Substrate Poetry

Abstract: Poetry has a longstanding tradition with the white sheet of paper. Even as poetry has moved online, the website as a medium is nonetheless skeumorphic and referential of it’s traditional medium: the blank white sheet of paper. As a result the word processor has been the main source of creating poetry, reducing poetry (mostly) to a systems art based on the keyboard (at least in a Western sense). Substrate poetry is poetry that resists the traditional substrates of poetry (white sheet of paper, keyboard, word processor, etc.) and seeks meaning through new mediums where scripted visual language is possible. Substrate poetry does not try to just place language/poetry in new places/mediums, but seeks to integrate the meaning of the language with the meaning of the substrate. Some examples of non-traditional substrates include social networks such as Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, etc. or a return to handwritten language, or even includes le formats such as .GIF. Additionally, substrate poetry is aware of the physical ontology of a poem: if digital, the poem exists electromagnetically on a server or computer; if physical, exists in visual contrast on ink and paper, etc. Ultimately, substrate poetry hopes to highlight the possibilities with the ways in which poetry exists in order to free it from the trappings of its tradition and free poetry to exist more extensively in response to new technology. Art always works in tandem with technology, and substrate poetry seeks to highlight and clarify that relation.

materialities of communication:

I'd like to turn in my "paper" to a professor, turn it in as a floppy disk, slide that floppy disk under his/her door or in the box outside the door.

if you went to a conference and the presenter gave a handout to the audience in the form of an iPad (where they could interact with the data from the presentation) or as a mobile flip-phone (where periodically the presenter would text facts or stats to the audience) or in the form of a laptop (with files on the desktop).

the piece of paper is a privileged technology.

 

as a preface to this whole entry, I'd like to refer to an article by the verge, which highlights a music album that can only be listened to an a japanese version of a super nintendo entertainment system, which is a very specific device for a very specific album, making a very specific experience (both historically and in audience).

here is the article link:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/11/30/9818144/nintendo-famicom-chiptune-album

I've been thinking about writing a poem that is digitally mixed.

for example, a poem that has words such as these ones that I am writing at this moment. the poem would progress like you would expect, with words like these. then the poem would also incorporate a gif that would interrupt the text on the "page" and then the text would return after the interrupting gif. basically, the poem would be a combination of text and gifs and the progress between the two would be interesting to me.

I wonder how digital poems would be preserved. say someone has created a poem of importance, but the poem is a digital artifact. I imagine the only true way to preserve the poem is to also preserve the technology that supports it. I imagine, years from now, there would be a computer specifically from that era, with the original operating system, web browser, everything that is necessary to show the digital poem. for example a poem from the nineties would have a nineties computer with a nineties web browser, etc.

paper is the cheapest technology. it's one that we can all share. actually the human voice is the cheapest technology, but I will argue that paper is the cheapest technology that isn't connected to the human body, or that isn't the human body.

I imagine a class where people are handing out poems to share and read by handing out computers. this would be expensive in today’s terms. handing out poems on today’s paper would be expensive hundreds of years ago.

I wonder if there are any really cheap computers (like $10 or less) that I could use to record a poem on and then pass out the poem. Like what would happen if I went to a class and handed out a poem on a bunch of iPads. would the interface be part of the poem.

It’s funny that the context of the poem is always stripped from the poem. for example, I am writing this essay on a laptop. I was originally writing it in the browser (but then remembered that sometimes the browser is a volatile place) then I moved the text to the notes application on my mac. right now I am typing at my green desk at my mountain home. my fingers are freezing and my wife is behind me trying to get the kids ready to go to her mom’s house (since we share a car, I will be dropping them off and then heading to school to finish working on other papers and essays) and on my desktop there are various projects I should or could be working on, and the keyboard I am writing on is … and my daughter just handed me a tiny nail that she found on the ground.

at any rate, let’s pretend for a moment I was writing a poem, and let’s pretend I took that poem to a workshop, and let’s pretend I printed it on a piece of paper. all of this, the interface, the interruptions, the freezing fingers, etc. is stripped from the poem and all that remains are the recorded words.

but what would happen if I could transport even some of that context with the poem.

and here’s a different thought. think of all the contexts that are brought to bear on the poem from the paper. think of the foreman that helped produce the paper. think of the lab attendant who put the paper in the printer (not to mention all the distribution people that got it from the factory to the lab attendant) and then I printed on it. all of this now becomes more apart of the artifact of the poem than does the context in which the poem was written.

and after all these observations, I wonder what the use of these observations are. I ask ‘so what.’

 

the Internet is language's virtual reality.

language was/is our first body.

Poetry: Poetries

INTRODUCTION:

    A relatively recent article in the New Yorker suggests “the poetic has left the poem in the same way that Elvis has left the building … poetry escaped out the backdoor and onto the Internet, where it is taking on new forms that look nothing like poetry” (Goldsmith). I agree, to an extent. Poetry, as a project of language play and exploration, is happening in many places: at slam performances, through digital and electronic bohemia on the internet, within academic tradition, by street graffiti, etc. But there isn’t a theory that keeps this fragmentation together while allowing for the fragmentation to take place. Fragmentation allows poetry to expand and adapt to the human condition. But if the fragmentation escapes our theory, then poetry begins escapes our understanding.

    Strata-poetry is a lens through which to read, write, archive, classify and criticize poetry. It explains the fragmentation by describing strata: layers on which poetry occurs, layers that underlie or overlay the poem, or can be understood as the embodying of poetry (whether embodied by a human body as performance, or embodied by the page as object). Being familiar with and recognizing the various strata of poetry influences the making, reading, remaining, and standards of a given piece of poetry. Poetry’s body impacts its meaning. By understanding the strata of poetry we can see language function and exist in new and meaningful ways. Poetry needs to pay attention to the underlying structure on which it relies in order to really get at its full meaning and capacity.

    Poetry is impacted by the choices (and non-choices) of strata. A poem is also impacted by the constant deferral of it's body from mind to page to book to audience, etc. Each motion from one strata to another is an act of translation, either intentionally or unintentionally part of the poem.

STRATA AND MEANING:

    To begin, a stratum or strata are layers of physical, social, and abstract embodiment of a poem. There are various relationships between the strata of a poem: substrates, superstrates, and adstrates (see “Tristram” for more information on language strata). Substrates mainly refers to layers that exist underneath other layers. Adstrates are layers that are on the same level of layering, and superstrates are layers that overlay other layers. Paper, the thing underneath the poem, is a substrate of poetry. When a poem becomes a paper poem (i.e. a poem printed on paper) it becomes an adstrate to another poem printed on paper. A book poem (a poem printed in a book) exists on the same stratum as another book poem. These two poems in relation to each other are adstrates. Poets, critics, etc. are superstrates to a poem. They overlay the reading and interpretation and the evaluation of poems, although not every reading of a poem shares the same superstrates. But once these poets/critics/etc. write thoughts down on paper, then the criticism/evaluation/etc. moves from a super-stratified position to an adstratified position. Paper criticism and paper poetry exist on the same stratified level and thus work on the same level of meaning and primacy. All paper language is an adstrate to all paper language. The same applies to performed language and digital (or silicone) language. Take note that performed language (it’s substrate being the body) is not necessarily an adstrate to paper poetry. Also, when a poem is moved from a digital substrate to a paper substrate the substrate changes. If the poem appears on both substrates simultaneously, then these poems are consider different poems. We must understand that the poem on the computer and the poem on the page are not the same poem even if they use the exact same language. They may contain the same language but they are not embodied on the same substrates, and the consequences and rhetoric of substrates make a difference in the reading of a poem.

    Different strata means different poetries. Poetry becomes poetries. The functions of a poem change with the strata. Multiple strata mean multiple poetries: The “poem” on paper, “poem” in book, “poem” spoken from my mouth, “poem” on the street, “poem” published by certain publisher, “poem” in certain anthology, “poem” in certain journal, “poem” on youtube, “poem” on flowers, “poem” in albums, “poem” on film, “poem” in ink, “poem” by pixel, “poem” in mind, etc. 

    The standards we create to evaluate and criticize a slam poem should not be the same standard for a paper poem. A performed poem will lose something in translation when it is put through a keyboard and on to paper. A slam poem is meant to be performed and experienced, not read. To read the slam poem is to misread the slam poem. To perform or experience the slam poem is the proper way to evaluate or “read” it. Again, poetry is about layering meaning and to miss the strata is to miss another more complex capacity for additional meanings, both theoretically and critically. Language, especially, does not exist on a single stratum. Language—and as a result poetry—exists on many different strata. The work of the poet is to either write poetry that fits a given stratum or to find the right stratum for the poem.

TECHNOLOGY AND CONSTRAINTS:

    Technology is a key method to understanding the strata of poetry. Poetry has always been dependent on strata. Whether the strata for the poem is the human body through speech, or through the paper page, or now (more recently) through a silicone (digital) substrate, poetry has always required strata in order to be poetry.

    Poetry has a longstanding relationship with technology. The human body is the primal piece of technology that embodies poetry (in fact, it is always the first stratum of poetry). To be clear, technology and strata are not the same thing. A technology is a system of strata. A technology may contain multiple strata. (If a technology is a single stratum, then it will appear to be both a technology and a stratum (but this is rare)). Take the computer poem for example (i.e. a poem on a computer). It has a stratum (or layer of embodiment) on the hard-drive, but the poem is also embodied in the code, and embodied again on the computer screen. The computer combines multiple strata into a system we call technology. The computer may then move the “poem” around multiple programs, other servers (of literary journals perhaps), and hopefully move on to a publisher who will then print it on paperback. Technology is access to strata.

    It is key to note that each of these strata has respective constraints. Take the fact that the text of this essay exists on my hard-drive as 0s and 1s. Take the fact that this text in a moment could be erased (except after being printed off, which allows the essay to be re-created digitally, and having it digitally allows it to be re-created as analog). Take, for a moment, that this text depends on electricity, that it depends on a whole modern infrastructure (of electricity, etc.) in order to maintain its readability, that this text is light, that this text can travel around the world in seconds, that this text can be moved and redacted and changed in many ways with a word processor, that this text was created through a systematized machine called the keyboard, that no matter how many times I type z that the z will always be contained by the unicode that says this letter needs to be rendered as “z” whatever font is chosen. Take for example that I can’t draw lines, that I am restricted to a matrixed layout, that there are so many different constraints determined by the strata of a given poem. Now take into accounts that all of this will remain, but that at one point the essay will become paper, that once on paper the quality and kind and way in which these constraints exist are lost, that the text now becomes limited by time and space as an object, that as an object it can be put in a museum, that the object now has an origin, that the paper reflects light, that the paper changes according to its environment, that the paper does not depend on a large infrastructure, although it does depend on an abstract system called language, and a smaller system called a human. Or take for example this anecdote from The Atlantic: “In 2008, Vaughan was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for [“The Crossing”]. The next year, the Rocky [newspaper] folded. And in the months that followed, the website slowly broke apart. One day, without warning, “The Crossing” evaporated from the Internet” (Lafrance). 

    Notice that the poem printed had a kind of stability that a silicone poem will never have. Take into account that the strata reveals how a poem is embodied, and the many different times a poem is disembodied, re-embodied, translated, etc. The question remains: does the poem carry residue from these strata when translated between strata; if so, how much? Again, the ultimate point of my argument is to move towards a recognition that these different strata of embodiment immediately and gradually impact the overall meaning of a poem.

    As technologies become more advanced, and as Benjamin pointed out in “Art and the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” poetry’s relationship with technology not only inherently changes how we read, write, and criticize literature, but it also advances how we do these things as well. As technology advances, more and more strata are accessible. Strata-poetics seeks to categorize, explain and evaluate the increasingly complex relationship between poetry and technology.

SOCIOECONOMICS AND PERFORMANCE:    

    In addition to the influences of technology, poetry is also increasingly impacted by the strata of journals, publishers, anthologies and other commercializations of poetry. 

    The sub-stratified, adstratified, and super-stratified decisions that publishers, journals, and anthologizers (collectively called curators) make determine the wider critical and theoretical implications of poems and poetries. Indeed, these curators impact the “voice” of a poem, by making strata-decisions of design, distribution, publicity, etc.

    By recognizing the strata-decisions by curators, we can see how the “voice” and “performance” of a poem on the page impacts its evaluation and meaning. The clothing of the words, the font, makes a difference in how you read the poems. Putting the poem in a different font is having the curator “perform” a poem on behalf of the author. Although the performance of the poem is not the poem, the essence of the poem is impacted when moved between strata: the moment you move the poem from its original or intended strata, the poem becomes different. Meaning is dependent upon strata. This is why poets do readings. It’s a prime chance they have of giving the poems “straight from the horse’s mouth.” In those readings, the poem is at origin. The poem is at home.

    Bloggers and publishers can choose the font. These are digital “readings” of the poems. It’s similar to reading the poems out loud in your living room. By allowing the reader (or consumer) of poetry to be able to put the poem in his/her own context (say a website) and then in his/her own font and words and design, etc. is to digitally “perform” the poem. By allowing the poem to be changed, by allowing the poem to be “read” and “performed” whether digitally or physically, is what makes poetry poetry. This kind of digital or visual attention to poetry is another strata of where the performance of language happens. 

    The poet who recognizes the publisher, journal, curator as strata will recognize the importance of curating and “performing” his/her own poetry. This allows the poet to work as superstrate to his own poems rather than leaving the publisher to do the performing for them. For example, a poet busking a poem on the streets would add to the poetries of poetry; this poet would add a layer or stratum upon his poem, either as the original stratum for the poem, or by offering it as a “translation” from another poetry.

    Another example: imagine a poet having a personal font they use all the time, and the publisher takes the poems and puts them in a different font, or even takes the poems and designs them differently than how the poet submitted them. Imagine this poet saying “yes, I wrote these poems, but they are not my poems. Those are the publisher’s poems, and I don’t mean in the sense of copyright (whatever that is), but I mean in the sense of voice. I did not design these poems (the poet opens the copyright page and looks for the name of the designer who laid out and designed the poems). These are ‘[designer’s name]’s poems. This is actually his ‘reading’ of them. If this book was a reading, if this book was a performance, then these poems are not my performance. Sure I am the originator, sure I am the ‘father’ (if you like that metaphor), but this is not my performance of the poems. This [holds up original manuscript, that was created in a word processor and then printed off from his home computer] this is my ‘performance’ of the poems. This is my voice.” 

    Granted, some poets are terrible at “performance,” and they need the help of the publisher to do that work for them. The contemporary poet’s genius is to either perform well the poetry himself or for him to find the right people to perform the poetry for him. Such is the case whenever a poet seeks out a “good” publisher. He simply does not have the means to publish and distribute the book himself.

    Recognizing publisher as strata reveals distribution as strata as well. Let’s face it, poems require distribution of one sort or another. The busking poet, or the soapbox poet distributes his poems by the means of his voice. Publishers distribute poems by means of paper and paperback. digital poems are distributed by their respective curators (like youtube, twitter, Facebook, etc.). One poet went as far as to write an essay titled “If No One Can Find My Book, Does It Exist?” suggesting that if a poem is not distributed, it does not exist (Nichols). He cites an author who “sees giving the things away for free as a sound distribution model.” This falls in line with much of the self-published bohemian poetry on the internet, which has impacted the other poetries, so much that traditionally published poets are saying things like “Instead of money, I ask the publishers for books, and then I mail them out to other poets I admire” (Nichols).  

    Academic poetry takes itself and the tradition seriously, but I worry about the lower class, the homeless, the underprivileged, the poor. I worry that they are the ones who need poetry most, and they are having the hardest time accessing it. Poets need to keep poetry public and in libraries and do free readings at the library, and on the street, etc. Poetry can positively affect the poor and underprivileged. Language is about the most economical way to express and come to understand humanity and one’s own condition and the shared condition of human kind (the cost?: a few breaths and relatively few calories to operate the brain, lungs, tongue etc.). Poetry ought to be the easiest thing to share with the homeless. (And I recognize all the complications that come here: what about food, what about shelter, what about the basic needs, and yes, those are no doubt of first priority and importance, and there are many groups out there who are accomplishing these tasks and helping in that way, but we, as poets, can also uplift the spirits of humankind, change the minds of humans. To say that poetry is not able to help is to undermine the whole project of poetry. If poetry can’t help the homeless, then what value does it really have? If poetry can’t help the homeless, then it is like every other useless and redundant commodity in our lives. But this is not the case. Poetry can make a difference in the lives of the homeless, in the lives of the destitute, in the lives of those who are without food and home).  

    Ultimately, the argument here is that strata determine audience. It is socioeconomic. If poetry is not aware of the socioeconomic impacts of strata (how strata are performance and strata determine audience), thenthe influence of poetry is crippled in comparison to capitalist and other systems of language, i.e. advertisements, billboards, commercials, etc. Street art has a way of influencing the homeless, same with advertisements through billboards. Billboards are strata, but the “poetry” occurring on these are arguably a less beneficial “poetry.”

    One proposal of a stratum where poetry can do some good is within the video game industry. This will become increasingly important as virtual and augmented realities become more complex and developed. Feminist Frequency (a Youtube channel) offers criticism about the misogyny of video games, and excessive and repeated sexist tropes. Poetry, as it has done before, can be utilized to respond to the misogyny in video game culture, helping develop new forms of gaming and narratives. Poetry can work towards social justice in a way that governments and capitalists can’t (won’t). We have to recognize the privilege and the class distinctions that strata create. There are those that do not have access to digital or print poetry, mostly because of monetary reasons. To allow for poetry to exist in other strata, to create them in other strata, to even just recognize the rhetorical value and impact of strata, is to allow poetry to exist in further spheres and additional spaces. Different kinds of poetries are more accessible to different classes. 

    These (digital) performances are important in the same way that public and library readings are important. In “Can Poetry Matter’ Dana Gioia argues that “American Poetry now belongs to a subculture.” I believe that there is truth, to an extent, to this statement. Written in the 90’s before the internet boom, this was probably the case, but with the rise of the internet and technology, more and more strata have been available to a wider demographic of poets. American poetry might be a subculture, but today American poetries run throughout the entire thread-work of American and World culture. Gioia goes on to suggest that “[poets] should spend part of every [reading] reciting other people's work.” I agree, they should perform other poet’s poetry, but I would argue that the digital performance of poetry is just as important as the physically voiced performances of poetry. Overall, by recognizing the human body and the publisher and the journal as strata of meaning for the poem to exist upon, we can further the influence of poetry and the humanities at large.  

CONCLUSION:

    Language has the capacity to be embodied by many strata. To say that these are not factors in the reading of the text because they were not intended to be factors in their creation, to say that the author did not intend these strata is to diminish the phenomenological aspects of reading. Phenomenology states that reading is determined not by the author’s intentions, and not just by the text, and not just by the reader, but by the phenomenal experience that is had between all these factors. Strata of any sort is part of the embodying of the poem and also part of the phenomenal experience of the poem. Every poet (or at least publisher who shares in the “performance” of poetry) needs to be aware of these constraints.

    Because there is more than one stratum, there is more than one poetry. Strata-poetics allows us to understand the various decisions a poet makes when writing a poem. Strata-poetics allows us to understand that one poetry should not be held to the same standards as another poetry. As we increasingly move towards different modes of living (bionics, virtual reality, augmented reality, social media, etc.) as we increasingly rely on digital spheres of information, as we move from biological to mechanical to digital strata, we must re-evaluate the role of poetries. Strata-poetics is one such re-evaluation.Work Cited

Benjamin, Walter. “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” The Critical Tradition.         New York, 2007.  Ed. David H. Richter. p. 1233. Print.

Gioia, Dana. “Can Poetry Matter” The Atlantic: The Atlantic Online, May 1991. Web.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. “Writer as Meme-Maker.” The New Yorker Online, 22 October         2013. Web.

Lafrance, Adrienne. “Raiders of the Lost Web”. The Atlantic, 14 October 2015. Web.

Nichols, Travis. “If No One Can Find My Book, Does It Exist?” Poetry Foundation, 10         May 2007. Web.

Sarkeesian, Anita. “Feminist Frequency” Youtube, 14 Feb. 2009. Web.

Tristram, Hildegard. ”Why Don't the English Speak Welsh?” The Boydell Press: Boston.      The Britons in Anglo-Saxon England, N. J. Higham (ed.), p. 192–214.

 

 

Substrate Poetry

 

 

Right now I am typing this essay on a computer. I am using the Apple Mac OSX operating system, specifically OSX El Capitan 10.11.4 on a MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015). I am using the notes application, which syncs my “notes” to all my devices (if this is starting to sound like an advertisement, it is not). The application only allows for minimal editing capacity. At one point I am going to move this essay to a word processing program, probably Pages, and then I am going to send the paper to a print, and then I am going to print that paper and then I am going to hand that paper in for an assignment. I use this as the preface for my argument on substrate poetry, mostly to get the audience to think about the many different ways a text is embodied, and the many different times a text is disembodied, re-embodied, etc. What I hope to come towards is a recognition that these different states of embodiment for the text not only has an impact of the writing process and creation of pieces, but that such states also impact the meaning of the piece. 

But first I need to point out what I mean by “substrate poetry,” what it is and what it isn’t. First off, substrate poetry is mainly focused on the substrate in which a text appears, or more accurately it is interested in the whole process which texts go through. Substrate poetry is not art. Nor is it concrete poetry or graphic poetry. Such as [the guy who makes the art with a typewriter] or bpNichols (I think I spelled that right). Although bpNichols is probably the closest person to a substrate poet. But let me go back to the idea of concrete poetry. for the most part, and if I understand it right, concrete poetry is interested in the shape a poem takes on a page. Concrete poetry does not, on the other hand, take into account that it is on the page. Concrete poetry does not care if it is on the page or if it is on the internet. 

Substrate poetry seeks to explain that when a poem is on the computer, and when the poem is on the printed page, that these two poems are different poems, even thought they may contain the same words, they do not contain the same quality. I suppose that I would also need to include some scientific reports that show what differences reading experiences occur when something is read on a computer compared to when a piece is read on paper. One simple explanation is the recent development by Apple for their new iPad Pro, which points out the subtle nuances of viewing experiences on analog vs. digital devices: [their marketing term here]. This [term] takes into account the fact that paper reflects light. Digital devices emit light. Because paper reflects light, it will change based on the color of the light of the environment in which the paper is being viewed; if outside in white light, the paper will appear more white; if inside under incandescent light, then the paper will appear more yellow. 

To say that these are not factors in the consumption of the text because they were not intended to be factors in their creation, is to diminish the phenomenological aspects of reading. phenomenology states that reading [and I may be butchering this, but I’ll need to look closer at this to verify] that reading is determined not by the author’s intentions, and not just by the text, and not just by the reader, but the phenomenal experience is had between all these factors, between the reader’s past experience and learning, and between the author’s intentions, and between the actual text. And as part and parcel of all of this -between- is the substrate upon which the text exists, the context, the process that produced it, the fact that the text remains as light or as an object that reflects light. But this is just a small example of a much more complicated and vastly more in depth feild of meaning making and critical analysis. 

As another example, take the fact that this text exists on my hard-drive as 0s and 1s. Take the fact that this text in a moment could be erased. Take for a moment, that this text depends on electricity, that it depends on a whole modern and post-modern system in order to maintain its existence, that this text is light, that this text can travel around the world in seconds, that this text can be moved and redacted and changes in many ways with a word processor, that this text was created through a systematized machine called the keyboard, that no matter how many times I type z that the z will always look like all the other zs that came before it, that i can’t draw lines, that I am stuck in a linear mode, that there are so many different facets of meaning that come as a result of each of these facts. Now take into accounts that all of this will reamin, but that at one point the essay will become paper, that once on paper the quality and kind and way in which these meanings exist are lost, that the text now becomes more limited by time and space as an object, that as an object it can be put in a museum, that the object now has originality, that the paper has an origin, that the paper reflects light, that the paper changes according to its environment, that the paper does not depend on a large postmodern system (I suppose that I might take a pause here to explain that I take modernity to have given us roads and buildings and a lot of the architecture and infrastructure that we have today, and I would call all of this (even the production of paper and books) modernity, and that I would call postmodernity all of the newer infrastructure of the internet and bluetooth and other kinds of devices and smartphones etc. that all accumulate and create the world in a very different way). 

And it’s this kind of postmodernity infrastructure that makes substrate poetry a different things. Because what is lost in translation when a handwritten poem is put through a keyboard. what kinds of characteristics are lost. And if we are to argue that these things don’t make a difference in the reading of poems, then we need to make that argument, but to say that they don’t matter, and to ignore them completely is to eschew possible spaces of meaning and meaning making of language, which is what the whole tradition of poetry is founded on (perhaps at this point I may bring up Heidegger, but that might not be helpful, I’m not sure, I’ll need to take another closer look at Heidegger to make sure that I am understanding him correctly). And I guess that poetry has always been impacted by technology. Poetry has a long standing relationship to technology. Poetry is a technology. Sorry this is sounding redundant, but I am trying to find my footing here. The human body is the finest piece of technology that we have, and it served as the first and foremost producer of poetry. But then poetry turned to the modern commercial paper, the modern commercial paperback. These technologies have been the main tool for language during the entire modern period. and now that we live in a postmodern period, with postmodern tools of meaning making and language, we have to take into account these subtlties (yikes this section on technology and poetry is a little rough. perhaps I might take a closer look at Benjamin and Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). 

Mainly, what I hope to do is to remove the comfort and privilege (and by using the word privilege, I would like to take a closer look at Derrida and post-structuralist theory), I would hope to remove the privilege that the white page of paper has had for poetry. In fact, the white page of paper has such a privilege, when it comes to language that we have created skeumorphic design to continue that privilege.(I wonder if language can exist upon anything other than a two dimensional plane.) And at this point, I think I need to explain skeumorphism, because I feel that my audience isn’t very familiar with these terms. A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original. An example of this is the “wood paneled” station wagon. There is no wood. The wood is derivative from the era in which wood was actually used for objects. But skuemophism hasn’t existed until we had an age where things could function like something without needing to appear like that thing. We’ve had a cultural heritage of objects and archtypes which we have used in order to help us transition. For example the camera. Digital Camera makers would created iterations of their camera models still based upon the film cameras which required a boxy look and a certain thickness to hold the film, and even a viewfinder in the center where the film could go through. This is no longer necessary. The film is no longer used, and yet the form remains merely as a tactic in order for the transition from one archtype to a new archtype. Another example of this is Apple’s iOS ecosystem (and the fact that we have developed the term “ecosystem” to describe these operating systems is interesting in and of itself). From the inception of iOS until iOS 6, the iPhone and iPad relied on skeumorphic designs: the calendar app featured leather and stitching on the edges, the audio recording app showed an old timey microphone, the compass looked like a compass you would pull out of your pocket, the notes application featured a “yellow legal pad “with a “felt pen” and even would “fold” over the “top” when making a new note. When iOS 7 was launched the trend moved away from skeumorphism. But much of the web has maintained the skeumorphism, and even down to the language: “web page” “email address” “mailbox” etc. Our language still reflects old notions, but these things are so far morphed from the skeumorphs they are based on that they are something entirely other. 

I only inclulde the illustration and explanation of skeumorphism as an example of the privilege that paper has as a technology. It even metaphorically has a privilege. Imagine having a real and an imagined privilege. Paper has a real and an imagined privilege with language. 

But ultimately, the argument is to ask ourselves how language can function and exist in new and meaningful ways (neo-meaning) outside of the both analog paper and skuemorphic paper boundaries. What I hope this discussion on substrate poetics point out is that we need to pay attention to the underlying structure on which these things are based in order to really get at the layers of meaning.

Again, poetry is about layering meaning and to miss the substrates is to miss another more complex capacity for additional meanings. 

We have only begun to explore the capacities of language in a digital world, and we’ve only cracked the surface because we ...

 

Substrate Poetry:

 

Abstract: Poetry has a longstanding tradition with the white sheet of paper. Even as poetry has moved online, the website as a medium is nonetheless skeumorphic and referential of it’s traditional medium: the blank white sheet of paper. As a result the word processor has been the main source of creating poetry, reducing poetry (mostly) to a systems art based on the keyboard (at least in a Western sense). Substrate poetry is poetry that resists the traditional substrates of poetry (white sheet of paper, keyboard, word processor, etc.) and seeks meaning through new mediums where scripted visual language is possible. Substrate poetry does not try to just place language/poetry in new places/mediums, but seeks to integrate the meaning of the language with the meaning of the substrate. Some examples of non-traditional substrates include social networks such as Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, etc. or a return to handwritten language, or even includes le formats such as .GIF. Additionally, substrate poetry is aware of the physical ontology of a poem: if digital, the poem exists electromagnetically on a server or computer; if physical, exists in visual contrast on ink and paper, etc. Ultimately, substrate poetry hopes to highlight the possibilities with the ways in which poetry exists in order to free it from the trappings of its tradition and free poetry to exist more extensively in response to new technology. Art always works in tandem with technology, and substrate poetry seeks to highlight and clarify that relation. 

 

Examples:

GIF poem (your website)

Gray Matter poem (your example)

Graffiti poem (Mary Szybist ceiling poem)

Contextual poem (Kenneth Goldsmith)

Handwritten poem

 

Skeumorphism: Think of the word Web “Page”

 

Different Mediums:

Binary Code

    (talk about how the context of the servers makes a difference; does google own your poem on google drive; is your poem “published” on your website, etc.)

    (talk about how the poem exists literally as light or electromagnetism, and ask how does the impact the meaning of the poem)

Paper and Ink

Keyboard

    (which means its not just about the substrate but the conference paper is also about the tools that are used to make the piece)

Word Processor

    (how does your poem change when it is made with Microsoft Word (the green underlines) or with Pages, or with any other kind of word processor?)

    (What happens when you don’t put it through a word processor?)

 

Permutations of the mediums (such as binary code):

    Applications

    Websites

    etc.

 

pictures:

a picture of a server

a picture ofusb drive (but the internals and really close up)

a picture of text printed on the page and looked at really close so you can see the fibers

 

 

what about the guy who does the coding Owens

 

Poetry has a longstanding tradition with the white sheet of paper. Even as poetry has moved online, the website as a medium is nonetheless skeumorphic and referential of it's traditional medium: the blank white sheet of paper. As a result the word processor has been the main source of creating poetry, reducing poetry (mostly) to a systems art based on the keyboard (at least in a Western sense). Substrate poetry is poetry that resists the traditional substrates of poetry (white sheet of paper, keyboard, word processor, etc.) and seeks meaning through new mediums where scripted visual language is possible. Substrate poetry does not try to just place language/poetry in new places/mediums, but seeks to integrate the meaning of the language with the meaning of the substrate. Some examples of non-traditional substrates include social networks such as Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, etc. or a return to handwritten language, or even includes file formats such as .GIF. Additionally, substrate poetry is aware of the physical ontology of a poem: if digital, the poem exists electromagnetically on a server or computer; if physical, exists in visual contrast on ink and paper, etc. Ultimately, substrate poetry hopes to highlight the possibilities with the ways in which poetry exists in order to free it from the trappings of its tradition and free poetry to exist more extensively in response to new technology. Art always works in tandem with technology, and substrate poetry seeks to highlight and clarify that relation.

 

first lets define literacy: literacy in its simplest sense is to be able to read

 

 

set the stage:

a space for meta literacy was made in the wake of the advent of the Internet. new substrates for meaning were available: a type of paper that was behind glass and has infinite ability to transmute. with digital screens there was a dynamic paper. before the advent of smartphones reading online was a luxury, something done rarely. it was about immersion and frequency. paper had an ubiquity. paper was the privileged technology of the 18th 19th and 20th centuries. in this 21st century, paper is no longer the king of communication. at any rate, this change in economic and privileged technology changes how we read. don't get me wrong, paper is still privileged in certain ways and with certain mediums or with certai communicative meanings, but this is the point of metaliteracy. metaliteracy is about being able to read reading. 

 

literacy is the ability to read and write in a specific language. reading is the ability to extract meaning from a language, and writing is the ability to create meaning within a specific language. literacy then is the ability to extract and create meaning in a specific language. according to these definitions, metaliteracy, then, is the ability to extract and create meaning from the process of extracting and creating meaning. 

 

I was thinking of metaliteracy as the ability to read and write literacies. it was this idea that I could look at a space and then be able to create a language create a literacy. or that I could look at a space and be able to read the literacy. it would be the kind of ability to read the things between language. for example, I would be able to go on Twitter and quickly become literate in Twitter. but isn't this basic literacy? isn't this just learning to read and write on Twitter. I suppose then, it's not the reading, but the reading of yourself reading? no being able to read how other people reading. you can't really read how other people read. reading is such a private thing. 

 

if someone is reading, they are extracting meaning. and I can extract meaning from that extracted meaning. 

 

okay so reading is always a reading of writing. and writing is always read. so these two things are symbiotic. you don't really have one without the other. 

 

but what if reading was read. 

 

is metaliteracy just hermeneutics. 

 

or is literacy just hermeneutics, and is metaliteracy just posthermeneutics. 

 

I can look at the materialities of communication. metaliteracy is an awareness of how reading is

 

metaliteracy: how is reading and writing. 

 

by what means is reading and writing. 

 

is this not just phenomenology? how is literature.

 

notes on 

 

poem. 

 

(above is not poem. I did not copy and paste it. the above poem. is a different one)

it's plagiarized. I stole the idea from Borges or Kenneth goldsmith or john travolta or my mom. 

also I created it in the notes app of the iPhone. I need to do more research to fully understand it. 

include research here:

who made the notes app

iphone?

I can't seem to trace it back to its origin. 

before it was poem. it was just an idea. 

and then it was translated into action

translated into bytes and I'm sure I will move it elsewhere. 

perhaps to a printer eventually. 

no, that is not poem. nor is that. there is only one place that poem. actually exists right now and it is in the notes app on my phone. 

my phone is on airplane mode and once I take that off poem. will be copied to a server of apple's. this makes apple my first publisher of poem. once on the server it will distribute to my other devices. this will make apple my first distributor as well. 

but I wonder if these are actually poem. or if they are copies of poem. poem. is not something that can be so easily pinned down. 

I've taken a screen shot of poem. and I want to erase it from the notes app so it will not move to apple's servers. but my photos move there as well. I could erase the picture and note but then it would only exist in my mind and no longer outside of it. 

does poem only exist by deliberate action. 

each poem has its own rules. what are the rules of poem. does it only mean poem. when it is deliberately copied. does the movement to apple servers negate it as being poem. 

what if I photocopied a printout of poem. 

I can't retype it. it would be a different poem. 

I want to record that I made it by typing poem and then double tapping the spacebar to add the period after it and that poem. includes a space after it. 

this is dependent on my settings, which has the double spacebar shortcut enabled. also I have set it to not capitalize the first letter. this is why poem. is lowercase. 

poem. occurred to me after caressing my son to sleep. I believe he had a fever and was having feverish dreams. in fact now as I type this he is mumbling and moaning in his sleep. tossing and turning. 

there are other factors that are contemporaneous with poem. I have a paper due on absolom tomorrow and I have a paper on howl to finish. the last week of classes starts today. yesterday I had a conversation with my father about Kenneth goldsmith. I spoke with my mother in law about prophets. 

I am fascinated about poem. 

it is a moment. 

all that converged to make this moment I will never fully comprehend it. nor can I fully face it. 

I don't k is what to do with it. 

shall I turn off airplane mode and let it loose. 

had I written poem. on a piece of paper would it be different. 

I can't get it on paper. rather I can't handwrite it. 

in fact I don't think even turning off airplane mode will let it loose. I don't think that any of those copies are the real thing. they are just copies. 

if he argues that context matters, then I argue that author and intent matters. I can copy and plagiarize till the day is done, but these thoughts did not occur to me. the copying occurred to me. the copying occurred to apple. the movement occurred to apple. the movement occurs to the plagiarist. sure anyone can write their name on a urinal, but it is the occurrance that matters. it is the genius, the origin of illumination that matters. 

and I'm not sure that I fully understand this idea of origin. 

I will have to pass my phone around the workshop to actually share poem. 

said that Mecca was no more. said that pilgrimage was over because of the Internet. I disagree. 

said that this is not a pipe. said that this was an image of a pipe. said that you couldn't stuff it. I say that this is not poem. none of poem. in this note are poem. they are copies of poem. but the real poem. is in a note next to this. 

this phone has a black leather case on it. 

I wrote poem. while this phone was plugged in to an apple charger that is threaded under my bed. I was under a blanket in the dark when I write poem. 

poem. was a moment. it was a textual (written) object that remains embedded in this phone. 

poem. cannot be removed from this phone. I don't see how it's possible because any method of extracting it will change it. it is completely dependent on its context to exist. in fact as soon as the o.s. is updated poem. will cease to exist. it requires that everything that went into it remains the same. I am not sure whether it is disintegrating as I type because the moment of making is slipping away. how to preserve poem. time slowly erases it. all art is ephemeral art. nothing lasts. 

screenshot. photo. if these are made they must remain in the place they were made. to set up a tripod and then take a picture and refuse to remove the tripod. this is photo. but as soon as the camera is moved it is no longer photo. I'm not sure what photo. becomes then. a bastard. a diluted extanciation. 

context matters. so much that it cannot be extracted without oblivioning it. 

presentation about the importance of substrates. not only does the substrate matter, but the specific substrate. this substrate. this phone. this very device. even down to time and location as a substrate. I wish I could take my poetry workshop class down to my bedroom and show them each poem. after they lay down on the bed under the blanket in the dark like I am now. 

one copy of josh bell's poetry collection. no planets strike. contains a poem called zombie sunday. that poem that I have in my bag is not the same poem that tyler corbridge has. they are on similar substrates but the paper came from different trees (?) or different parts of the same tree. at any rate, they are completely different poems. even then I only have a copy of zombie sunday. I do not have the actual one. I'm not sure where it is or if it still exists. 

originals. it's much more and much less than originals. what makes an original van gogh any different than an original levertov or hicok. 

 

12:47 December 9

entering BYU store

only a small portion of poem. is actually here. 

Dear Zach,

I apologize for this late response!  I've been stretched thin lately, and I am sorry if this response is too late.  Thank you for your questions and your interest.

Yes, paper and hand-written ink was how I started.  I am afraid that my technical skills are quite slim.  I started with the idea of wanting to try a poem in this form.  I took an early hand-written draft to Kelly Wainwright, the kind woman who heads our IT department at the college, and she figured out how to do it.  She was very patient with me as I kept revising; I don't think the early drafts looked very similar to the final draft.  We went back and forth quite a few times.  It was Kelly's pdf draft that was published on the Academy's Poem-a-day--

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/all-times-and-all-tenses-moment

and that I sent to Graywolf.  I changed the title after an event in Lancaster PA, where the poem was painted by a trio of artists; someone at that event said that the poem seemed to embody the ideas of a book he'd just read called _How (Not) to Speak of God_.  My husband already had the book, and I realized we'd already talked about it together.  I turned to it myself, and decided to steal its title as it seemed a better and more fitting title for the poem.

I wrote about the process of writing the poem here:

https://www.graywolfpress.org/blogs/craft-mary-szybist-visual-poetry

Again, thank you for your kind interest and questions.

Mary