Wednesday, December 1, 2010

[Yasmin_discussions] towards digital poetry


thanks for making me part of the list. I'm a digital poet (that is
literally in my job description) who was described recently as part of
the second wave. I'm not sure exactly what that means, other than I
came into the field post 2001 and have made my strongest works
recently. Lots of thoughts, obviously, about digital poetry, but I'll
being with a statement of sorts:

Shortly before one of my first digital poetry readings at the U of
Maryland, I was asked to describe how I generated ideas for my digital
poems. Initially, I stormed into a discussion about not being
satisfied with the limitations of print, and the need to find a format
that satiated a curious and scattered mind. And while those points are
entirely valid and contribute to my creative process/direction, they
didn't really answer the question of where the kernel, the initial
spark for each digital poem lives.I stumbled through half-jokes and
comments about the food and weather, until someone across from me said
they loved my interfaces. At the time I hadn't really, formally,
considered the idea of an interface, the notion that digital poems
have an engine, an architecture that structurally, thematically,
cultural surrounds the poem, holds the poem, shelters and nurtures and
indeed conceives (procreation digitally) the poem.

Later after the reading/talk, the topic of "where are my digital poems
born" came up again. And with the aid of a few drinks and the
pressures of "big crowd talk" past, I raised my voice and commanded
(rather dramatically) "look around at the bar". With my half-drunk
audience now confused, I continued. "Everything around us has an
organization, a geography, a pattern, an interface", I uttered. I
pointed out how poems could be formed from the way drinking glasses
stack on the bar top, or how the pool tables and their colored and
sequential billiard balls are an interactive and generative poem. Soon
we began playing games, creating new digital poems from what we saw
(and heard) around us at the bar. There were sound poems created from
the mixing of conversations and music, game poems from the pinball
machine, self-destroying poems from the way alcohol slid us deeper
into one-dimensional thought. For that evening at least, the world,
like a movie's representation of the idiot savant mathematician, was
filled with numbers and equations floating above everything on the
screen. And instead of digits, interactive texts were the filter and
footnotes to our sensory experiences.

It is overly simplistic to state that my digital poems come entirely
from building/discovering interfaces. Any artist's creative practice
is a merging/melding mix of fluid events and inspirations. But with
all my digital poems there is one commonality, the emphasis on
interface. Rarely do I even reuse interfaces, and when I do it is only
as one section of a larger work. This continual drive to create new
ways to rethink the structure, organization and interactive
functionality of my digital poems comes from a variety of internal
influences. Most importantly is how these interfaces are not just
vessels for content, they are poems in themselves. In the same way
digital poetry might be best defined by the experience, rather than a
description. Or similar to a digital poet and their works being
described by the events and stories surrounding the creation and
building process, an interface is the life, the body, and a poetic
construction in itself.

Jason Nelson

Net Art/Digital Poetry and other oddities

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