Funkhouser Discussion / Overview
Digital Poetry: A Look at Generative, Visual, and Interconnected Possibilities in its First Four Decades
Christopher Funkhouser


Interested in Mallarme, Apollinaire, international modenrism: see Perloff's criticism and Rothenberg's anthologies - Poems for the Millenium

Digital poetry has a pre-history, going back at least to the late 1950s. See Funkhouser's book: Prehistoric Digital Poetry.

1. Computer poems;
From a general point of view, the majority of combinatoric and permutation works produced feature variations, extensions, or technological implementations of Dadaist technique. Many aleatoric poems contain few parameters and, at the very least, share sensibilities common to open-form poetry.... Computers cannot be programmed to engineer a "perfect" poem; some poets use the computer to alter or subvert typical forms of expression; others seek to be imitative. In either mode, selecting appropriate input text is the most important element in the process of pronouncing meaningful expression.

2. Graphical poems:
Digitally rendered poems portray at least three different traits: words are arranged into literal shapes; words show patterns that represent dispersal or displacement of language; or words are combined with images (as in a collage).....Graphical poems as such are not new to literature, though the tools for producing them alter, accelerate, amplify, and, ultimately, animate the process. Contributing to a trend that fosters changes in the act of reading, an increase of poetry containing graphical elements has intensified in recent years because both the software and publishing medium of the WWW enables (if not encourages) the incorporation of visual elements.

- there's a further breakdown in the types of hypertext that's useful
3. Hypertext/Hypermedia
Essentially four types of hypertext works were designed: (1) those which feature only text presented as a series of nodes which are directly interlinked (sometimes with some sort of "map" that can be used as guidance); (2) those that feature significant graphical and kinetic components (i.e., hypermedia), also based on the 1:1 link—node premise; (3) those that present a virtual object that the user negotiates (without having to constantly "click" on links to traverse that text); and (4) those that are formed through methods of aleatoric progression

In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge Jean François Lyotard proposes that contemporary discourse can make no claim to finality, even if it does not seek to put an end to narration. . . . His pluralistic, relativist views suggest that art is no longer required to seek or produce truth and knowledge, and may abandon standards and categories. Lyotard's argument that what he calls performativity "brings the pragmatic functions of knowledge clearly to light" and "elevates all language games to self-knowledge" is certainly substantiated in the diverse traits reflected in digital poetry (1984: 114). The text's identity as a computer form, containing expanded semiotic operations, often subjects the reader to an unfamiliar type of reading. In negotiating the interface, a reader's experience involves thoughtfully participating in the textual activity and thereby experiencing the poem on compounded visceral and cognitive levels.
Containing multiplicities is a driving impulse in many works, as is the impetus to assemble, reassemble (and even disassemble) texts in ongoing, potentially infinite, ways (with rupture but without permanent disruption).

Funkhouser, Christopher, Modern and Contemporary Poetics : Prehistoric Digital Poetry : An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995 (Tuscaloosa, AL, USA: University of Alabama Press, 2007) <>