[-empyre-] the future of digital poetry

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Mar 3 14:04:25 EST 2009

I'm for total inclusivity; I don't think that interactivity or being 
online is necessary - mez for example might write out with pencil and 
paper, a piece in mezangell - for me that's as e-poetry as anything else. 
My own work in Second Life at Odyssey (a nine-month installation) has 
involved objects with texts that flee avatars and bounce them around - 
this is the other end of the spectrum; the work can be really viewed 
without the use of 3d software. So the range is enormous. I'd want to have 
e-poetry somehow and somewhat entwined with the technological, but the 
technological might include the body/flesh itself, even the non-prosthetic 
body. So for me it's an open field - I might say e-poetry is literature 
that involves entwining, and that entwining involves an ontological, not 
necessarily epistemological shift, a shift among regimes that might even 
be taken for granted as entwined, such as body and tattoo (for what is a 
tattoo but an e-inscription, wryting/wrything on flesh?) or motion capture 
regimes producing bvh (bio-vision hierarchy) files as texts...

Why so ranging? Because anything else, and I've seen this over and over 
again, tends towards the collusion of poetics/e-poetry with power - 
academic power, grant power, conference-speaker power, and so forth. And 
for me this power is always already restrictive, and mostly, but not 
entirely, connected with an academy that can filter people, not only by 
subject matter, but also by conference fees, lack of stipends, and so 
forth. In other words, what's at stake with the restriction is the canon, 
and I think the canon must be resisted at all costs, particularly since 
the Net, which backgrounds a lot of this discussion, is so very very open 
that we are heavily restricted about what might be considered world-wide 
e-poetics, what's done among communities that we have no knowledge of, 
work we might not even recognize as work.

So I'd argue strongly - strongly, for it has consequence - for an open 
definition, one inclusive, inviting, anarchic - rather than an attempt to 
construct definitions, manifestos, and so forth which for me are proble- 
matic. I understand some think a computer's necessary for e-poetry - I 
think this a deeply untenable and dangerous position. Any status-quo 
should be broken open - I'd say within reason, but then I'd be contra- 
dicting myself.

As for the future of e-poetry - there were so many discussions about the 
future of painting - in fact groups of discussions as 'new painting' etc. 
gave way to something else etc. - the fact remains that people will paint 
and people will buy paintings and maybe not buy them, and let's look at 
painting and see what's going on. And I'd say the same for e-poetry - the 
whole idea of the 'future' is an aporia, unsolvalbe, unaskable, because 
people will do what people will do worldwide, and that's exciting, and in 
fact for me the more exciting the more I'm faced with something new, some- 
thing I don't recognize, something that fills me with wonder... And that 
will always be there, even when e-poetry might be flashlights and fire in 
a ruined world, that tiny bit of wonder -


> Before we do introductions of participants and discuss Laura Borras's 
> recent situation, I thought we could begin with some definitions of 
> E-Poetry.
> And instead of trying to encapsulate all of e-poetry in a post (although
> you can do that). Perhaps participants could offer their "out drinking"
> definition. You know, when you are out at a party/function/anything and
> someone asks what you do. All of us have adapted some thing we say.
> Or you could address a more academic tone. Although to begin lets
> think bottle of wine and trying to impress another version of your
> e-poetry definition.
> Oh and read Stephanie Strickland's lovely and very recent article about
> E-Poetry on the Poetry Foundation website, as we should discuss
> some of what she is contending.
> http://poetryfoundation.org/journal/feature.html?id=182942
> cheers, Jason Nelson

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