CAP 6/11

Christopher Funkhouser, “Digital Poetry: A Look at Generative, Visual, and Interconnected Possibilities in its First Four Decades.”

Digital poetry is a new genre launched 1n 1950s.

Heterogeneous Components:
Digital poetry is not a singular "form" but rather a conglomeration of forms that now constitutes a genre even though the creative activity itself — in terms of its media, methods, and expressive intent —contains heterogeneous components. Poets explore a variety of computerized techniques, from interactive installations to randomized and visual attributes.
Evolving process:
Definition: (different definitions)
a- (__Block et al.__): The strongest definition of the genre is found in the introduction to the volume p0es1s: Aesthetics of Digital Poetry, which proclaims that digital poetry: "applies to artistic projects that deal with the medial changes in language and language-based communication in computers and digital networks. Digital poetry thus refers to creative, experimental, playful and also critical language art involving programming, multimedia, animation, interactivity, and net communication" (__Block et al. 2004__: 13).
b- (Janez Strehovec) affirms that digital poetry is "a new genre all its own" that incorporates "kinetic/animated poetry, code poetry, interactive poetry, digital sound poetry, digital 'textscapes' with poetry features, and poetry generators. As a genre, digital poetry "intersects the literary avant-garde, visual and concrete poetry, text-based installations, net art, software art, and netspeak" (no pages).
a- Computer poems (CP): Poets initially used computer programs to synthesize a database and a series of instructions to establish a work's content and shape. These works are generated by computer algorithm, arranged as a sequence of words, or signs and symbols according to a programming code. Three types:
1-permutational (recombining elements into new words or variations),
2-combinatoric (using limited, pre-set word lists in controlled or random combinations).
3-slotted into syntactic templates (also combinatoric but within grammatical frames to create an image of "sense").
The authorship:
Whoever establishes the database co-authors the poem, as does the writer of the program; the user of the program also has authorial prerogatives in selecting from and editing output.
Graphical poems (GP):
By the mid-1960s graphical and kinetic components emerged. In graphic poetry, the words of the poem form a shape–or even a kind of picture–showing what the poem is about. It can also be as easy as illustrating a poem you write or making your words have a visual expression. The arrangement of the words is important because it can visually convey the meaning/mood of the poem.
Digitally rendered poems portray at least three different traits: 1- words are arranged into literal shapes; 2- words show patterns that represent dispersal or displacement of language; 3- words are combined with images (as in a collage).
Example (“Swan and Shadow” by John Hollander, 1969): graphic poem

Contemporary Perspective
· Digital Techniques

Digital Poetry a Literary Context

Stephane Mallarmé's , "A Throw of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance"

Guillaume Apollinaire's "Calligrames"

Current Perspective.

The Postmodern Condition:
Lyotard argues that the computerization of society, shifts emphasis from the ends of actions to their means, and has made metanarratives unnecessary and intolerable because technology is self-legitimating. He also suggests that art is no longer required to seek or produce truth and knowledge, and may abandon standards and categories.
He explains that the text's identity as a computer form, containing expanded semiotic operations, often subjects the reader to an unfamiliar type of reading. And of course the reader's experience involves thoughtfully in participating in the textual activity and thereby experiencing the different levels of the poem.
On the same point, since computerized poems are produced and operated by highly structured, precise instructions or codes, it is logical that plotted, ordered, and contained designs would emerge. Nonetheless, because literature has now joined forces with mathematics and computer science, as well as other art forms, it foists an entirely different set of circumstances on the reader.
No doubt that digital technology advances poetry into dynamic areas; as digital poets’ re-programmed unconventional analog prototypes lead to consider digital poems to be part of a substratum of contemporary art. The massive growth of the internet has a direct impact and effects on the digital poems, as it increased the visibility, consumption, and knowledge of the digital poems, and introduced artists to each other's work.
Digital poems do not exist in a fixed state, and have a different sense of authorial control, from which a different sort of result and artistic expectation would arise; consequently, the purpose and production would veer from the historical norm.

Discussion Question:
1- What factors determine whether the combination of textual and visual elements in digital poems enriches or limits their meaning and aesthetic value?
2-To what extent do you think that graphic poems have an authoritative mode on the reader/ didactic mode?
3-How are evaluative and interpretive responses to digital poetry affected by the development of enhanced reflective awareness about the processes involved?
4- In the light of the digital poems we studied in class earlier, to what extent do you agree with Funkhouser’s argument that contemporary digital poetry repeats earlier types of poetic and theoretical practises?