“Code is Poetry”

LaunchYard Blog
4 min readFeb 23, 2015

“Code is Poetry” — Wordpress coined this phrase and has it on its website from the time we have known Wordpress! Apparently, as per the discussion on Quora, the meanings of this phrase are:

Wordpress has very effectively communicated the idea that your website that looks so beautiful is actually because of the string of codes harmoniously tied together, in a poetic symphony! While this idea is one side of the coin, the other side reveals the poetic aspects of writing a code.

If we pick up this phrase from Wordpress and take a deeper look at its meaning- it can be said writing code is not much different from coding. When we talk about ‘programming’ we come across terms like nerds, geeks, techie, dull and boring. When we talk about ‘poetry’, we allude to creativity, imagination and inventive.

Source: Diana Kimball’s blog

Harvard MBA student of 2013 batch, Diana Kimball, in her interview with CBC Radio’s Nora Young, talk about coding as a form of art. Diana feels that most people turn off coding because it is perceived as a ‘manual labour’ rather than a creative way to interact with data. Although Diana herself admits some part of it being just labour, but for her the other parts are “a dialogue between you and your imagination, and a dialogue with the real or imagined users for what you are creating- a website, game or app”. It is like writing a poem- a way by which you exchange your thoughts and imagination with that of your readers.

Coding is more of an introspection- “The computer is thinking something on the other side and it’s your job to figure it out and change its mind”. This thought effectively resonates in the homepage of code{poems}

Every poem is a piece of art. It has a meaning of its own. Every word creates a flow- a flow of thoughts. Coding is not different. Every line of code rests in harmony with the others. Each line makes way for the next, together giving shape to a thought that is appealing and beautiful.

Matt Ward compared the structure, semantics and meanings of poetry and code in his article “The Poetics of Coding”. He concludes that code, like poetry, takes into account its form constraints to produce a meaning that has a purpose and concise. he puts emphasis on being structured while writing codes.

Code Poetry Slam, an event that aims to explore the creative aspects of computer programming, has hosted its third innings on 23rd January 2015. Organizers Melissa Kagen, a graduate student in German Studies, and Kurt James Werner, a graduate in Computer-based music theory and acoustics, developed Code Poetry Slam to investigate the poetic potentials of programming languages. Werner says- “Code poetry has been around a while, at least in programming circles, but the conjunction of oral presentation and performance sounded really interesting to us.”
What we are interested is in the poetic aspect of code used as language to program a computer”~ Kagen.

Stanford Online news portal had quoted Kagen on ‘what exactly is code poetry?’-
“It can be a piece of text that can be read as code and run as a program, but also read as poetry. It can mean a human language poetry that has mathematical elements and codes in it, or even code that aims for elegant expression within severe constraints, like a haiku or a sonnet, or code that generates automatic poetry. Poems that are readable for humans and readable to computers perform a kind of cyborg double coding.”

Like every poet does not write great poems, every coder is also not a great thinker. While a poet shares his/her imagination through his words, a coder paints his/her imagination into a visual canvas. It requires an artistic bent of mind to know which color, which font and which alignment will look good; just like a poem with the right words.

It is often said, one who loves poetry will understand the poet’s mind. So is for coding. One who is in love with coding will understand what a beautiful experience it is. A passionate coder can never be peaceful if he/she isn't satisfied with the result. Just like an artist earns for perfection, so does a coder.

If you want to experience the fun, the artistry and the class that lures every coder, learn it from scratch at portals like Codeacademy and Mozilla School of Webcraft. If you wish to sit back and enjoy the art being created for you, talk to us. We are coders with a poetic bent of mind!