Open Ditches

  • Álvaro Seiça University of Bergen


as valas abertas ++ des fossés ouverts ++ open ditches is a poem constrained by 40 lines with a maximum of 80 characters per line. The poem draws from constraints and themes addressed by Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “The Library of Babel” (1941). It has been created for Langlibabex (2014), a multilingual and simultaneous poetry piece developed in collaboration with Claire Donato and Luc Dall’Armellina.

In as valas abertas ++ des fossés ouverts ++ open ditches different levels and functions of reading co-exist, given that when the browser and human voice reproduce the reading of its source code the visual and sound outputs differ. The human voice provides a literal reading of the HTML code, whereas the browser’s output omits certain sections that are contained within invented—non-standardized—HTML tags relating to the human body, inside the tag <body>. The various bodies highlight frictions and tensions among human and non-human agents in relation to language and code: the so-called “natural” languages and programming languages.

At the time of the writing process, alive bodies were digging uncountable open ditches in Ukraine for soon-to-be, yet unknown, dead bodies. The poem weaves this fact with Borges’s fictional facts. It was composed and recorded in Paris in November 2014, in Portuguese, English, French, and HTML. The poem and the source mp3 file can be downloaded at

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Author Biography

Álvaro Seiça, University of Bergen
Álvaro Seiça is a writer, editor and researcher. He published four poetry books, the most recent being Ö (2014) and permafrost: 20+1 zeptopoemas sms (2012). He holds a MA in Contemporary American Literature, with the thesis “Transduction: Transfer Processes in Digital Literature and Art” (University of Évora, 2011), winner of the Moser Prize 2013. Seiça has published several poems and essays in different journals. In 2007, he co-founded Bypass, a nomadic editorial and curatorial project. He currently lives in Bergen, Norway, where he is a PhD fellow in Digital Culture at the University of Bergen, Humanities Faculty, Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies. Seiça is a researcher on electronic literature and digital art at the Bergen Electronic Literature Research Group and editor of the ELMCIP KB ( His PhD project focus on digital poetry and how time and space shape digital kinetic poetics. @AlvaroSeica
How to Cite
SEIÇA, Álvaro. Open Ditches. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 1, p. 81-82, dec. 2017. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 22 mar. 2019. doi:
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