Digital Poetry?

The concept of digital creation in terms of making art & music seems straight forward enough — you use software to manipulate and/or create sounds or images in ways not possible before we had computers. But what is digital poetry and what electronic tools beyond digital distribution are available to muse maniacs and word artists? How can a poet make words do more than they would if they were spoken or typed normally.

Perhaps the most common entry point for shaping poetry with new digital tools is through combining it with media formats already being redefined by the new forms of digital expression. Spoken word sampling can add new dimensions to experimental electronic music & avante garde video. Word and phrase forms can also be a powerfully integrated into Dadaistic digital collages. But how and when will word driven artists finally be able to enjoy the ease of digital creation and power of electronic expression now available to visua l and sound artists?

Dada poets opted for effect over articulation, for creating an experience over making sense. Recording technology advances over the last 50 years have allowed many new poets to experiment with using audio processing to create new forms of experience from their traditionally created poems. The work of Charles Amirkhanian is a great example. This is well illustrated with Charles Amirkhanian’s collaboration with Anthony Gnazzo to create William Panda with Back Mark to Martyre. In this piece, the 1960’s vintage echo effects with dual voices were used to bombard the listener with percussive word repetition. In his beat-dada Three Permutations, Brion Gysin repeats a single phrase several times. Words are deranged in differmenting orders swith each realiterations creating either an overtly relaxed or a drastically agitated state in the listener. With popularity of mp3’s we are just now starting to see many more poets publishing spoken word in digital audio formats. The web site,, boasts over 300 audio poems for free download. This, of course, is just the beginnings of the beginning. If new dada teaches us one lesson, it is that when it comes to experiential expression, nothing made is ever enough. The richer the experience, the more hedonistic the dream, the better. Why stop with just sound on sound? Give us something to touch, something to see, something to sink our subconscious fangs into.

There certainly have been attempts over the years to create word based multimedia experiences. The equipment and software is now affordable and available for home computers to do this and so much more; however, very few poets have created digital word experiences that have truly transcended what could be done with just the simple spoken voice. Web sites like that are dedicated to combining music, images, and poetry using flash that reveal certain exciting new possibilities for word driven experimentation, but as of yet I have seen very little there that pushes the boundaries of what could be done with the low tech old school multimedia slide shows, little that will revolutionize the way poets have created poetry for hundreds of years.

Other web sites like definitely have paved the way for what is to come. Poems here range for interactive puzzles to moving letter patterns creating paradoxically a new kind of “fluid concrete” poetry. Others combine music, experimental video clips, images and spoken word with scrolling or flying text. As more poets begin creating works incorporating such rich media, the dream of digital dada everywhere will soon entrance the sleeping public. The boundaries between different forms of creative expression, between the visual, the cerebral and the audio is becoming ever more blurred as the new digitalogists begin exploring new ways to create provocative virtual experiences.


One thought on “Digital Poetry?

  1. Mr. Friedman,I agree wholeheartedly that the technology freely available to everybody (and, in many cases, free of charge) allows us an unimaginable wealth of artistic opportunities that most of us have not even begun to explore. And while artistically-minded people tend to view technology as devoid of spirit, programs have gotten to the point that you can focus on being creative without having to go through a system of imagination-killing computer code.However, I’m not sure I’m all that much into the flash poetry. It seems like it SHOULD be perfect. Poets put so much thought into how the reader views the poem, how much time it takes to get from one word to another and therefore from one thought to another, spacing things out on the page, etc. And the possibility of building timing into words, of making them zoom across the screen or hover and then disappear, and the possibility of adding the images you want the reader to see, ought to be a real thrill for the poet.But, as a reader, I like the idea that the images in my head are the ones I see. I like to hear my own voice read at my own pace, and I think that a good enough poet can set up a poem so that it reads the way he/she wants it to be read without imposing images or timing on the reader in such an unavoidable way. Call me old-fashioned.I think this flash poetry idea is a great one, and it allows a lot of fascinating possibilities. But if you ask me, I like traditional paper poetry more.Also – I’m looking for other (good) poets to give me feedback on my new poetry web site. When you get the chance, please visit and let me know if there’s anything you think I should change. Thanks!

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