Jackson Mac Low (b. 1922)

Since 1954, when he first composed verbal texts by "nonintentional" procedures, Jackson Mac Low
Jackson Mac Low as he appears on the jacket of Bloomsday (1984). Mac Low appeared with Andrew Levy in PhillyTalks #2
photo by Richard Gummere
has been a pioneer of such methods in poetry. In this, he has taken inspiration from several sources--John Cage's music composed by chance operation, Zen Buddhism, the I Ching ("Book of Changes"), and the Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia. Mac Low's nonintentional methods--for example, his experiments in "reading through" a text acrostically with the aid of computer programs--aim to avoid the intrusions of the author as ego and to foreground language as such.

Mac Low's works are often performed in collaboration with dancers and musicians. The Pronouns (1964) was written both as poems and instructions for a dance. Created from an earlier work, Nuclei for Simone Forti (1961), it consists of "groups of words & action phrases around which dancers build spontaneous improvisations" (in Mac Low's words).

The words of "Antic Quatrains" were drawn systematically (that is, "non-intentionally") from a 3,000-line computer printout of word groups; these groups were in turn derived by a randomizing program from a 5,000-word list of partial anagrams of the poems dedicatee, Annie Brigitte Gilles Tardos (Mac Low's wife--also a distinguished poet whose speciality is the connections between and among human languages).

Mac Low's methodical approach to composition is attractive to the Language Poets, with whom he has been associated in recent years.

Born in Chicago, Mac Low lives in New York City.