Compass Poems by Allison Parrish

BOMB 154 Winter 2021
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BOMB Magazine Issue 154 folded open to showcase Allison Parrish's Compass poems, printed in black text on hot pink paper.

To create her compass poems, poet and programmer Allison Parrish trained a machine learning model with two parts: one spells words based on how they sound, and the other sounds out words based on how they’re spelled. Parrish selects a list of semantically related words, and the “sounder-out” uses phonetics to translate those words into numerical vectors. The “speller” can then predict a plausible spelling of a vector halfway between a pair of words, or the midpoint of a list of words arranged as points on a compass.

Black text in Courier font on a hot pink background. The text on the top half reads: animal maneral angitable anighal mineral vegetable vigenable. The text on the bottom half reads: red roehned orange earlow yellow gele green breeh blue bildew indigo inedo violet veilet.
Black text in Courier font on a hot pink background. The text on the top half reads: solid plasid lawid plasma laughad liquid passah lacqued gas. The text on the bottom half reads: pestilence beathens phaistilence death phaiste famine ware fair war.
Black text in Courier font on a hot pink background. The text on the top half reads: John Jange Phol Ringo Tian Paul Girgeau Phorle George. The text on the bottom half reads: Bronx Trantised Quanks Staten Island Broentins Queens Staughtline Brookin Brooklyn.
Black text in Courier font on a hot pink background. The text on the top half reads: embalmed membad teamed mermaid mearmained trained murmaine staing suckling. The text on the bottom half reads: fabulous facetural sfaile etcetera saceural stray enturemar syneurable innumerable.

Allison Parrish is a computer programmer, poet, educator, and game designer whose teaching and practice address the unusual phenomena that blossom when language and computers meet. She is an assistant arts professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where she earned her master’s degree in 2008.

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Originally published in

BOMB 154, Winter 2021

Our winter issue includes interviews with Tashi Dorji, Danielle Evans, Walton Ford, Guadalupe Maravilla, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, the Ross Brothers, and Aaron Turner; DIY cookbooklets from Dindga McCannon; poetry by Rae Armantrout, Imani Elizabeth Jackson, and Allison Parrish; prose by Langston Cotman, GennaRose Nethercott, and Brontez Purnell; a comic by Michael DeForge; protest drawings by Steve Mumford; and more.

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