cite this article as
Currents in Electronic Literacy
Fall 2001 (5),
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Lucio Agra, Ph.D. in Communication
and Semiotics, teaches Theory of Communication courses at Fundacao
Armando Alvares Penteado, Sao Paulo Brazil, and a performance
course, "Communication and Body Arts," at Pontificia
Universidade Catolica de Sao Paulo. He published "Selva
Bamba" in 1994 and is preparing a new work for CD-Rom to
be released next year. His research includes poetics and low
tech software, particularly what "has been left behind
by the computer software industry.
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?
E-poetry is some kind of an
"umbrella name" - as we use to say it in Brazil
- a name that unites, under it, a series of different forms
of creating poetry by means of electronic devices, a large
range that comes from analog tapes and video to digital material.
For me, the term is nowadays more connected to digital poetry;
nevertheless I defend the use of "electronic", for
it offers a wider comprehension. I started to work with poetry
using digital media because the older supports did not satisfied
me anymore. Partly it was due to the possibilities envisaged
by the contact with computer facilities from 1995 on. But
one of the things that soon appeared to me was the radical
difference between the use of computers inside a rich economy
and the peripheral - so to speak - use we have in countries
like Brazil. Being one that does not see it as defect - unless
you see defect as effects - I always taught that this technology
should be used mainly by the ones that have a verbi-voco-visual
tradition (using Joyce's neologism) and here we are. But I
must confess that only this year, at E-poetry 2001 conference,
I was able to "test" the whole idea which is very
simple: use low tech software to get high results. I am especially
concerned with the junk software that is abandoned on the
way to the next "scream" in techs. So, my work tries
to discuss this barrier and take advantage of what is not
expected in the universe of digital poetry.
are you doing in e-poetry that cannot be done in more traditional
modes (such as linear paper)?
Basically insert words in 3D
ambients (using old programs to generate VRML which is distorted
by more recent browsers like Cosmo Player), music and animations
(trying to push the limits in programs like Power Point
and Gif animators). I started this by translating a book
previously written in paper to the digital media.
you "collaborate" with others (for instance, outsource particular
technological aspects of a "poem"), do you feel this affects
the poem's "authorship?"
I do not think that authorship is or will be an important
issue from now on. It seems to me that it is even a political
demand to eliminate this kind of preoccupation in an universe
where we expect to have our work cracked, transformed, mixed
with others and so on. I still do not make any collaborative
work in the strict sense (for example, on the Net), but
not only do I find it interesting but feel a great partnership
in the world of e-poetry which is difficult to find in the
traditional literary ambient, which is full of political
demands (in the bad sense, I mean).
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?
I still cannot affirm I have "readers" for my
work since it is scheduled to be issued soon on CD-Rom.
But my intuition is that e-poetry's public expands a certain
type of behavior which is already common in the poetic milieu:
that of being simultaneously a producer and a consumer.
I think that the possibility to interact with the material
might make some differences, as I already observed with
some works nowadays in the air.
excites you about this new medium for poetry? And what particular
drawbacks (if any) does working with electronic technology
I think it is already a commonplace to talk about the immediacy
that e-poetics provides. The possibility to change it permanently,
to not have to finish it. The idea of a permanent work in
progress, turning into a more profound sense the goals of
modern and avant-garde poetics. For example, I started by
translating Mayakovsky and concrete poetry for the new media,
and perceiving that those fit the new media perfectly, that
some poets of 20th century - and even before, like Baudelaire
and Mallarmé - are also artists who had the vision
of the future in their works. In a contemporary condition
we have the chance to understand and go beyond these experiments,
maybe marking the beginning of new possibilities for poetic
functions (as Jakobson called it).
How are you integrating/embracing other media such
as sound, animation, and navigation?
As I said before, this is a
main concern for me. But - at least for the moment - I am
trying to avoid being seduced by the newest technologies
in animation such as Flash, Ultradev, etc. Also I do not
have any skills to program. So I have to deal with what
I have in hand. Navigation is a particular problem for me;
that has to do with designing interfaces. I must confess
I still have not yet solved it.
kind of aesthetic is emerging in the field?
I think we are still dealing
with the effects of 20th century discoveries in the poetic
field. We are still looking for the traces of the new medium.
But some characteristics can be identified such as immaterial
(virtual, if you will) works, cross references, multiple
designs and the use of no previous models of what it either
visually or acoustically may be.
do you think the future holds for e-poets and e-poetry?
Perhaps an increasing growth
of cross references between works, something like a huge
structure of poetic concerns. I see a definitive dissolution
of genres (literally and subjective). The text that holds
the arguments explaining what a work can be, in some cases,
the work in itself. We will have to expand our categories
of what is poetic. If it was a main concern of the 20th
century (namely what is specific to poetry), now poetry
is interested in what is beyond itself, being almost a certain
type of communication that is always erecting new rules.