poems that GO


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There seems to be a lot of excitement regarding the creation of poetry for the Web. Any thoughts on disadvantages?
posted by CK
I think visual or image based poetry has been regarded as anti-intellectual in a lot of literary circles, which is too bad in my opinion because I think that adding visual or auditory components to poetry opens up new ways of using language-- something that could definitely stand to be examined more deeply in an academic setting.
posted by Saul Leavy
hasn't anything image-based also been regarded as anti-intellectual, though? find someone who thinks a book with illustrations or photographs isn't less serious than an all-text academic book. it's pretty hard. it's something you study a lot in visual arts programs (since you do have to explain on a regular basis why what you do is in fact serious and just as difficult as an engineering degree).
posted by Zahra
I do not think that the web is disadvantageous to poetry. If it is true poetry no matter what the tool is: sand, stone, marble, pencil, pen or keyboard, it will always be good poetry.
posted by Antonio
I really enjoyed responding with hearing, seeing and the joy of being able to move the images myself. I liked the first poems in 2000, some of the more recent films are not as creative and deep as the first group I watched. I like openended poems with universal vaules, not just goss and negative. Keep up the creativiey. I am a 64 yr old women who makes metal sculpture.
posted by njb
I think Antonio has raised an interesting issue here: how does a poem's medium - or the medium of any piece of literature, for that matter - affect its status as a poem? Must it be in ink on paper? Or does hypertextual, interactive poetry still maintain an innate literary quality, despite the difference of its presentation?
posted by e.e.d.
Change is good,,, although it makes us uncomfortable- every system is subject to abuse or vulnerable to corruption- but it is also educational... we need to appeal to the multitudes, and penetrate awareness, and utilize all possible senses- to amplify the message, of course, in some cases-More is less...-
posted by Gail Banter
I see this as any other artist would, it's just another medium for use of expressing the same thought. A painter may debate which medium better expresses his vision (watercolor, acrylic, oil,tempura, etc.), but he cannot argue the fact, that it is still a painting.
posted by g.alexis
The way I see it, any web site that can capture the attention of today's youth and is devoted to poetry, no matter what the genre, is, indeed, a welcomed addition to the ranks of poetic ambition. I believe the next "Bard of Poetry" (Bukowski!) will cut their poetic teeth on the 'net... I have read some of the best (and worst!) poetry from authors I would have never had a chance to read, thanks to the advent of the home computer.
posted by RLF
Poetry will remain poetry whatever form it might take. Herman Hesse in The Glass Bead Game writes of a group of intellectuals who knit together different mediums to create something that is, artistically, a much greater whole. For example a mathematician might use a Japanese shakahachi flute piece to illustrate the harmony of his mathematical principles. I believe we are closer to achieveing status as Glass Bead Game players. For me, a poet, graphic artist and musician, this is a hugely exciting medium. It allows a vast spectrum of freedom in expression. I can choose the words, the colour and the sound.
posted by Averil Bones
electric guitar

electric pen
posted by Jim Andrews

I was intrigued by what Matthew G. Kirschenbaum had to say in your editorial introduction. The professor of English at the University of Maryland whose focus is humanities computing noted that the poems on this site are constrained because they are written from within "a particular software application." He says, "there is a uniformity to the pieces on the Poems That Go site, mainly because of software design limitations."

That's true, of course, but it's also true of any medium: it's just as true of poetry that uses only words. Until poets and artists can transcend their medium and make it invisible to themselves -- until all the mechanics of artistic production become so fluid that they are transparent -- then all works will have a "uniformity." It was not until after years of hard work as a photojournalist that my camera, attachments, and all the darkroom decisions disappeared as I worked. Only then could I take the pictures I wanted because all the production mechanics were subsumed in the moment of making. Similarly, this new medium -- whether it's Flash or HTML or whatever -- will only be able to mature when -- like a potter's clay, wheel, tooling, and kiln -- the medium disappears and leaves behind the transmuted experience itself.

We need to be very patient, observant, and supportive.
posted by Paul Frank


Paul ... excellent observations about the interface !! This is a subject that always causes a lot of discussion whenever writers of web literature meet (read new media/hypermedia ... although new media is actually a term that the arts world laid claim to some time back as Judy Malloy (ArtsWire) reminded me in a past Riding the Meridian round table discussion). Today, and for the last year, Flash has been the tool of choice for hypermedia poetry, whereas a few years ago, DHTML and javascript were the new 'tricks' in the book. Go a bit further back, before the web, and we'd be talking about StorySpace or Hypercard. One could even take a look further back into the late 80's and the work that some poets were doing on computers like the Amiga with then state of the art art/design/animation programs.

What strikes me is how difficult it is for any interface for creating 'literature' to become transparent when the programming tools are constantly evolving, and how at this present time, what 'writers' create is so strongly affected by the technology given to them by large companies like Macromedia, or by web browser display decisions made by Netscape (version 6 was a disaster for most pre 2000 coded DHTML).

So it goes. Frustrating, inspiring, costly (how much is Flash 5 now??). It'll be interesting to see what we're all coding with two years from now.
posted by Jennifer Ley

I am surprised and a liitle disappointed that so much of this discussion is taken up with points about the genre. However interesting and vauable such concerns are surely they are very secondary to what is actually said and promted in a Poem. Don't get me wrong, of course I recognise that how and what being said are inextricably linked, a badly imparted idea cannot be overwhelmed by the strength of the original idea(s), but surely there an be more discussion about how we feel about the ideas and emotions being prompted. With respect.
posted by Andrew Kelly
As a secondary English teacher, I'm glad I stumbled across this web site...this format may have a wider appeal to my students; perhaps a few will be inspired to put some of their own poetry into this format.

My biggest reservation regarding this format is that the images and visual tricks may give poorly thought out poetry an appealing vaneer which the words by themselves couldn't evoke. Our attention may become distracted by the visuals thus making us less critical and more acceptant of anything, regardless of quality (especially considering the advances each subsequent program will have.)
posted by SuzA

the pictures that are included with the poems may distract our thoughts and we may find ourselves paying more attention to the picture than to the poem itself.
posted by chrissy
I think these last two comments represent a common criticism of new media poetry--that images put readers at risk by not encouraging critical engagement with a poem. Images regarded as "visual tricks" are seen as a distraction from the true form of poetry--traditional text-based or written form. In the case of new media poetry, are images separate from the "poem"? These questions are important for examining any visual work--do images merely lull us into believing anything is "good" if it conforms to some visual design? What about film? Do we know a movie is good because post-production work wows us? Are we at risk in mistaking some dumbed-down Hollywood blockbuster for a masterpiece because big budget productions somehow disintegrate any critical capacity we might have developed?
posted by Megan


Iím very excited I found this site. If as a research tool is great, as a stage for digital poetry is fantastic. Thank you Megan and Ingrid for this space you have created. Now, I want to share my perspective about visual poetry with you. For the past six years Iíve been invited to participate in many Biennials and Visual/Experimental Poetry Festivals around the world. Some of the people I have met are Clemente Padin, Fernando Aguiar, Jaap Blonk, Klaus Groh, Harry Polkingorn, and Loss PequeŮo Glazier, among others. Probably you know some of these names. Most of the works that these people create is called Visual Poetry / Polipoetry, Experimental Poetry, and other similar names. Iíve saw/experienced thousands of works related to these fields, and Iíve tried to feel and understand these works in the same way I experience poetry, no matter if itís written, oral or pictorial poetry (like a Van Goghís paint).

As Antonio said at the beginning of this discussion, the medium is not an issue if poetry is there. But how do you know that poetry is there? Maybe is an intuition, a feeling that transcends the meaning and makes your senses blink like a police siren. I didnít find that in almost all the works of these ďpoets.Ē Visual Poets tried to become artists through poetry while Conceptualists tried to become poets through art, but something didnít work well, poetry wasnít there, instead, there was a primitive aim of reaching poetry just by playing with letters, space, and developing funny fonts. But somehow, they lost the content, they lost the poetry, and all these movements started to be decadent and obsolete. But how poetry can be obsolete? The question is easy, it canít. My conclusion is that all this visual/sonic approaches to poetry were experiments to set up a strong interface between poetry as content and poetry as object, an interface that we have now and that many non-traditional poets are producing.

Finally, I want to encourage all the poets/artists to keep working and finding new ways from the infinite list of possibilities that language has to offer, so we can keep experience this amazing entity called poetry.
posted by Yucef Merhi

I feel as though the works in this site are pre interpreted. the more visual trickery, masterfull or not, the less any reader/viewer will do for themselves. is the intention of a poem to inspire individual interpretations? does a poem not live and grow by the unique interpretations of the reader/viewer? certainly the author has a significant role. they produce their creations with a skill, and set about a particular direction for the interpreter. the imagination powers the model. these visual interpretations foist a certain finished interpretation.
posted by p.stuard

Why are images "visual trickery"? Does the inclusion of visual components absolve the reader/viewer from interpretive work? I don't think it does. This might require different work, but I still think it requires work.

Traditional poetry is considered "bad" when it uses worn-out metaphors that fail to enliven our perceptions or evoke a clear image in our minds, while "good" art modifies our habitual ways of thinking, feeling and perceiving. Bringing poetry to visual media means there will inevitably be other worn out metaphors, such as tired ways of using motion, obvious visual metaphors, interactivity just for the sake of it.

Looking back through the archives of projects featured in this site, some work falls victim to these problems. Recognizing and discussing how new media poetry can fail, or as Yucef put it a few posts above this one, when "poetry's not there" can help poets create more meaningful work in new media, and help audiences to critically approach these new forms. Although some work in PTG does a better job evoking meaningful, significant moments of critical reflection than others, we shouldn't hold the successfull investigations accountable for the new media poem that fails to do its work.

The word "poetry" comes from the classical Greek sense of poiesis, meaning "calling into existence," and is about constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing the world. I don't think we should presume that
images = loss of imagination.
posted by Megan




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