An Introduction to Gastropoetics

Quarantine Quatrains – A Gastropoetics Event for ELO 2020

At the 2019 ELO Conference, Talan Memmott and Scott Rettberg performed “The Limerick Diet,” a project which merged generative poetics with culinary arts. Using a bespoke poetry generator that produced Limericks for a three-course meal (preceded by an interactively generated cocktail and an amuse bouche), Memmott and Rettberg then prepared the menus for eight lucky guests in the opulent surrounds of the Brocade Lime. The event was performed in cooking show format, and hosted and commented upon by Mark Marino, Maria Mencia, and Michael Maguire, and streamed live online via multiple cameras on Facebook.

Because of the long-distance travel crisis resulting from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the Gastropoetics Emergency Response Team proposes a follow-up event to solve one of the seemingly-insurmountable challenges resulting from the fact that the ELO 2020 Conference can now be held only virtually, and only online: it is very difficult to gather for a conference banquet when all of the conference participants are marooned in various countries around the world. We therefore we will provide Quarantine Quatrains: a Globally Networked Gastropoetics Event.

For the Quarantine Quatrains event, Memmott and Rettberg have produced poetry generators which produces Quatrains that are also restaurant quality dishes. The program produces quatrains for an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, along with amuse bouche in the form of a couplet, and a special cocktail. Generators are available for omnivores, vegetarians, and pescatarians for each course.

Throughout the week of Monday, July 13 through Friday July 17 the Gastropoetic Chefs will be live cooking each of the dishes that will be selected during a zoom call on Monday. We invite you to cook along with us. On Saturday, the project culminates with the cooking of the complete menu.
A schedule of live cooking events can be found here.

Due to varying situations of food availability, the chefs will also provide a list of substitutes should certain ingredients not be available in any given location (e.g. Filet Mignon > Ground Beef > Kidney Beans or Heirloom Tomatoes > Canned Tomatoes > Stolen McDonald’s Ketchup Packets). The selected generated poetry menu will be provided to ELO conference attendees in advance of the conference, in order to provide time for diners to prepare. For obvious reasons, the food preparation will take place on a DIY basis: each diner will have the same menu and may use the live cooking versions produced by Memmott and Rettberg (videos will be archived on this site), or prepare their own variant and interpretation of the dish. The adventurous may even choose to work directly from the menu generator.

The banquet will be a moveable feast in the sense that it will take place on a rolling basis throughout the Conference Banquet day, so that diners in Europe, the United States, Australia, etc. will be able to eat the dinner at an appropriate time for their own schedule, movement restrictions, and cultural situation.

ELO diners are encourage to post photographs and videos of their creation on Dischord, the gastropoetics Facebook page, and the ELO Twitter feed to share our experiences in the kitchen and at the dining table as we all cook and eat together. ELO diners are also encouraged to use the cocktail generator so that we can all share together in a synchronous toast of unusual cocktails before the announcement of the ELO Awards and the President’s Speech, thanking of conference organizers, delivery of virtual bottles and bouquets, and so forth.

If the Limerick Diet was notoriously, and by necessity, a highly selective event, allowing only eight elite diners to indulge in the full Gastropoetic experience, Quarantine Quatrains represents a massively multiplayer democratization of generative cuisine: Gastropoetics for the People! Together we will prepare the same food, celebrate the human condition, and break the chains imposed upon us by the contingencies of this worldwide catastrophe. We are all in the same kitchen, so let’s get out of the frying pan and into the fire! And, as Chef Gordon Ramsay once famously screamed: “You can do your own damn dishes!”


Scott Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture in the department of linguistic, literary, and aesthetic studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. Rettberg is the author or coauthor of novel-length works of electronic literature, combinatory poetry, and films including The Unknown, Kind of Blue, Implementation, Frequency, The Catastrophe Trilogy, Three Rails Live, Toxi•City, Hearts and Minds: The Interrogations Project and others. His creative work has been exhibited both online and at art venues including the Venice Biennale, Inova Gallery, Rom 8, the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum, Palazzo dell Arti Napoli and elsewhere. Rettberg is the author of Electronic Literature (Polity, 2019), a comprehensive study of the histories and genres of electronic literature and winner of the 2019 N. Katherine Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature.

Talan Memmott is a digital writer/artist/theorist. Memmott has taught and been a researcher in digital art, digital design, electronic writing, new media studies, and digital culture at University of California Santa Cruz; University of Bergen; Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden; California State University Monterey Bay; the Georgia Institute of Technology; University of Colorado Boulder; and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is currently Associate Professor of Creative Digital Media at Winona State University