Digital poetry

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33.3 QR code poem by Genco Gulan

Digital poetry is a form of electronic literature, displaying a wide range of approaches to poetry, with a prominent and crucial use of computers. Digital poetry can be available in form of CD-ROM, DVD, as installations in art galleries, in certain cases also recorded as digital video or films, as digital holograms, on the World Wide Web or Internet, and as mobile phone apps.

A significant portion of current publications of poetry are available either only online or via some combination of online and offline publication. There are many types of 'digital poetry' such as hypertext, kinetic poetry, computer generated animation, digital visual poetry, interactive poetry, code poetry, experimental video poetry, and poetries that take advantage of the programmable nature of the computer to create works that are interactive, or use generative or combinatorial approach to create text (or one of its states), or involve sound poetry, or take advantage of things like listservs, blogs, and other forms of network communication to create communities of collaborative writing and publication (as in poetical wikis).

Digital platforms allow the creation of art that spans different media: text, images, sounds, and interactivity via programming. Contemporary poetries have, therefore, taken advantage of this toward the creation of works that synthesize both arts and media. Whether a work is poetry or visual art or music or programming is sometimes not clear, but we expect an intense engagement with language in poetical works.[1]


Early digital poems include Christopher Strachey's love letter generator (1952), the stochastic texts which were indirectly produced by the German mathematician Theo Lutz in 1959 by programming a Z22 of Konrad Zuse;[2] Nanni Balestrini's "Tape Mark I" in Italian, published in 1961;[3] and Brion Gysin's English permutation poems from around 1959, done automatically with the collaboration of Ian Somerville. These and other early digital poems are discussed in C. T. Funkhouser's Prehistoric Digital Poetry.[4]

Hypertext poetry[edit]

Hypertext poetry is a form of digital poetry that uses links using hypertext mark-up. It is a very visual form, and is related to hypertext fiction and visual arts. The links mean that a hypertext poem has no set order, the poem moving or being generated in response to the links that the reader/user chooses. It can either involve set words, phrases, lines, etc. that are presented in variable order but sit on the page much as traditional poetry does, or it can contain parts of the poem that move and / or mutate. It is usually found online, though CD-ROM and diskette versions exist. The earliest examples date to no later than the mid 1980s.

Interactive poetry[edit]

Interactive poetry is a form of digital poetry by which the reader may or must contribute to the content, form, or performance of the work, thereby influencing the meaning and experience of the poem. Interaction allows the reader to participate and influence the work and their experience of it.

Interactive poetry is limited to a digital medium as it cannot perform the same function in other media such as print, which limits accessibility. Interactive poetry can also provide a different experience with each reading or from reader to reader and so analysis of this type of poetry can be challenging as the experience is not static.

An example of audience participatory poetry is haikU by Nanette Wylde. Elit scholar, Scott Rettberg writes of this project "Nanette Wylde’s haikU (2001) is a project based on principles of user participation and on the use of a randomizing function to produce haiku that startle in the sense of producing unintended juxtapositions—no single author has determined which lines will appear together. The reading interface is a simple, spare web page. Every time a reader reloads the page, a new haiku is produced. Following a link to “Write haiku” individuals can submit their own haiku in three lines, each of which has its own button to post the line to bins of first, middle, and last lines. The poems delivered on each reload of the site are not the individual haiku as submitted by readers, but recombinations of these first, middle, and last lines of haiku pulled together in a variable way. Reloading the page twenty times or so, it is remarkable how many of the poems read as if they have been individually intended by a human intelligence. Most of the haiku, perhaps 80%, cohere quite well as poetry."[5]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Computer-Generated Poetry Liberates Readers, Attracts Coders". Slice of MIT. Retrieved 2014-05-16.
  2. ^ The Present [Future] of Electronic Literature in Transdisciplinary Digital Art: Sound, Vision and the New Screen, Communications in Computer and Information Science (CCIS), Volume 7, R. Adams, S. Gibson and S. Müller Arisona, Springer.
  3. ^ Mazzei, Alessandro; Valle, Andrea (2016). "Combinatorics vs Grammar: archeology of computational poetry in Tape Mark I". Proceedings of the INLG 2016 Workshop on Computational Creativity in Natural Language Generation.
  4. ^ Chris., Funkhouser (2007). Prehistoric digital poetry : an archaeology of forms, 1959-1995. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 9780817380878. OCLC 183291342.
  5. ^ Rettberg, Scott (2013). "Human Computation in Electronic Literature". In Michelucci, Pietro (ed.). Handbook of Human Computation. New York: Springer. pp. 187–203. ISBN 978-1493948154.


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