of meaning, a poem that includes the visible text. However, if the entire poem as it appears on the page here is put in the converter, it will convert only the binary and leave blanks where the text is. In order to see the entire poem, these words must be plugged into the translated text. Or, alternatively, the binary poem can be written in such a way as to have a different but equally valid meaning without these text words, reading the translated text with the blanks left in. I have not achieved this third level of meaning in the two experimental binagrams I have written so far, but I will be working on it. Other variants are of course possible. The binagram presents a different and more participative opportunity for collaboration with the reader. In order to be fully realized, the poem must be translated (converted) and reconstructed by the reader, and the various layers compared and combined in the mind. For the writer, this form imposes a constraint by requiring the use of the text in the binary version as one is writing the conventional poem that stands behind it. In the case of the poem below, it is very conventional — a semi-Shakespearean sonnet:

The code must be divisible by eight.
Its sudden supposition must be borne.
A coffee spoon laid down beside a plate
Is what it is, and not a form of porn.

The poem is the the. But wait. But wait.
Is it an a? We wound the gnarly yarn
Around the fencepost, laced it in the gate,
And stretched it till it nearly reached the barn.

Clearly it is time to reach decision.
But how? Was there a former former time
The line would stand, the syllable could chime?
Within the just crowd there is division.

Nothing has come forward that distinguishes.
Perhaps it is the time for sandwiches.

This procedure was inspired by the following thread in Modpo:

A convenient converter is here:


2 thoughts on “The binagram

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s