Computational Textiles

April 14, 2010 at 10:21 am (Digital Lit)

This is super cool-if I could afford the hardware, I would certainly be buying this to tinker around with:

If you’re not a knitter the point may be a little obscure, but just trust me, it’s cool. And be sure to watch the youtube video of how it works:!v=iFOvtzAwGrw

This is the awesome blog of this project’s extremely smart creator:

Go and be awed!


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Stephanie Strickland

April 14, 2010 at 10:10 am (Digital Lit)

This reading struck a  chord with me this week, because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means for a digital poem to be present somewhere other than the screen. This is important for my final project, and Strickland’s poems confirmed for me that these digital poems can exist outside the cocoon of the electronic. I looked at the online portions of Strickland’s poems first, and for reasons I can’t explain, I was much more interested in the physical text versions that appears in the book. If I was asked to explain it, I would have to say the blame lies partially with me. I’ve had a frusterating week with technology, so I’m not feeling particularly charitable  towards computers right at this moment. Also, I just love books. I don’t mind reading on line, and I often do so for convience’s sake, but as a visual artist I love the weight, the feel and the smell of a book in my hand. I also think that the outdatedness of the interface may have had something to do with my reaction to Strickland’s work online. As we discussed last week in class, the interface is of the “uncool 90s.” Also, if you are trying to do certain kinds of random reading, they are actually easier, or at least somewhat more impactful in the book. For instance, in the Losing L’una set of poems, one of the things that kept me interested and reading was the interplay between the text and the numbers. I read the poems once straight through, and then I tried to go back and read  them in numerical order. It isn’t possible, and there are a certain numbers that repeat several times, but in the process of flipping through the text, trying to line up and keep track of the numbers, I felt the forbidden thrill of breaking the rules, of reading out of order in a way that is simply not possible for me in clicking on a series of computer links in a non-linear way. The computer is set up in such a way we are trained to use it in a non-linear fashion. I expect to be able to take a experience the content in any way and any order I chose, to the extent that I feel restricted if I can’t. I have been trained to read books in a certain way since childhood, and that illicit thrill of skipping pages and reading out of order enhances the experience of reading Strickland’s poems on the page, rather than on the screen.

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You are…conceptual poetry

March 31, 2010 at 10:08 am (Digital Lit)

In reading the introduction to Charles Hartman’s “Virtual Muse” one of the things that caught my eye was this: “Poetry is something we do with language. Or rather its a lot of different kinds of things we do with language. It’s a place where we can attend to language.” This very vague statement was somehow mysteriously appealing to me, and it very much seems to describe what is happening in both conceptual and computer generated poetry. We’re “doing something” whether we know what that something is or what it will accomplish, we’re keeping poetry alive and moving it forward, refusing to let it be Marinetti’s dead, decaying museum of culture. One example of poetry doing something is Kennedy and Wershler’s “Apostrophe (ninety-four).” Although on the surface it is simply a series of “you are” statements, I found it captivating and engaging my mind, and in the way that the best poems do, inspiring original and creative ideas in my mind. Some of these statements are legitimately funny, “you are having a paranoid delusion that a figure much like Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude is following you around trying to get you to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” in particular, made me laugh out loud, but when one stops and starts to deconstruct the web of references that are necessary for this joke, one starts to realize how complicated this poem really is. One must be aware of popular or at least pop culture representations of schizophrenia, know who Matisse is and what his Blue Nude looks like, and who the Jehovah’s Witnesses are, and that they typically try to recruit door to door. One definition of art that I was taught as an undergrad studio arts major is that “art is making connections that other people don’t make.” This one example from Kennedy and Werschler’s work makes all sorts of connections that other people don’t make, and it does something with language to make me think about the juxtaposition of those things, and the large amount of referential material that I’m familiar with that I find this example really funny.  And then there are all of the other examples in this poem. Some of them are beyond me, they involve mathematical or scientific language and examples that I haven’t thought about in years, if ever. Still this poem, as simple as the form and concept are caught and held my attention through pages and pages of “you are” statements, and it made me think and make connections. It made me do something with language, and even as simple as it seems, this makes this poem succeed for me.

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Conceptual Poetry

March 10, 2010 at 11:07 am (Digital Lit)

“On the conceptual side, it’s the machine that drives the poem’s construction that matters. The conceptual writer assumes that the mere trace of any language in a work—be it morphemes, words, or sentences—will carry enough semantic and emotional weight on its own without any further subjective meddling from the poet, known as


non-interventionalist tactic.” -Kenneth Goldsmith

I love the idea that any mere trace of language in a work will carry a semantic and emotional weight. Maybe because I’m not a poet or a fiction writer, so I don’t feel the drive for my writing to be creative or necessarily break new ground. However, this idea that any trace of language will carry through and somehow draw attention and weight to itself has a lot to do with points that I have made earlier about the inevitability of the human drive to search for patterns. I’m a strong believer that humans will always try to create patterns, even when none exist, and that there can be beauty and interest, even in the patterns of coincidence. For this reason, one of my favority pieces of conceptual art, and perhaps conceptual poetry, is Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs.”

As charming as I find the actual piece, it is the title which has caused me to smile. The piece itself operates as  a demonstration of Saussurian semiotics, but the title to me is poetry, and it lets me see the weight, and think about the objects and the text here.

One of my favorite things about this piece is that its appeal is not universal. I have taught this several times in intro art history classes, usually to students that despise it. Like a lot of digital poetry, this piece takes time and thought and effort to appreciate, it is something that grows on you. I’m not sure how this relates to digital poetry, or to anything we read this week, but I think its interesting and connected even if I don’t quite know how.

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Concrete Poetry and Gibberish

March 3, 2010 at 11:35 am (Digital Lit)

The premise of this video is that it sounds like spoken English to Italians (In the same way that the noises that Mario makes sound like Italian to English speakers). While this isn’t necessarily a form of concrete poetry, this use and exploitation of language seems to be somewhat related to Futurist and Dada sound poetry.”></param><param

This video plays with gibberish and nonsense in the same way that some of the other examples that we’ve looked at so far. It also seems to be somewhat related to concrete poetry as well. This is an English translation of the video:


Although the subtitles are sometimes a little off for what I hear in the video, the way we go about creating meaning from this nonesense seems to resemble, for me the way that we create meaning from concrete and nonsense poems. Even when there is no meaning, or the meaning is perhaps not clear to us (concrete poems which use languages we don’t speak, for instance), human beings are programmed to try to create pattern and create meaning. In the same way that we create meaning out of this video, we see and recognize patterns in concrete poetry. An example of this is Haroldo de Campos’ untitled poem from 1958: I’m not sure of the meanings of the Portugese words here, but I cannot help but equating them with their English cognates, whether those cognates are true or false. Thus, in looking at the particular example of concrete poetry I have constructed in my head a reading that is about the transparency of form and the transparency of meaning on concrete poetry, without knowing if this meaning has any relationship to the actually meaning of the poem, the actual words on the page, and the actual intent of the author. Although as a historian, this posistion is frusterating to mean, because I want to know what it means and have it be historically situated and backed up with evidence, as a literary critic whose views have been shaped by modernism and postmodernism, this reading seems as valid to me as any other. So I’m left in limbo.

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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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Dada and the History of Digital Poetry

February 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm (Digital Lit)

As I read the Nicholls’ overview of Dada I see a reflection of the current thought about Dada, that tends to divide the movement out into a number of very different movements that are only loosely related, and that are heavily influenced by the geography of the post-WWI Europe. One of the things that several of these movements have in common is their interest in poetry. Thus, we can see that digital poetry has its roots in Dada not simply in one unified source, but coming from several different angles, and slightly different traditions of Dada.

One of these angles of history that is clearly connected to digital poetry is an interest in sound poetry. This comes from the very earliest days of Dada, with the performance of sound poetry in the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, for example, Hugo Ball’s “Karawane.” This tradition continues through several iterations of Dada, and it is obviously still and interest in contemporary digital poetry, as exemplified by work like Jorg Pieringer’s.

Other Dada practice takes the form of what I call “randomized” poetry, poetry that is created by taking a set of words and assembling them through some mechanism to create a poem. Kurt Schwitters, among others, recommends creating poetry by taking a newspaper article, cutting it into individual words, and drawing those words to create a poem. This resembles the method of early digital poets whose work we have examined, like Alan Sondheim’s calculator poems. The method of selecting words is in a slightly more sophisticated format than drawing from a paper bag, but the process is essentially the same. One has a set of words and they are somehow assembled into a finished work of poetry.

I am also interested in how other Dada practices might historicize digital poetry. There is a strong tradition of theater in Dada, as mentioned by Nicholls, and there are certainly performative aspects of some digital poems, but I’m not sure that these performances are directly related or if they are maybe secondarily related with a group like Fluxus taking a crucial middle step.  I am also interested in how Dada visual practice may intersect with visual digital poetry. Nicholls characterizes Dada, and I have to agree, as a movement that is driven by poetry. However, like digital poetry, Dada also has a large amount of visual output. Is the visual output of Dada, particularly the visual output that includes words related to contemporary visual poetry?

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Futurism and Synethesia

February 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm (Digital Lit)

Since I’ve already put in my two cents worth about the Futurist manifesto, and what I find problematic, I should now add what I find really interesting and helpful from the modern avant-garde movements, including Futurism. These movements are concerned with breaking down boundaries and experiencing the world in new ways, as the old ways were seen to have failed. This is true for the Futurists, for whom the traditional ways of looking and experiencing were hopelessly mired in the past, and that forcibly excluded artists who wanted to be experimental. This will also be true for the Dadaists, although for them the old ways of looking have not only brought disaster, but they have brought the world to the brink of collapse through the conflagration of the first world war. One of the techniques that these artists use to look at the world is synethesia, or the combination of senses. In most cases we aren’t literally synethetes, but thinking of combining senses allows a viewer to make some sense of Marinett’s futurist word poems. It is not purely about the words on the page, it is also about the shapes and colors of those words and the overall impact of the page on the eye. The same thing is true of well-known digital examples. Mark Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” for example, has the word house printed in blue every time it appears. This suggests the most common color of links on the internet, giving the printed page the feel of a hypertext that it is often classified as, but it also literally reproduces the experience of synethesia for the reader, in a way that cannot be resisted, just as the experience of synethesia for a synesthetes. Synethesia or synethetic thinking seems to me to be one way we can classify or at least start to classify largely visual examples of digital poetry as poetry, rather than art or games or any of the other possible categories. Maybe I’m just not reading the right books, but synethesia doesn’t seem to come up very much in anything we’ve read, while it comes up frequently in writings about modernity. If this is truely something that was a fad, and not just an observation that is the product of imcomplete reading, than this maybe something useful that we can resurrect from the moderns.

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Benn Michaels

February 4, 2010 at 9:43 am (Digital Lit)

One of the questions that arose for me while I was reading the introduction to Benn Michael’s book is the question of where is the line between the work of art and the work of literature. At some point this divide is a false divide, it is one that we impose upon the work itself. However, particularly when considering digital poetry, the line seems to be blurred. When a work of poetry consists solely of pictures how do we know it is a work of art. One important thing that I think Benn Michaels picked up on that hasn’t been present in our previous discussion of this issue is the fact that if you blur the line you can then use art historical theorists as well as literary theorists. Fried’s “Art and Objecthood” seems like it would be useful not only in the context that Benn Michaels uses it in (notice his “art historical” examples in that chapter, but also to discuss works of poetry.

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Futurism and Elit

February 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm (Digital Lit)

Every time I read Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto” I simulataneously want to hit him and thank him. Much of the elit that we have read for this class has its roots in Futurism, and their sister movement, Dada. However, I do think those roots, while they are emphasized by theorists, especially theorists looking to prove that elit isn’t just some new fad, are also not as concrete as many people think they are. To demonstrate what I mean I would like to spend a minute close reading part of Marinetti’s manifesto.

“1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.” This first numbered point reinforces the image that is most commonly propagated about the Futurists, that they were fearless to the point of foolishness (several lost their lives because they volunteered for dangerous missions during the war). However, I’m not sure I see this in digital poetry. I think it is possible to describe digital poetry as more energetic than traditional poetry, but not I’m not sure being able to manipulate elements on a screen is the kind of energy Marinetti was talking about.

“2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.” This point feels far more applicable to digital poetry. To write in this medium artists have to accept the fact that their work will probably not be widely accessed or criticized, and will in fact occasionally be openly mocked.

“10.We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.” My problem with this statement of Marinetti’s is that many theorists of digital poetry, as we have seen demonstrated in this class, are trying to claim a history and relationship with experimental print poetry, including Futurism itself. The ultimate weakness of Futurism is that in its love of speed it never allows you too look back, and any kind of historicizing effort is invalid because it is tying art to the past. Therefore, digital poetry should be accepted because it is the wave of the future and it doesn’t need to try to legitimize itself through any kind of connection to print culture.

I know this kind of point to point analysis is simplistic, and, in some cases missing the point, but as an historian and specifically an art historian I feel the need to point out the dangers of ahistoricism, particularly in a field that is moving and changing so fast that the Futurists themselves would have felt their heads spinning. Its all very well to trace the historical roots of a movement, but make sure you’re examining history when you do it.

*Realizing after the fact that this is actually next week’s reading. I guess I just like the Futurists that much. If I get time I will try to write something applicable to this week’s reading.

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