cite this article as
Currents in Electronic Literacy
Fall 2001 (5),
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Poet Loss Pequeño Glazier is the Director of Electronic
Poetry Center (http://epc.buffalo.edu) and a Core Faculty of
the Poetics Program at SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of Digital
published by the University of Alabama Press, a book that explores
the aesthetic and material dimensions of the poetics of new
media. His own body of kinetic, visual, and works in programmable
literature has been widely acclaimed as opening and defining
numerous possibilities for e-poetry. Many such works are available
at Glazier's EPC Author Page (http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/glazier).
do you define your work--what categorizations/classifications
(traditional or otherwise) would you use to distinguish
e-poetry in general and your work in particular?
The term e-poetry is a useful
one because I look at my digital practice as being solidly
rooted in the poetics of innovative contemporary poetry
(the "poetry" in "e-poetry"). If you
look at experimental poetry of the twentieth century, works
by the Futurists, Dada poets, Apollinaire, Schwitters, Concrete
Poets, Sound Poets, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, Burroughs, Howe,
Antin, Cage, you see a consistent attention to the relation
of technology to art. But more so, you see a will to bend
the instruments of technology to engage and recontextualize
the possibilities for art in a new age. At this crucial
time, the form of practice of e-poetry that interests me
has this focus and is invigorated by a mission to interrogate
the possibilities for new media innovation.
are you doing in e-poetry that cannot be done in more traditional
modes (such as linear paper)?
That's all I do! (Indeed, if
it can exist on paper I don't think it can be called e-poetry.)
Engaging traditional concerns of poetry such as rhythm,
theme/sub-theme, tone, nuance, dialect, language, and image,
specific investigations that I am undertaking cannot be
accomplished in paper. These include: (1) Kinetic works,
e-poems that move, modulate, or transform themselves on
the screen. (2) Interactive works, e-poems which respond
to the user's mouse or other input devices. (3) Programmed
works (such as my "Bromeliads" which generates
a new version of a given poem every ten seconds based on
programmed information, giving an 8 line poem 512 possible
variants). Such works explore new possibilities for poetry
that were not available before this medium. (Issues such
as the variant, in the case of "Bromeliads," for
example, have been a consistent concern of poets throughout
you "collaborate" with others (for instance, outsource particular
technological aspects of a "poem"), do you feel this affects
the poem's "authorship?"
I actually feel that outsourcing technical aspects of a
work is problematic because many acts of discovery come
from an engagement with the means of making the work. Authors
who outsource are cutting themselves off from the front
lines where material issues must be directly addressed.
Although this may be helpful at times, it should be carefully
thought through. Such technical outsourcing should be clearly
distinguished from collaborating, a process where authors
share equally in the creation of the work.
Who are your readers and how are you interacting with
them? How is youraudience similar to and/or different from
that of the traditional poet's?
At the Electronic Poetry Center (http://epc.buffalo.edu),
where we have 10 million users annually from 90 countries,
what we have seen is that curiously, though there are more
of them, our readers have the same brave, tenacious love
of innovative writing as paper audiences. They are widely
dispersed and often don't exist in great concentrations
outside of usual metro areas. (Our readers in French Polynesia,
for example, don't account for the greatest single number
of hits, but oh how delighted we are to have them!) However,
the medium does allow literary works to reach places that
other forms of production (for example, little magazines)
could not. In this sense, even given the fact that universal
access to computers is not presently the case, many thousands
who were interested but were inadvertently left out before
now have a chance to participate in such new literature.
excites you about this new medium for poetry? And what particular
drawbacks (if any) does working with electronic technology
What excites me are the possibilities that new media provide,
possibilities not present on paper. It is also wonderful
to be able to combine text and image, use color and sound,
and to see how code may be pushed or pulled for specific
effects, to explore the aesthetics of code. The main down
side is economic (cost of programs) and the parasitic (the
way new versions of programs sometimes seem to occur, not
for the benefit of the user but for the sake of selling
new versions). In this latter regard, particularly frustrating
are new versions of programs that change features around
for no apparent good reason, causing unnecessary relearning
on the user's part. Imagine if every six months they came
out with a new release of "the book" and you had
to read it from back to front, or rotate it each time you
turned a page, or look for the index on the spine. (All
after paying another $600 to use the interface!) Such frivolous
changes are merely a source of frustration.
How are you integrating/embracing other media such
as sound, animation, and navigation?
These three are principal sites
of investigation in my own work. To me, there is no sense
in having text simply sit on the page. Paper is really already
perfect for that! The last of these, navigation, is generally
misunderstood as, I think, the design of static paths through
pages. Such path plotting (hypertext) may be less interesting
in the long run than other navigational paradigms now possible
in the medium.
kind of aesthetic is emerging in the field?
There is a danger of succumbing
to the Madison Avenue advertising aesthetic of digital media.
For some people the rapid time sequencing, quick cuts from
one scene to another, use of bright highly contrasting color,
etc., must not be taken as any sort of aesthetic natural
to the medium. For literary and artistic innovators, an
emergent aesthetic is much more difficult to characterize,
but it is now beginning to take shape. This is a very exciting
moment. Such a sense of aesthetic was present at E-Poetry
2001, the first digital poetry festival which took place
in Buffalo in April 2001 and can be sensed in the collection
of pages presented at the Electronic Poetry Center's "E-Poetry"
It is an aesthetic that explores the material conditions
of this medium, extending the possibilities for meaning
by exploring the subtle twists and turns of what "making"
in this medium means.
do you think the future holds for e-poets and e-poetry?
I believe that the notion that
link node hypertext is innovative will fade quickly. At
some point in the near future a body of masterworks in the
new medium will begin to emerge. These will be works that
not only define new possibilities, but that put these possibilities
into action extending lexical, visual, and structural possibilities
for digital literary/artistic expression. I think that poets
must think seriously about how they are engaging the medium
and, rather than succumb to the hype about new media, explore
material possibilities of expression inherent in the new
medium. There are some recent extraordinary new possibilities
for e-poetry: I believe we are on the threshold of a truly