cite this article as
Currents in Electronic Literacy
Fall 2001 (5),
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Stephanie Strickland is
the author of the prizewinning book-length hypertext True
North (Eastgate Systems). Her hypertext poem, "Ballad
of Sand and Harry Soot," won an About.com Best of the Net
Award. Other Web poems are "To Be Here as Stone Is"
and "Errand Upon Which We Came." Her book V (forthcoming
from Penguin with one section only available on the Web) won
the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of
America. Her previous three printed books of poems have won
three national prizes, and her other awards include the Boston
Review Prize and NEA and NEH fellowships. She will hold the
McEver Chair in Writing in the School of Literature, Communication,
and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2002.
Strickland's Web site is located at http://www.stephaniestrickland.com.
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?
I use a variety of terms, all
of them quite contested, such as hypertext poetry, new media
poetry, and digital media poetry. Code poetry is another contested
term and can have many meanings. The entire situation is fluid
and open and interesting.
are you doing in e-poetry that cannot be done in more traditional
modes (such as linear paper)?
None of my e-poetry can be
done on paper, but I am particularly interested in how a
work can exist between electronic and print forms and two
of my longer poems explore this space in some depth. True
North began life as a print manuscript which then became,
differently, both a print book and a Storyspace hypertext.
Each of these forms does things the other cannot.
For me, True North really
exists between and across them. In some sense, one is a
translation or transformation of the other. Another book,
V, forthcoming from Penguin, uses the space between electronic
and print differently. In itself it has two parts, "V:
The WaveSon.nets" and "V: Losing L'una,"
which converge in the V of the book's center (one part is
printed upside down to the other) at a Web address. The
third part of V, available at that address, is the part
that rises off the page. It is being done in Director and
has many kinds of functionality that the book doesn't, and
in fact a more basic verse text in tercets that is accessible
you "collaborate" with others (for instance, outsource particular
technological aspects of a "poem"), do you feel this affects
the poem's "authorship?"
I do collaborate, and I enjoy it tremendously. Each of my
collaborations has had a different character. In some, I
make all the visual and interface and textual decisions,
but I don't do the coding. I have pretty severe RSI [Repetitve
Strain Injury] issues and I have to limit use of my hands.
In other collaborations, particularly those with Marjorie
Luesebrink (M.D. Coverley), we've worked together in front
of a monitor to make design decisions of every kind. In
our latest work-in-process, every element has been collaboratively
generated from scratch. I think I wouldn't be able to do
work that requires that much trust if we hadn't done the
earlier work. One has to learn a lot about any new coding
system, be it Storyspace, Flash, Director, etc., in order
to translate--that word again--one's vision/concept. I find
that each person learns in these encounters. What seems
impossible to one will actually work out okay, but without
the other's suggestion it would never have been tried.
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 teach New Media Poetry and also traditional poetry workshops.
I also give e-readings and traditional readings. The audience
isn't the same, but there is a lot of cross-over. It is
much harder to give an e-reading because of equipment issues,
but if done well, people always have lots of appreciation
and/or questions. If traditional writers had better access
to and knowledge of the new media works, there would be
even more--appreciation and questions. There is a process
of learning to read these works that isn't being taught.
It's dive-in and learn-to-swim fast. Not everyone is comfortable.
I find traditional MFA writing students very alive to the
issues that e-poetry brings up, very appreciative of certain
works, and very eager to "dive in," if they are
given a chance and given support.
excites you about this new medium for poetry? And what particular
drawbacks (if any) does working with electronic technology
Poetry wants to get off the page, where it once always was--in
the voice, in the life of the community, on the walls of
the cities, as part of performance that includes music and
spectacle and dance--the Greek tragedies, for instance.
Now there are entirely new ways for it to do this. The position
of the reader, who is sometimes a possible collaborator,
has shifted. This is just one shift in a long history of
shifts in reading. We don't really know the "future
of reading," but we know it will be different. The
fact that all the arts can be represented digitally--and
not just the arts obviously--makes a big difference today.
The drawbacks of working with
technology is that technology is not oriented to the user
who is an artist or one who reads for enjoyment and nourishment.
Marjorie Luesebrink's "Mirror" piece makes specific
a lot of the aspects of technology--its extremely brief
lifetime, its lack of backward compatibility, its lack of
compatibility with rival technologies, etc.--that make life
How are you integrating/embracing other media such
as sound, animation, and navigation?
By using software such as Flash
and Director where this can be programmed from within. Also,
part of the project of design is exactly this issue.
kind of aesthetic is emerging in the field?
Many, many aesthetics are emerging.
One central rivalry at the moment is between works that
are more narrative and those that are more game-like.
do you think the future holds for e-poets and e-poetry?
Nothing guaranteed. For those
who have been involved with drama and the ethic of performance,
who realize that what happens happens here, now, only, and
has a special non-reproducible magic, this lack of guarantee
is familiar. People whose art involves improvisation also
experience this. I think the world is subtly, or not so
subtly, shifting--what we think is real is shifting. An
Australian artist at Siggraph told how he was taken to task
by some Northern Europeans for having overly bright colors
in his digital works, that looked to them artificial. In
fact it was a digital photograph that he had held up in
front of the very beachfront photographed, and people looking
on were fooled by it. The Europeans' idea of visual reality
had been trained by the smog they always saw through. Each
of us has our own material reality, very specific, in this
sense. Our audiences are increasingly available over a huge
network that has its own emergent behaviors. Artists and
poets need to understand a lot more about each of those