Zero-Count Stitching

Many of the readers’ strategies developed in The Readers Project are based on information — harvested transgressively from the indexes of internet search engines — concerning the relative frequency of phrases of various lengths (now often familiar to readers as ‘n-grams’ — where ‘n’ is the number of symbolic ‘grams’ or, to all intents and purposes, words in a given sequence). Zero-count phrases are those which, in a certain corpus at a certain time, generate zero ‘results’ when searched. That is, the searched sequence does not occur in this body of texts. Many of the pieces in this book were generated from ‘zero-counts’ or from phrases whose relative frequency is otherwise at stake during the processes of generation. Zero-count Stitching is a procedure whereby lineated zero-count phrases are stitched together by further testing the relatively frequency of phrases composed from final and initial words of the constituent neighbouring zero-counts. The lines are stitched only if the words of an enjambement can be found to be above some threshold of relative frequency in the corpus.

‘First Wind Autumn,’ ‘Poetic Caption 321,’ and ‘Zero-count Stitching 1 • 3 • 4 • 7 • 5’ are all variations in forms of this kind, with the latter eponymous piece — its lines, as noted above, taken from ‘Misspelt Landings’ — most exemplary of the form. A fairly exhaustive discussion of the making of ‘First Wind Autumn’ can be found here, and more details of Zero-count Stitching are discussed at here.

‘one image tongue’ in the Images section is a more extensive application of the procedure, in which — as for ‘First Wind Autumn’ — the zero-count lines are also assembled and selected so as to include and present the words of a supply text in their original order.