Concrete poetry and definitions

February 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm (Digital Lit)

Since one of the on-going issues in this class has been struggling with definitions, I was really struck when I came across Solt’s definition of non-linguistic concrete poetry: “the non-linguistic objects presented function in a manner related to the semantic character of words.” Because one of the questions I have consistently struggled with is the relationship between the visual arts and digital poetry, I find this definition very useful. This definition lets me draw a line in the sand, and say that if a piece of digital poetry relates to the “semantic character of words” than I can consider it poetry, even if it doesn’t provide me with a recognizable text to draw from. Of course, this definition is problematic. How do we determine if a work is relates to the “sematic character of words” if there are no words for us to draw on? Concrete poetry, as well as the poetry of the avante-gard seems to rely on the presence of letter forms to indicate both phonetic sounds and that the resulting poem, even if it is not readable, is related to language. Digital poetry comes at a moment where this method has been so far undermined by the forms that I mentioned previously that it doesn’t necessarily need to use language at all. Some of it obviously does, for instance, “Birds Singing Other Birds’ Songs” is as much about how one hears and interprets the world through alaphabetic language as it is about birdsong. However, other examples simply present images or playable programs. These have been more challenging for me to classify as poetry, possibly because I do have a stronger background with video games than poetry in some ways, but I feel like this definition gives me a place to start looking for meaning and looking for connections between some of these more abstract digital poems and what I include in my definition of poetry.

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