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Eran Hadas

Eran Hadas

Eran Hadas

(Israël, 1976)
“I always joke that I consider myself a poet, but in order to be taken seriously, people should consider me a software developer,” says Eran Hadas, the author of seven books of ‘computational literature’ or what he terms “augmented poetry, [in which computers enable] humans to manipulate the material of language by employing automated algorithms”. Hadas’ poetry includes a computerized rendering of the first five books of the Bible in haiku and wry looks at contemporary screen-based culture. It raises questions of what art is and where it comes from.

New! Hadas' interactive 'book'

An article about Hadas in Wired points out:
Writing poetry is no easy task -- first you have to transform your thoughts into words and then you have to express them within a rigid, rhythmic framework. [… So ] Eran Hadas decided to make it easier [… and] built a tool [using a NeuroSky headset] that can read your brainwaves and generate poetry that reflects your thoughts.   
Lest this seem too easy, we may remember that computer-free poetry is not necessarily profound, both processes have their source in humans, and the conventional pen-to-paper process of poetry writing is not completely understood either. A Los Angeles Daily News columnist muses:

If letting a computer write our poems might seem a “1984”-ish blight on the memory of Percy Shelley and other quill-penned tortured souls, the fact is  that, as with all things computational, computers merely do what we tell them to do. Garbage in, garbage out. And the process of composition has always been a bit mysterious.

Hadas' poetic soul seems just as tortured as that of any Romantic poet, although perhaps for a different reason - its exposure to the world, as in TERMS OF USE:

I make love on the net
When I expose my love, anyone online can see it
And I can see theirs
I am no longer ashamed
I share
I share all that is mine on the net
All that is me on the net                               
[Tr. Keren Katz]

When it comes to content, Hadas notes that,

As an Israeli poet who spends a lot of time abroad, I often encounter a slightly prejudiced expectation of Israeli poetry to either deal with the political conflict, or depict a very unsophisticated lyrical yearning for a brighter future. When people are exposed to my poetry, they often think that I  have left Israel, because they expect Hebrew poetry to be expressive [of the current situation]. For them, it is less common to come by Hebrew poetry that interacts with contemporary international discourse and explores linguistic or experimental ends.

Hadas’ first book, Heavy Meta, introduced avatar poetry with a fictitious female character named Tze’ela Katz writing about life within the world wide web. His second, Era? (?ערה, the Hebrew code word that signals sexting) was also “by” his avatar Tze’ela Katz, and is situated on an internet wiki-site, which means anyone can edit the poems. His third book, People You May Know, consists of computer-generated poems, some created without a human touch, while others introduce cooperation between a human writer and a computer. The fourth, Center, was a project written with other poets, regular readers of his blog and friends invited to participate in a joint day of mourning.

Center, reviewer Shira Stav writes in Haaretz, “rescinds, with pleasure, the unwritten contract obliging the poet to present a unique self, a defined, autonomous, creative personality”. About the decision to print a book in Hebrew without vowel markers - the diacritic signs that are the norm in published Hebrew language poetry and children's books - Stav writes that this omission amounts to “a willing relinquishment of the classical, almost sensual splendor of vowel-marked black letters in [the customary] Frank Ruehl font. The faint and flexible font used in the book…Alef… brings to mind other kinds of documents”, that is, texts read on the internet.  Hadas’ fifth book, Space Bar, the poet says, is all about cyberskepticism:

When you brag about me
You never say
My boyfriend is a poet
You say
My boyfriend builds robots        
['State of Poetry' Tr. Keren Katz]
Hadas' sixth book, Code, is his experimental approach to the Bible in haiku. Here, for example, are several of his computerized versions of lines from Genesis 1:

Abyss and spirit
God she is floating upon
The face of waters

Floating upon the
Face of the waters and so
Said God Let there be

Let there be a sky
Inside the waters and let
It divide waters

It that is the sky
Shall separate the waters
That are underneath

Those are the waters
That are underneath the sky
And between waters                  
[Tr. Keren Katz]

And in his seventh book, Testimony, the poet treats Israeli ethnicities. These last two volumes are part of what Hadas plans as "an identity trilogy". About his own ethnic background, however, Hadas, who was born in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, will say only that his family had a "nomadic lifestyle". The poet holds a master's degree in computer science from Bar Ilan University and makes his living as a software developer. In 2017 Hadas served as the Schusterman visiting artist at Caltech. During his stay there, he worked on a new theoretical book, currently titled Computational Literature, which deals with the history of computer-generated literature, and how it interacts with literary tradition, forming a joint lineage with Romanticist, Modernist, Postmodern and Internet-age writing and software.

© Lisa Katz, Wired 6 January 2014, LA Daily News online 28 April 2017, Caltech News online 15 March 2017 and the poet\'s blog

Books in Hebrew
Heavy Meta (as Tze’ela Katz)   Mendele ebook 2009
Era? (as Tze’ela Katz)   Mendele ebook 2010
Anashim sheh-atah asui leh-ha-kir/People You May Know Tel Aviv, Plonit, 2011
Center online, 2012
Makash ha-reh-vakh/The Space Bar Tel Aviv, Maayan, 2014
Code Haifa, Pardes, 2015
Edut/Testimony Tel Aviv, Gnat, 2016


in English
The poet’s blog
LA Daily News: On reason and rhyme
From Wired
On the poet’s 2017 CalTech course

Sponsored by POETRY PLACE
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Lira fonds
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère