My background is that I’m studying for a PhD in Poetic Practice with Royal Holloway, University of London. I’ve been looking at a Poetics of Disgust and Performances of Technology, and so a lot of my work is multimedia-based and attempts to look at multimedia in unique, poetic ways…
Well, thank God that’s over. Now I can get on with the post. It seems fitting to begin with a brief one about my personal favourite in terms of online poets right now.
Brian Kim Stefans has been producing work for some years now, and whereas a lot of online work tends to fall into extensions of print such as animated linear narratives or visually stunning yet formally pretty conventional poetry, Stefans’ works bear a conceptually interesting dialogue between language and the technology which is used to articulate it.
This is also distinct from poetry whose “theme” is technology itself. As above, this is interesting, but I think that Stefans’ work is more relevant to my personal investigations and poetic practice.
Stefans is perhaps best known for two online works. The first is The Dreamlife of Letters, a flash poem which seems to draw from concrete poetry in the respect that each “scene” is a self-contained, self-referential entity, often utilising text rather than using it, creating indeed dreamlike animations made of transforming texts. Interestingly, Stefans’ poem can, like concrete poetry, be taken in terms of its semantics, although these are bound to the formal makeup of the poem, creating often complex interpretations out of little more than a couple of words.
Detournement – the reworking of a recognised form against itself – plays a part in this engagement with the text, compounded all the way through by the fact that such an animation would not look out of place – to the unsuspecting reader – buried within a webpage full to bursting with animated web banners and square advertisements. The section below:
could be interpreted to death. The text, clearly spelling “(your”, also spells “(you”, whose sense of independence or self-ownership is undermined by the registration symbol tied to it. One could take this further, looking at such a statement in the wider context of consumerism and rights of privacy – a thorny, sticky issue in the online world, outside of which this poem could not exist effectively.
It doesn’t take long to become used to the formal style of Dreamlife, and once this formal familiarity has been established, it becomes not only a semantically rich text, but a beautiful, mesmorising and at times a humorous one too. Flashy extras in the animation, floating, fading words and letters. This is a long poem, but I find it difficult, once started, to close it again.
Brian Kim Stefans is also somewhat famous for his detournement of the New York Times some time ago. For this, Stefans lifted the contents of the home page of NYT, adverts and all, and inserted his own text in place of the speeches of President Bush and Tony Blair. He was given a cease and desist order quicker than you can say “shut it”. What was interesting about this piece was not the reaction it got from officials, but more the concepts of appropriation which the piece raised. The internet, and digital technology in general, allows for precise duplication and non-destructive editing, allowing for interesting grounds for working with politically contentious materials, and making unique statements, using the object of critique against itself.
A few links, if you’ve read this far, which might interest you. Stefans also hosts the UBU Editions series, an incredible collection of freely downloadable PDFs by a range of diverse and amazing poets: http://www.ubu.com/ubu/index.html
Brian Kim Stefans’ home page, Arras.net: http://www.arras.net/ which contains lots of his work. Some interesting ideas here, such as dot matrix concrete poetry, and a few online settings for chapbooks.
Free Space Comix, Stefans’ blog: http://www.arras.net/fscIII/
I hope I haven’t bored you to tears. Let’s put it this way, if I have, Charlie will be back soon. And keep your chin up, as I’m working on a post devoted entirely to Project Runway. Oh yes, there’s something for everybody here.
Thanks for listening!