Currents in Electronic Literacy

E-poets on the State of their Electronic Art:

Loss Pequeño Glazier


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Poet Loss Pequeño Glazier is the Director of Electronic Poetry Center ( and a Core Faculty of the Poetics Program at SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of Digital Poetics (, 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 (

  1. How 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.

  2. What 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 the ages.)

  3. If 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.

  4. 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 (, 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.

  5. What excites you about this new medium for poetry? And what particular drawbacks (if any) does working with electronic technology present?

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. What 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" library ( 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.

  8. What 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 interesting decade.

Please cite this article as Currents in Electronic Literacy Fall 2001 (5),

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