nickm.com

Nick Montfort develops computational poetry and art, often collaboratively, and studies creative computing of all sorts. He is professor of digital media at MIT. He lives in New York with his spouse, Flourish Klink.

Nick Montfort Self-portrait, April 2021, CC BY-SA

Montfort earned a Ph.D. in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania, a masters in creative writing (poetry) from Boston University, a masters in media arts and sciences from MIT, and undergraduate degrees in both liberal arts and computer science from the University of Texas at Austin.

Projects of Montfort’s include several very small-scale poetry generators such as those in ppg256 and Concrete Perl along with dozens of BASIC and assembly language Commodore 64 programs. He was part of the group blog Grand Text Auto; wrote Ream, a 500-page poem, in one day; collaborated with others on Mystery House Taken Over, an “occupation” of a classic game; co-wrote Implementation, a novel on mailing labels documented in a book; programmed and wrote the interactive fictions Winchester’s Nightmare, Ad Verbum, Book and Volume, and Amazing Quest; and has developed several other works of digital poetry and art, including the collaborations Sea and Spar Between (with Stephanie Strickland) and The Deletionist (with Amaranth Borsuk and Jesper Juul).

Montfort works in several different contexts, which include the Web, book publication, and literary reading but also gallery exhibition, the demoscene, and livecoding. He translates computational projects, and his own work has been translated into half a dozen languages. His free-software computer-generated novel World Clock was translated to Polish and published in ha!art’s Liberatura series, which also includes the Polish translations of Tristram Shandy and Finnegans Wake; his computer-generated novel Megawatt has been translated to German and published by Frohmann. Many of Montfort’s works, which are available as free software, have also been modified and transformed by others to become the basis for new work. His short generator “Taroko Gorge” has been the basis for dozens of published remixes in addition to projects in many classes.

Montfort’s work has been presented in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

With Ian Bogost, Montfort initiated the platform studies approach and the corresponding MIT Press book series. His contributions to critical code studies include organizing and co-authoring the first book using the methods of this field. In electronic literature, he wrote the first book focusing on a single form of e-lit, has extensively created, edited, and written about work of this sort, and served on the board of directors of the Electronic Literature Organization for more than ten years, for three of those as president. He currently edits the Using Electricity series of computer-generated books for Counterpath. Montfort founded and directs The Trope Tank, a DIY research lab/studio, based at MIT and in New York. The Trope Tank undertakes scholarly and aesthetic projects and offers material computing resources. He runs a micropress, Bad Quarto. Further underground, he is lead organizer for the demoparty Synchrony and MCs as Doc Mofo.

Montfort’s book The Future was published as part of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series in 2017. His Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities (MIT Press, 2016) continues his long-term efforts to teach programming as a method of culturally engaged inquiry and creativity; the second edition is being published in print book form and as a digital open access book in May 2021. Montfort organized the book project 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, (MIT Press, 2013). It is a 10-author single-voice publication, focusing on a one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program. With Ian Bogost, he wrote Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (MIT Press, 2009). He wrote Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (MIT Press, 2003). Montfort is author of Riddle & Bind (Spineless Books, 2010), a book of literary riddles and constrained poems. With William Gillespie, he is author of 2002: A Palindrome Story (Spineless Books, 2002), which the Oulipo acknowledged as the world’s longest literary palindrome. He also edited The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 (with N. Katherine Hayles, Stephanie Strickland, and Scott Rettberg, ELO, 2006) and The New Media Reader (with Noah Wardrip-Fruin, MIT Press, 2003).

Recent projects of Montfort’s include several computer-generated books that are published in print, in many cases printed in a print run from traditional publishers. #! (Counterpath, 2014; the title is pronounced “shebang”) contains programs and poems. 2×6 (Les Figues, 2016), is book of computer-generated poems done in collaboration with six others, in English and five other languages. He has three computer-generated print-on-demand titles, the latest of which is Autopia (Troll Thread, 2016), along with a print-on-demand book of tiny poems, Sliders (Bad Quarto, 2017). In 2017 Counterpath published The Truelist, a computer-generated long poem produced by a single page of Python code without use of any libraries or external data. Montfort’s studio recording of the entire book-length poem is also freely available on PennSound. Montfort published the 2018 version of Hard West Turn (Bad Quarto) in a very limited edition. This is a computer-generated novel about gun violence in the United States. Most recently (2021), his book Golem was published by Dead Alive’s New Sight imprint.

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—NM, April 2021

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In no more than 100 words...

Nick Montfort is a poet and artist who uses computation as his main medium and seeks to uncover how computing and language are entangled with each other and with culture. His computer-generated books include #! and Golem. His digital projects include the collaborations The Deletionist and Sea and Spar Between. Montfort also studies creative computing. MIT Press has published his The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, The Future, and Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. He directs a lab/studio, The Trope Tank, and is professor of digital media at MIT. He lives in New York City.