New Mistrelsy of the Scottish Border

‘We met in the border town of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, built a computer program from repurposed old code and self-authored new code, tweaked and tuned it to the ballad text of Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and set it to write new ballads in the same form and language. We are asking of the program no more than was expected of the ballads’ first singers; in recording the results, we are as editorial as Scott. The program, as with all poetry, lives in the border zone between success and failure, to teach us something about language, something about poetry, and everything about what it means to create.’ – from ‘The Computer Writes a New Old Language’, New Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border

Commissioned from open submission, Harry Josephine Giles & Martin O’Leary have used a neural network to produce poems that return to the vernacular language found in the ballads and poetry of nineteenth century Scotland and Northern England.

Dialecty, conceived by Maria Fusco with The Common Guild, considers the uses of vernacular forms of speech and writing, exploring how dialect words, grammar and syntax challenge and improve traditional orthodoxies of critical writing.

A digital version of the project lives at, where you can read infinitely-generated border ballads.


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