There are a few computer science ideas that form part of the basis of this poem. Letters such as i, j, k, a, b, c, m, n, x, y and z are commonly used by novice computer programmers as variables, especially as “counter variables,” hence, and for other reasons, the “i.” Counter variables are used by computer programmers to count how many times a program has gone through a processing loop. Loops are a common notion in computer programming, as well as being a variation on a circle, something I use often in my work. Counting, in this case, also obliquely refers to the North American Plains Indian notion of “counting coup,” which values touching an enemy over killing them in the midst of battle. In computer jargon, a “daemon” is a program that works for the operating system, instead of for the user.
— Roberto Harrison, from the Introduction
Praise for Counter Daemons
Roberto Harrison’s Counter Daemons may be the first major poem that makes successful use of computer programming properties as method. Don’t let the tech scare you: the introduction explains all you need to know. Literary antecedents (Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno and Canto V of Vicente Huidobro’s Altazor) predate computers, perhaps hinting at the mind’s capacity to write computer programs, and how people can become ensnared in them now. For the sake of relevance, follow the steps a bill takes through your state’s legislature or a claim through your insurance carrier. Harrison’s poem revels in the most important artistic principle of the 20th Century: the conjunction of seemingly illogical elements. You can read Counter Daemons with amusement or dread, but with fascination in either case.
— Karl Young
Roberto Harrison’s gorgeous, riveting improvisational epic shatters the singular viewpoint with burgeoning polyrhythms. Counter Daemons is poised to acknowledge polyvalent registers across the threshold of consciousness. This writing is brilliant and beautiful in its modulations of flux and open collectivity. Profusions and conglomerations are sometimes tumultuous, sometimes soft, aural in their cadences. Visceral and visionary states converge, permutate and replicate with all the volatility of organic variation. Technology is embraced like a second skin so cells and digits intermingle.
— Brenda Iijima
Roberto Harrison’s Daemons are loops (as in computer-generated, or installations using sound) yet his series of continuous loops does not repeat but adds: to make being “in the wilderness full.” The first person, as if that were only an operation, merges with the author himself who’s only a marker “in the raftering circuits.” His poems replicate to invent oracles as counters to image-making.
— Leslie Scalapino
Roberto Harrison’s Counter Daemons offers tremendous reach, a vision of a world that has come into its own cybernetic post-surrealism without ever quite acknowledging just how nightmare tinges the dream. There’s subtlety & grandeur, even wry wit at the edge of the apocalypse. Read this book & you will look at the world differently. And you will definitely, absolutely, positively never look at the first person singular in the same way again.
— Ron Silliman