Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2019. 150 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-1-950192-33-5. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0260.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $20.00 in print: paperbound/7 X 10 in.

This book is both an invitation and a provocation: for those many of us outside of the world of coding, to step into a peculiar language (specifically, the language that “wrote us” to the moon with Apollo 11), and for all of us, to wonder what it means that our lives are shaped by codes. Moonbit offers productive, profoundly serious bewilderment, and it also generates whimsical beguilement. All poets and writers should add this “Cloud of Knowing” to their stack of dream books.

~ April Bernard, author of Brawl & Jag, Romanticism, and Swan Electric

Moonbit goes deep into the heart of textual mystery to illuminate what was once lost, forgotten, obscure. Through their linguistical and anthropological uncovering of the Apollo Code, Rena J. Mosteirin and James E. Dobson restore our humanity by reviving this potentially lost world of a truly miraculous syntactical feat. Moonbit is a fascinating plunge into the poetics of thought and control and execution; language can indeed land us in other worlds. In this case, Moonbit is a new world that makes manifest the poetics of revival and syntax and debris. This poetic exploration is an exercise in how we imagine and partake in creation and possibility, showcasing how very delicate our worlds and our words can be. Memory, this book reminds us, is a thing that can be saved. Dobson and Mosteirin have saved it for us, revealing how we humans are creatures of terror and hope no matter the medium. Code is poetry and poetry is code and both contain what and who we are as people. I am so grateful for witnessing, in this text, how miraculous is the fall out and debris.

~ Jenny Boully, author of Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing LifeThe Book of Beginnings and Endings, and The Body

This is a fascinating book that exists in that magical space where human and machine collide. Come for the poetry, stay for the code.

~ Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I’m Someone Else

Moonbit provides a remarkable creative and critical engagement with historically significant code, continuing the latest discussions of the cultural and historical complexities of programs, taking into account that they are written for both computer and human interpretation. Its poems invite us to imagine, and look into, the starfield of source from which they twinkle.

~ Nick Montfort, author of The Future and The Truelist

When the Apollo missions were turned up to eleven, the whole earth would hear that this was a cultural, a poetic event – timeless, something that would live in our language forever. The mission was also built on the formal language of a maturing code architecture, laced with paragrams that recite and sing some little bit of the moon’s poetry, how the moon possesses us and how we wrote a poem to touch the longed-for lunar surface in literal spacetime. Moonbit is a book with selections of these captivating paragrams, along with careful, studied expositions of how they got into the codework.

~ John Cayley, programmatologist and Professor of Literary Arts, Brown University


Moonbit is a hybrid work comprised of experimental poetry and a critical theory of the poetics and politics of computer code. It offers an extended intellectual and creative engagement with the affordances of computer software through multiple readings and re-writings of a singular text, the source code of the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer or the “AGC.” Moonbit re-marks and remixes the code that made space travel possible. Half of this book is erasure poetry that uses the AGC code as the source text, building on the premise that code can speak beyond its functional purpose.

When we think about the 1960s U.S. space program and obscure scientific computer code, we might not first think about the Watts riots, Shakespeare, Winnie the Pooh, T.S. Eliot, or scatological jokes. Yet these cultural references and influences along with many more are scattered throughout the body of the code that powered the compact digital computer that successfully guided astronauts to the Moon and back and in July of 1969. Moonbit unravels and rewrites the many embedded cultural references that were braided together within the language resources of mid-century computer code.

Moonbit also provides a gentle, non-expert introduction to the text of the AGC code, to digital poetics, and to critical code studies. Outlining a capacious interpretive practice, Moonbit takes up all manner of imaginative decodings and recodings of this code. It introduces some of the major existing approaches to the study of code and culture while provide multiple readings of the source code along with an explanation and theorization of the way in which the code works, as both a computational and a cultural text.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.