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The “mesostic” — John Cage’s next-generation acrostic

You’ve probably heard of the “acrostic” — a poem that is written such that the first letter in each line spells out a word, going downwards. But did you know that John Cage developed his own poetic form that riffs off this? In his version, the new word runs up the spine of the poem: It’s a letter in the center of each line that spells out a word. Cage called it the “mesostic”, using the greek word “mesos” for “middle.”

From a page devoted to mesostics, this is one of Cage’s earliest attempts:

the b Eautiful
o Xen are
ro Aming
a Mong us
op Portunity is
be Laboring
th Em

Ah, but now the fun begins. Over at his blog euph0r1a, Matthew McCabe has created the “Mesostomatic” — a little web tool for automatically generating mesostics! Pump in the words you want the mesostic to spell, a URL for the engine to scrape text from, and presto: It generates one. I had it spell out Collision Detection — bien sur — and use text from Arts and Letters Daily. The result is after the jump!

 debate bOdy
 austraLian beirut
 monItor chicago
 hIndu the
 pOst london



Not really all that poetic, but kinda interesting nonetheless..

(Thanks to Erik Weissengruber for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson