Digital poetry: Comparative textual performances in trans-medial spaces

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This study extends work on notions of space and performance developed by media and poetry theorists. I particularly analyze how contemporary technologies re-define the writing space of digital poetry making by investigating the configuration and the function of this space in the writing of the digital poem. Thus, I employ David Jay Bolter's concept of "topographic" digital writing and propose the term "trans-medial" space to describe the computer space in which the digital poem exists, emerges, and is experienced. With origins in Italian Futurism, the literary avant-garde of the first half of twentieth century, digital poetry extends the creative repertoire of this experimental poetry tradition using computers in the composition, generation, or presentation of texts. Because these poems convey a perception of space as changeable and multiple (made of computer screen and code spaces), this "trans-medial" space is both self-transformative (forms itself as it self-transforms) and transforming (transforms what it contains). Media scholars such as Espen Aarseth and Stephanie Strickland often explain how computer programming makes such digital works become sites of encounter between agencies such as author, text, or readers. Conversely, I show that this "trans-medial" space is also a mediating agent in the performance of the text along with its readers in the sense that it engages in and with the performance of text. I examine three forms of digital poetry: Gianni Toti's video-poetry, Caterina Davinio's net-poetry, and Loss PequeƱo Glazier's JavaScript-based poetry. These Italian and United States poet-scholars are leading figures in digital poetry. As scholars, they articulate the theoretical frameworks of this genre in landmark anthologies. As poets, their digital works are similar in that they are indebted to Italian Futurism; and yet they represent distinct visions of and about poetry in new media spaces. I use their works to think through video-graphic spaces, networked spaces, and scripting spaces as expressions of trans-medial space. In this respect, my comparative analysis opens up new venues for the reading of digital poetry by re-fashioning the concept and the function of the writing space of our digitized world.

 
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Jill Walker Rettberg