Things We Are Saving to Write

Things We Are Saving to Write is a collaborative poem written by Ana María Caballero using contributions received from visitors to bitforms gallery during its Code Chronicles exhibition, curated by Aleksandra Artamonovskaja.

Caballero created a poem for Code Chronicles called Things I Am Saving to Write, inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” in which the main character is unexpectedly and irrevocably faced with his imminent mortality. During the length of the exhibition, visitors were invited to submit things they were saving to write and to visualize them via a Stable Diffusion text-to-image generation station.

Caballero culled from over 100 visitor submissions to compose a new poem, a chronicle of Code Chronicles, using visitors’ visualizations as well as interpreting their words to create new ones.

As a poet, Caballero uses words to generate images within people’s minds. By using the imagery of her verse as the foundation of AI prompting and then crafting a visual narrative from these images, Caballero brings our collective unconscious into direct dialogue with language’s unspoken connotations, calling forth the entanglements of meaning-making.

“Prompting” is deeply tied to poetry–writing workshops offer students prompts to inspire poems–but, here, language generates visuals in a form of reverse ekphrasis. Via her image curation, Caballero evinces the wide array of emotions that stem from text, as well as the tension between the private and the public, between the mythical and the historic, between the figurative and the verbatim that hide within the layers of verse.

‍Caballero’s exploration of the poetics of prompts distills the materiality of language, inviting us to contemplate our visceral reactions to words and the vastness of our imagination.

Code Chronicles | bitforms gallery | New York, New York | March 3–Apr 15, 2023


Things We Are Saving to Write

for Aleks and the form of bitforms gallery

How five hundred open browser tabs are a synthesized
view of a person typing, each a dose of hope
for the hapless, tiny measures of desperation disguised
as courage, as yellow, which is the true color of New York.
Grandmother in her office. Grandmother making mekitzi.
Recipes for my son. A love letter for my son, for the self I was
fifteen years ago. My thesis. An exhibition statement.
An exploration of fiberoptics. A bestiary. A story
of a library. Walls of stone by a river turned into a Mayan
pictogram. Why Wes Anderson’s palettes are like poorly
worded questions, vats of hyper realism, but also dream
slipstreams into and out of our cosmic spiral goo. Ennui
in the midafternoon. Thick heels hammering pavement. A
homeless man beating a drum on Sixth Avenue. Silence.
Sabbath. A pack of wolves along the horizon. Empty
museums and abandoned places. Blood. Cinnamon buns.
New York or a distant galaxy as seen by Dalí, by
Beeple, by Dimitri Cherniak, by Basquiat, by Reuben Wu,
by Peter Max, by Julian Schnabel and Nan Goldin, but
in the eighties—the meditations that broke through. How
icebergs melt content in the ocean. Finding someone you know
in a crowd. Crowds. A city with no plastic, no gender. Our parents’
funerals. Resonant planes, industrial areas, streetlights turned
to stars. Fake kittens in a bassinet at an airport. The scent
of my daughter’s neck. Moving towers to catch a sunset
in New York. How wings in flight melt together—for a moment,
determination inseparable from direction, from self-protection.
Mango trees and a coconut palm in the backyard. The unseen
roots, the inner workings, that nurture fruits. Cactus gardens
with bright desert light—even there, ripeness is all. A forest
after its leaves have fallen. Bagged heaps on New York streets,
how the remains of our secrets, sorrows, joys are hauled away
so fresh ones can be had.