Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry


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Neal Alexander and David Cooper

Passersby are drawn into the network of each exchange, extending the madness into a cacophony that utterly disrupts daily life, turning a grocery store into the scene of a massive food fight and throwing airports and hospitals into disarray. In one vignette, a father and son browse television sets in an appliance store. The data cloud, this campaign suggests, is too vast and overwhelming for most of us to navigate on our own. We need Bing to cut through the excess like a Memex connecting one idea to the next.

These images of pervasive data as an impediment to navigation inflect the work of conceptual writers, many of whom work with source texts to encourage alternate readings through remediation.

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The resulting poems consist entirely of the abbreviated previews Google generated for his search results, arranged and lineated, but unchanged by Shirinyan. Instead, we face the grim reality of the need for medical equipment that can be fixed on-site. The decontextualized search result suggests the country itself is the object of his limited knowledge, understanding, and love.

This means that some poems include an insistent refrain that juxtaposes the rest of the content. The line is comical on its own, but set against stanzas that deal with the harsher reality of the country they ring out like the voice of a spoiled tourist blind to his or her place within its socioeconomic fabric.

The Irrelevant and the Contemporary

The selection surrounding the second repetition provides a representative sample. The language of the first stanza above establishes a tourist speaker enjoying the weather that banal topic for postcards and letters abroad. The undertone of conquest, though, once established, continues to haunt the poem. Absences like this one emphasize the partiality of our view, revealing the constraint of the work to the reader.

By letting the absence stand, Shirinyan forces us to account for the seeming contradiction of the stanza. We cannot envision the poem as spoken by a single voice when we see that the decontextualization of these lines corrupts their meaning—a grim reality faced more often by public figures and politicians than poets. The absence of poems for these entries provides a stark commentary on the way our information-saturated state can lull us into believing that if something is not online it does not, in fact, exist.

Just as signage or 3-D text raises the question of definition, Your Country is Great forces us to consider the arbitrary relationship between keyword and result that Google would have us accept as a work of algorithmic genius. Shirinyan thus reminds us that when writing under constraints language becomes data. As a conceptual writer, he gathers and processes information for the reader in the service of both highlighting and aestheticizing the politics of the cloud. With this metaphor, he makes the provocative case that conceptual writing arises in direct response to the information saturation of our contemporary landscape—an attempt to reduce, reuse, and recycle our excess language.

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In a recent post for Harriet , the Poetry Foundation Blog, Goldsmith explicitly correlates conceptual writing with a response to information saturation. While it is not the only response to the digital age [. For me the question is where do I go to consider all of this? In a interview for Bomblog, the web arm of Bomb Magazine , he expresses the paradox. For example, The Polished You, contributed by performance artist and poet Kate Durbin, appropriates selections from a s finishing school workbook from the four-volume Nancy Taylor Course.

Clean-cut and wholesome? Why do you think you appear this way? A combination of these? Some other? Do you agree with this? The secretarial school bearing her name was founded in by an entrepreneur named Bert Schiff to provide vocational training and finishing classes to women, but Schiff transformed it in the s into the Taylor Business Institute, which currently offers associate degrees in a range of skills including accounting, medical billing, and electronics engineering.

As she acknowledges in an interview for Examiner. These works, like those of conceptual poetry, revel in the quality of language as data and explore the potential of the cloud to provide meaningful connections across seemingly dissonant information. These words are accompanied by one or several images that fade in and out against a black background, sometimes partly obscured by black bars or broken in pieces and appearing at random anywhere on the page.

Snare-heavy down-tempo electronic music plays—a repetitive tune, both atmospheric and claustrophobic, that suggests obsession and fixation. Each time the reader clicks his or her mouse, the text and image fade out and new ones appear.

Selecting anywhere on the right side of the screen progresses the index forward, while clicking the left takes readers back to the previous text entry, a subtle navigational choice the reader might miss if he or she never moved the cursor. The interchanging images and driving music juxtaposed with the alphabetized index entries suggest an account book of someone trying to come to terms with past trauma by laying it out in order.


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What comes down in time accretes. We learn the story in bits and pieces. One has the sense of a young man who has seen a number of awful things he would rather forget, but cannot, and who has developed an obsession with detection and investigation as a means of coping. Just as the lines of the poem accrue meaning as we go on, they accrete images as well.

In addition, if users tag these images with words from the poem, they are likely to appear contextually. Juxtaposed with the text, these images create a kind of scrapbook, a card file of fragmented associations. By inviting readers to tag Flickr images, Thorpe asks us to take part in cataloguing the evidence—assigning labels to objects in order to help map out the life of which this index provides a partial picture. In the absence of a physical body, we must reconstruct a digital one from the data cloud it has left behind.

V. Writing’s “New Figurativeness”: Data Visualization and Textual Immersion

In order to understand what has happened, we need to investigate, collect evidence, and solve for X. Like the words of the poem, it is data that can be tagged with any number of images. Thus Monson and Thorpe take advantage of the nature of language itself as data in order to give readers a greater role in building the story and the reading experience. Thorpe makes the importance of user collaboration explicit in his blog entry about the piece.

However, sometimes a disjunct between image and text reminds us of the unpredictability of networked collaboration. Did the tagger who generated this connection hope to create an ironic juxtaposition, or was this appearance purely coincidental and driven by machine logic? They may visit the poem repeatedly simply in the hope that one of their own images will turn up. And each time they read, they will be fully aware that this is only one possible experience. The story, purposefully broken apart, will not be made to cohere because the writer does not wish to make it do so.

The poetry of the index lies in the data surrounding it—the imagined text to which it applies, and which users rebuild and re-make, applying our own associations to each word. Thorpe and other programmers and graphic designers have taken this quality of twenty-first century language to its extreme in the practice of information aesthetics, which consists in making data into art.

Modern Poetry

For example, Barack Obama, Hamas, and the Senate stand out in These names appear in a circle with lines connecting them to one another based on how often they arise together Figure 9. Not only do data visualizations like this one turn data into visual poetry, programmers have turned their programs on poems themselves. Moving from the idea of place as a 'structure of feeling', an important concept for post-war British and US poets as diverse as Frank O'Hara, Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney, the poems, both in the content and the forms they employ, explore increasingly interconnected and destabilised landscapes.

As if Only continues to develop the idea of place and its relation to the mobile human body, and its relationship to increasingly globalised structures and systems. My work was, for many years, broadly concerned with the Welsh landscape, read through spatial and mobility theory in an international context, and drawing on the multilingual and multicultural nature of Welsh experience and the presence of two official languages.

My work reflects this through the use of Cynghanedd metre, albeit in English language poems, and this has carried forward to my recent Tyne and Wear poems project where in some sequences I use Welsh forms to describe North East English experience, as well as ekphrastic work. The Tyne and Wear Poems are an extended project, published in a number of recent pamphlets four so far , that will be collected together to form a more substantial publication. Sign in for more lists. No additional import charges at delivery!

Ideas Of Space In Contemporary Poetry By Ian Davidson (2007-05-15) - Ian Davidson

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Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry
Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry
Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry
Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry
Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry
Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry
Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry Ideas of Space in Contemporary Poetry

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