Digital Poetry Symposium @ Dartmouth 2011

Dartmouth’s Digital Poetry Symposium, held all afternoon, Marjorie Luesebrink discussed her use of Microsoft Excel as a platform for her poetry. The idea that a story or poem can be revealed through direct manipulation drove her curiosity, and she had come to think of the interface as the defining part of the medium. The predominant trend is to make the relationship between machines and people more simple, yet it is the stage for complexity.

— layering, reference, mediation —
Luesebrink looked at older projects, noting that her Califia project’s use of a database pushed time into space, whereas Director software used for her Egypt story used the metaphor of pushing space into time. The software certainly is influential in the way the experience is shaped. The software shapes both the format and the metaphorical content of the story.

Her Excel spreadsheet work, Tin Town, locates its content around commerce, compresses time and space into formula.

Stephanie Strickland discusses the possibilities of this moment for an ecological approach to inclusive poetics. “You have to caress the text to find it’s hidden links,” she noted during her reading of Sand and Harry Soot, a metaphorical title alluding to sand’s relationship to computer technology (silicon) and soot (carbon). The work presents a dialogue between binaries, but her later work slipping glimpse, which maps texts to the motion patterns of Atlantic waves. The water reads the text, the text reads the technology, and more. What if we expand our notion of translation?

Braxton Suderman and Nick Montfort (who I’m sure will soon post on his excellent presentation!) also presented their work. Suderman discussed platform game poetry. Montfort read from, and explained, his Perl poetry Generators and other projects. The readings, though brief, were moving. He also showed variations on some of his poetry generators, such as Taroko Gorge, in such humorous poems written by Scott Rhettberg on imagined media versions of Tokyo in Tokyo Garage. He’s interested in how the poetry creates “a texture of language,” to use the space of the computer to use the space of language in a different way.

The poets who spent time reading the work — notably, Strickland and Montfort — seemed to hold great sway. Programming languages may show us new ways to see, use, and understand language, and may be evoked to connect us to language in a constantly shifting, ecological way.

What does code bring to us: code scales; code processes (more complexly interconnected representations and experiences, such as behaviors); code lets us join modalities (mixed media); code gives us games, making a collective; and code is rewritable.