The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

March 11, 2014


Just to clarify - there are a lot of poets in academia who are brilliant
and edgy - it's more the institutional apparatus that surrounds them. I'm
thinking of John Cayley's work for example, which is hardly traditional.
But the apparatus stresses a canon, so for example, with electronic
literature I've seen almost no discussion of IRC, MOOs, MUDs, BBS, or
Newsgroups - all of which developed different 'wild poetics' that are of
great interest. Nick Montfort's Twisty Little Passages and some other
works cover text-based gaming like Adventure or Zork in a similar
direction. The RFC (Request for Comments) early Internet papers contain a
lot of traditional poetry (some of it reprinted in Pater Salus' book on
the early Net), but the poetics in them extends elsewhere - not only in
allusion, but also in dealing with underlying mechanics. Perl poetry
(which can be quite traditional) falls into this area but then there are
groups like Jodi whose codework is only revealed when the page-source in a
browser is opened. Other people like mez come to mind, and she's also had
academic exposure. The ELO's http://collection.eliterature.org/1/ and /2/
have a lot of amazing material in them. My point (I'm meandering) is that
so much of this is based on digital (or in some people's minds post-
digital) production and for that matter digital reading techniques, that
new and differing academias are necessary to forefront this material for
students - and this generation of students has grown up fundamentally with
the digital. Instead, the poetry worlds, such as it is/they are, seem/s so
often to still consider language poetry the avant-garde, that the older or
traditional forms are still sufficient for/within the social. But then,
sufficient for what? Certainly for expression, for a politics which might
have a hard time dealing with Occupy. And in academia, just to clarify,
there are a great many poets who are brilliant and edgy and struggle at
times with the institution that supports them - John Cayley certainly
comes to mind, who might be considered, along with mez, a loose cannon. A
good example of this is the archeology of electronic literature, in
relation for example to the Chinese 1000 Character Essay, or even the
language games played in the Hebrew Bible. Nick Montfort's recent work
with Pall Thayer and the Commodore 64 early personal computer comes to
mind, and they currently have a show up at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery.
The ELO and Jodi come to mind. I think of codework which always seems to
extend elsewhere; I developed the term in an essay I wrote for the
American Book Review. This was a print publication and the page-source was
and still is identical with the page. I consider even now the poetics of
Celan and Holderlin to be among the avant-garde; they recognize their
insufficiency of form within the social. Cayley has done brilliant work
between Chinese and translation, often dealing with the underlying
mechanics of reading. I think this is also true of Dwarf Fortress. There
are a lot of brilliant and edgy poets around.

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