Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Purpose

t. Come to t    hink of it,     no one’s rea    lly written     a word of it
. It’s been grabbed, cut , pasted, pr ocessed, mac hined, honed
, flattened, repurposed, regurgitate d, and refra med from the
great mass of free-floa ting languag e out there just begging
to be turne d into poetr y. Why atomi ze, shatter, and splay l
anguage into nonsensical shards when you can hoa rd, store, m
old, squeeze , shovel, so il, scrub, p ackage, and cram the stu
ff into towe rs of words and castles of language with a strok
e of the key board? And w hat fun to w reck it: kno ck it down,
hit delete, and start al l over again . There’s a sense of glu
ttony, of jo y, and of fu n. Like kids at a touch table, we’re
delighted t o feel langu age again, t o roll in it , to get our
hands dirty . With so mu ch available language, d oes anyone r
eally need t o write more ? Instead, l et’s just pr ocess what e
xists. Langu age as matte r; language as material. How much di
d you say th at paragraph weighed? Ou r immersive digital envi
ronment dema nds new resp onses from w riters. What does it mea
n to be a po et in the In ternet age? These two mo vements, Fla
rf and Conce ptual Writin g, each form ed over the past five ye
ars, are dir ect investig ations to th at end. And as different
as they are , they have surprisingly come up wit h a set of s
imilar solut ions. Identi ty, for one, is up for g rabs. Why us
e your own w ords when yo u can expres s yourself j ust as well
by using som eone else’s? And if your identity is not your ow
n, then sinc erity must b e tossed out as well. Ma teriality, t
oo, comes to the fore: t he quantity of words see ms to have m
ore bearing on a poem th an what they mean. Dispo sability, fl
uidity, and recycling: t here’s a sen se that thes e words aren
’t meant for forever. To day they’re glued to a p age but tomo
rrow they co uld re-emerg e as a Faceb ook meme. Fu sing the ava
nt-garde imp ulses of the last centur y with the t echnologies
of the prese nt, these st rategies pro pose an expa nded field f
or twenty-fi rst-century poetry. This new writing is not boun
d exclusivel y between pa ges of a boo k; it contin ually morphs
from printe d page to we b page, from gallery spa ce to scienc
e lab, from social space s of poetry readings to social space
s of blogs. It is a poet ics of flux, celebrating instability
and uncerta inty.

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