Running in Shackles: The Information-Theoretic Paradoxes of Poetry

  • Dmitri ManinEmail author
Living reference work entry


Information theory developed by Claude Shannon in the 1940s provides a simple, but powerful model for reasoning about communication that far transcends the relatively narrow technical domain of telecommunications, for which it was initially developed. The use of language for exchanging messages is, arguably, the most distinctive feature of Homo sapiens as a species. Language is central for almost everything we do, and among many different ways language is used, poetry is perhaps the most enigmatic. Poetry is an ancient invention and never went out of fashion, but the reasons for its existence and the mechanisms of its impact remain elusive. Does information theory have anything to say about poetry? If poetry is often conceptualized as a message with highly concentrated meaning, can it be proven that it has high information content? Attempts to answer these questions in the past 60 years that we review in this chapter are rich with important insights and nagging paradoxes.


Autoencoders Entropy Formal constraints Information Kolmogorov complexity Meter Metaphor Poetry Rhyme Redundancy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent researcherMenlo ParkUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gizem Karaali
    • 1
  • Bharath Sriraman
    • 2
  1. 1.Pomona CollegePomonaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mathematical SciencesThe University of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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