Born Digital: Writing Poetry in the Age of New Media

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This study investigates Anglophone digital poems, created with and disseminated through digital computer media, for their visual, kinetic, and textual practices. I seek to articulate an analytic method grounded in close readings of selected poems. I have chosen to focus on poetic practices that raise questions about spatiality, temporality, kineticism, and word-and-image construction. My chief interest lies in how poetic form is orchestrated and what forms of engagement these digital constructions present the reader with. Underlying the main arguments of this study is an understanding of literary works in general as materially, culturally, and historically situated entities. Such “attention to material” is brought to bear on the digital poems that I analyze. Building upon N. Katherine Hayles’s notion of a “media-specific analysis,” I propose a materially specific analysis. In line with this proposition, I investigate particular properties of three clusters of poems. I propose terms such poemevents, cinematographic poems, and visual noise poems. A common feature of digital poems is the multisensory experience created through visual, auditive, tactile, kinetic, and textual artifice. The reader’s level of interaction is often of utmost importance. To articulate the different roles that the reader has to take on, I use two compound terms: reader/user and reader/viewer/listener. I argue that the active embodied engagement that is required of the reader/user in some digital poems and the denial of an active participation in others is part of the works’ materiality. Digital poetry as a field is expanding; it would not be too daring to claim that the exploration of the writing of poetry in the age of new media has only begun. I conclude the thesis by looking forward to what might lay ahead, how literary scholarship can be inspired by digital poetic work, and the questions about literary materiality that it poses. See thesis presentation at

Works referenced:

Titlesort descending Author Year
afternoon, a story Michael Joyce 1990
Apfel mit Wurm Reinhard Döhl 1965
Baila Loss Pequeño Glazier 2006
Breathing/Secret of Roe Jonathan Carr 2002
Car Wash Megan Sapnar 2000
CARNIVAL Steve McCaffery 1967
Cruising Ingrid Ankerson, Megan Sapnar 2001
Diagrams Series 6: 6.4 and 6.10 Jim Rosenberg 2005
ek-stasis Aya Natalia Karpinska 2000
E_cephalopedia // novellex Talan Memmott 2001
Figure 5 Media Series Megan Sapnar 2001
Genius Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Young-Hae Chang, Marc Voge 2010
Get a Google Poem Leevi Lehto 2007
Hey Now Thomas Swiss, Motomichi Nakamura 2001
Io Sono At Swoons Loss Pequeño Glazier 2002
JABBER: The Jabberwocky Engine Neil Hennessy 2000
Leaved Life Anne Frances Wysocki 2005
lens John Cayley 2006
Lexia to Perplexia Talan Memmott 2000
Luz Loss Pequeño Glazier 2006
open.ended Daniel C. Howe, Aya Natalia Karpinska 2004
overboard John Cayley 2004
Patchwork Girl Shelley Jackson 1995
Poem by Nari does Windows Ted Warnell 2000
riverIsland John Cayley 2007
Screen Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Josh Carroll, Robert Coover, Shawn Greenlee, Andrew McClain, Benjamin Shine 2003
Sinking Ingrid Ankerson 2000
Spawn Andy Campbell 2002
Strings Dan Waber 1999
Text Rain Romy Achituv, Camille Utterback 1999
The Arrival of the Beebox Aya Natalia Karpinska 2003
The Dead Billy Collins, Juan Delcan 2006
The Dreamlife of Letters Brian Kim Stefans 2000
The Last Day of Betty Nkomo Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Young-Hae Chang, Marc Voge 2005
The Legible City Jeffrey Shaw, Dirk Groeneveld 1989
The Wheels David Knoebel 1999
Translation John Cayley 2004
Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard Stéphane Mallarmé 1897
V: Vniverse Stephanie Strickland, Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo 2002
V: WaveSon.nets / Losing L'una Stephanie Strickland 2002
Victory Garden Stuart Moulthrop 1991
What We Will John Cayley 2004
While Chopping Red Peppers Megan Sapnar, Ingrid Ankerson 2000
windsound John Cayley 1998
[theHouse] Mary Flanagan 2006

Critical writing referenced:

Titlesort descending Author Year
"Distance, Homelessness, Anonymity, and Insignificance": An Interview with Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries Thomas Swiss, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries 2002
A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Indeterminate Theodor Holm Nelson 1965
A Poem Is a Machine to Think With: Digital Poetry and the Paradox of Innovation Sandy Baldwin 2003
A Vanguard Projected in Motion: Early Kinetic Poetry in Portuguese Chris Funkhouser 2005
Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature Nick Montfort, Noah Wardrip-Fruin 2004
Aporia and Epiphany in Doom and The Speaking Clock Espen Aarseth 1999
Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression Jacques Derrida 1998
Beyond Codexspace: Potentialities of Literary Cybertext John Cayley 1996
Beyond Taxonomy: Digital Poetics and the Problem of Reading Talan Memmott 2006
Born-Again Bits: A Framework for Migrating Electronic Literature Alan Liu, David Durand, Nick Montfort, Merilee Profit, Liam R. E. Quin, Jean-Hugues Réty, Noah Wardrip-Fruin 2005
Bridge Work Chris Funkhouser 2003
Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature 2003
Code.surface || Code.depth Rita Raley 2006
Concrete Poetry: A World View Mary Ellen Solt 1968
Curating Ambiguity: The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One Scott Rettberg, Franz Thalmair 2007
Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory Marie-Laure Ryan 1999
Cybertext Poetry: Effects of Digital Media on the Creation of Poetic Literature Chris Funkhouser 1997
Cybertext Yearbook 2000 2000
Cybertext Yearbook 2001 2001
Cybertext Yearbook 2002-2003 2003

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Flash 1996
BASIC 1964
APL (A Programming Language) 1964

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
The MIT Press
55 Hayward Street
02142-1493 Boston
United States

Events referenced:

Titlesort descending Date Location
E-Poetry 2007 20.05.2007
Le cube Issy les Moulineaux, Paris 8 University
2 Rue de la Liberté
93200 Saint-Denis

Research Collection that references this Critical Writing:

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Patricia Tomaszek