What about cyber-poetry?

Although often used to refer to poetry published in electronic form in online journals, cyber-poetry really refers to hypertextual poetry. Cyberpoetry is poetry that makes use of cyber-"tools" of some sort. Whether those "tools" are really "new," despite the new medium in which they are created, is a debatable topic among literary poets.

Some believe the novelty of hypertext poetry is not a lasting one because poetry is itself a kind of hypertext, relying far more on associative connections than narrative ones. Cyberpoet Brian Kim Stefans questioned not only the "newness" but even the validity of cyberpoetry as a true form:

"If cyberpoetry is a genuine verse-form it will have several singular positive definitions. I can define it only in negatives: 1) the lack of limitation to black and white words on a page, 2) the lack of the possibility for mechanical reproduction (there being no original), 3) the lack of closure and the lack of choice."
Some believe cyberpoetry is concrete poetry "fulfilled" as UbuWeb's contemporary cyberpoetry archive explained in its introduction:
Concrete poetry's historical move from the poetic line to the visual linguistic constellation, predicted parallel moves in computing from command line interface to graphical user interfaces. With concrete poetry's implied dynamism and hyperspace, the concrete poets seemed to be begging for multimedia to enter into their practice. Since the technology was not yet available, they stuck with the page. With the advent of the web, we've seen the fulfillment of this tendency...As more artists flock to the web, many become unknowing practitioners of concrete poetry as streaming and morphing of language moves to the forefront of graphical web-based practices.
(See also Winter 2004 edition of PoemsThatGo for more on visual poetry's concrete literary roots including helpful links.)

"This post-typographic and non-linear disunion is no news to poetics," declared Loss Pequeno Glazier in his essay "Jumping to Occlusions," and answered with a list of poetic influences: Pound Futurism, Dada, Bernstein, McCaffery, Silliman, Grenier, Fisher, Sheppard, Hocquard, Royet-Journoud, "the radical typographies of Howe and Drucker, Antin's improvizations, the translations of Joris, Rothenberg's ethnopoetics, redeployments of language by O'Sullivan, Bergvall, MacCormack, Brossard, Leggott, Hejinian, Retallack, and Weiner, and the alleatories of Mac Low and Cage, and the work of many writers presently at work point in different ways to various forms of nonlinearity."

What then is news to poetics? "It is the play of pieces that forms the tropes of the electronic web," was Glazier's response.

A column in the "Text, Time, and Typography" issue of PoemsThatGo asked: "What happens when we take the words out of the poem and the letters out of the words and play with their relation to the page? What happens when the visual form of the poem is as important as the words that make it?"

Poet Jorge Luiz Antonio's comment mentioned in "Is it literarily new?" deserves repeating here:

The use of a computer, even if we are reading a piece of traditional literature such as a sonnet, implies a mediation which alters the final product. Access to poetry through a machine is totally different from opening a book, a magazine, a newspaper, or a copybook. The computer re-makes the text.
"Much pleasure is derived from not understanding each other, much serious social revenue from reflecting on these losses, and cyberpoetry is best positioned to explore this," explained Brian Kim Stefans:
...for there is only good verse, bad verse, and chaos. Not understanding this sentence, or never understanding it as Eliot understood it, or not knowing that Eliot wrote it and not caring a whit—both its provisional meanings and its non-enduring emotions caught in a seductive, obscene (off-stage) embrace—is one of the many pleasures that cyberpoetry can provide.
Here are three examples—a basic hypertextual and two hypermedia—one a classic poem reinvented via hypertextual elements, one an original haiku that attempts to create an effect on the reader unlike that of poetic words on a print page, and one a piece of cyberpoetry that engages by defying description, playing with language and any static concept of concrete, if concrete poetry it may be:

• Alis Yung's rendering of a Yeats poem.

• Jeffrey Winke's Haiku Flash Series: Chances.

• Neil Hennesey's Jabberwocky Engine.

UbuWeb-Contemporary poetry
PoemsThatGo-Concrete poetry

RoadSite: references/ linkography