The Hermit Poet

February 14, 2005

Imagining Poetry in a Digital Age – Pt. II

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:47 am

If I were speaking, I think that the following subjects would need to be addressed:

1. The proliferation of online poetry. Given that the webspace is practically free and web editors are easier to use, there has been a bit of a revolution. Every would-be poet now owns the means of his own production. It’s easy to create a webpage and stick poetry on it. Is this “good” for poetry? Gone are the old checks and balances — there is no editorto establish any standard to measure the poetry against (of course such standards have their own problems). How do we separate “good” from “bad”?

2. Hypertext and linked poetry Hypertext and linked poetry has been experimented with, but I haven’t seen too many good examples. Perhaps this might function as a new form? Much like the interactive story form which involves the reader in the development of the story by making choices, perhaps an interactive poem could provide multiple versions. Each variant text a slightly different arrival place. Is this interesting enough to pursue, or merely a curiousity?

3. Flash poetry. Use of Macromedia Flash to create a dynamic poem — a poem that based on the mouse position (on rollover), alters its subsequent lines to create variant texts. Instead of one poem, the poem is a meeting ground of many texts, the reading of which is dependent on where the focus is placed. In other words, a quantum text whose reading is determined by the reader’s interaction with it. This would less clunky than the hypertext poem and come across more elegantly. However, it would also require some degree of programming expertise to pull off nicely.

4. Computer generated poetry. Whether generated by a program which follows strict formal rules (haiku generator, sonnet generator, or sestina generator for example) or one that has no rules beside line length and poem length, it is possible to create something that has the appearance of poetry without the poet. Or is the programmer the poet? Is this really poetry? I’d argue probably not — that poetry implies at least a semi-conscious selection of words. However, given a good AI algorithm, it might be possible to mimic that as well — to have certain families of words favored or to follow a neural network model of associated words (see the Visual Thesaurus for one such example)

5. Internet tools and techniques. With the wide and indiscriminant access to information and noise that the internet provides, I wonder how other poets might make use of the internet in the creation of poetry. For example, do people use Google (or other search engines) to research their ideas? Has anyone played with the form of the returned results of a websearch — either to create a found poem or to write a pseudo-returned results poem? How about sites like Googlism which when given a name will tell you what Google thinks that name represents?

6. The online workshop. Another interesting phenomenon is the rise of the online workshop — in these settings it is quite likely that you will never meet the other poets (or perhaps even know their real names or appearances), and never sit across the table from the one running the workshop. Does the anonymity of such a workshop environment tend toward better criticism and a greater separation between poet and poem? In what ways do the public personae (the nicknames and email addresses we use) influence the reading of our online anonymous work?

One Response to “Imagining Poetry in a Digital Age – Pt. II”

  1. Anonymous Poet Says:

    I am experimenting with Number 1. Perhaps I will get to the rest at some later date.

Leave a Reply