ePoetry 2007, Paris

This ePoetry conference consisted of four evenings of performances and three days of papers. The papers will slowly appear on the conference website.

Conference Papers

I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough to provide anything resembling a sensible commentary on any of the papers, so I won't---with the exception of one theme.

I'll start with some background. Way back in the early 1990s, I was involved in a Dorling-Kindersley project to produce a multi-media title for Microsoft. I wrote the software which did the work. When the user looked at a page, played a sound, changed pages, etc., my software followed the product designers script to direct 16-bit Windows 3.1 to produce the desired result. The product I was directly involved in was Microsoft Musical Instruments. Microsoft reused the software I wrote in a number of other similar titles.

Microsoft Musical Instruments won review accolades, and even some prizes as the best multi-media title of the year. What made me really proud was that, so far as I know, in none of the reviews, in none of the write-ups, was any mention made of my software. The thing is, software is only really noticed when it goes wrong. People don't use a computer for the software, they use it to do something, and the computer, software & hardware, enables (or otherwise) them to do what they want. Thus, no mention of the software, to me, meant their attention was on the multi-media content, which is exactly where it should have been. My software seemed to have worked properly, because no one noticed it.

My problem with a lot of ePoetry is that the attention is still on the software, not on the poetic effect. To me, the software is merely one of the tools available for achieving poetic effect; the attention should be on the poetry alone. This suggests the software doesn't do the job properly.

Of course, what software, and other technologies, offer, is potential new mechanisms for achieving poetic effect. At the moment, ePoetry seems to be exploring combining other arts, such as music, photography, games and film, with poetry, which is fine. But, to me, the emphasis too often seems to be on the gee whizz, not the poetry. Of course, there are fine exceptions, some of whom are noted above.

When an artform concentrates on the how more than the artistic effect, that suggests it doesn't properly understand that how, that the artform is immature. I also noticed, to my surprise, there was no reference to the great potential computer art, also immature, computer games. I don't believe epoetry can properly mature until it's explored computer games' engines, and I know epoetry will remain immature until paragraphs like this one are no longer written.

I've not produced any epoetry, with the possible, & definitely dubious, exception of the To Let video. I think I'd like to have a go, but I'm going to have to spend quite a lot of time exploring & developing techniques. I'm interested in poetic effect, not geewhiz: I hope my results are simple. I've got some ideas for tools to use, mainly because I'm looking for particular poetic effects. I have no idea whether I'll achieve the effects I want.

Notes on performances

There were performances each evening. Unfortunately, these performances were all in bars, so I missed some of them when my attention was elsewhere, or, subsequently, inoperative. My lame excuse is that I'd only intended to record the conference visually. All the same, I took these notes.


clemente padin; poesie concrete; performance speak, hear, see; using mallerme, joyce; depended very much on the spanish; seemed to be classic performance poetry (using words from those authors?) plus some automatic-poetry

lucio agra, paulo hartmann; free improv. on guitar à la john cage; plus electro drums and i've forgotten the poetry.

upton, ok; visuals visual poems à la cobbing; understands fonts; sound processing live from voice into many channels; sample, effect, present, represent, ... sound poetry john drever composer live music concrete techniques.

jorg piringer: good, short sound poems on specific letters; sound processed and echoes of electronica; visuals dancing letters movement directly responding to voice; the hit of the evening. inspired by vienna group using language as material, plus explore earlier avant guard e.g. dada. elements of display explored newtonian behaviour. music inspired by Gabour theories chap who discovered holography. John cage quoted again. he got the audience alive with music, poetry, image ... Very 1980s.

Added later: Musically, Upton & Drever come from the traditional electronic classic sound space. They use techniques explored by Stockhausen, and I think I heard the influence of Reich and Xenakis too. Piringer comes from the Techno sound space. He seems to limit himself to 1980s computer music & display techniques. The two are very very different.

girl x: poem in French, beyond my French, had a strong response from those around me; visuals the poems wound around the screen, animated futurism; well recited; she stood still on stage facing a camera which, at times, was mixed into the video shown, she ended the piece by stripping and adopting a fetal pose. That certainly countered her stiff stillness for most of the piece, but I wished she'd have been more animated earlier. The piece clearly worked for French speakers.

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loss glazier read, not too well, an effective poem on an American in Cuba; accompanied by real dancers performing to his words unrehearsed. I didn't understand their language, which is my ignorance.

guy x had three random pieces, chosen by tosing a coin. The first was a recorded video recital of very funny short french poems (their language was simple enough for me to grasp).

sondheim piece; didn't realise it was him live from new york; too busy watching the manic computer-animated dancers.

A number of pieces didn't work for me because the visuals distratced from the poetry rather than complemented it (e.g. a complex poetry with holiday photos piece), the sound didn't work musically, or I quite simply didn't understand the language.

very noticable absence of germanic etc. contribution; anglo-saxon, french and latin/latin american---except for Jorg.


jim rosenberg, meshes of stanzas highlighted by approaching mouse. Interesting form, but i don't like the text itself; too dense (am I a hypocrite). Words included daple, meander, words i'm allergic to. Clear bur vicarly reading style.

Sequence of postcards, each with fading in and out instant memroy, plus music and recited poetry. Chorus child trying to say instant memory. Second batch no music visuals, pythonesque.

Recital with playstation graphics battle. Not bad straight poem about failing relationship.

Polish woman uses point sizes well. Her childhod self and her doll worked a treat.

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Welsh guy can hardly move; powerful voice, excellent … astra? In the talk the next day: "Most epoetry is about mechanism, it doesn't address the problem of meaning". "I have written about the problem of getting across the page without too much loss of self-esteem".

Video, text on film, not always clear (bad choice of fixed colour), musique concrete and often voice. By that time i was tired. it had its points.

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Guy with mock blogs and destructive/constructive web site was fascinating! I loved this idea. Steals text from other sites and generates auto-blog.


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These pieces were live presentations or performances based on web sites. Annoyingly, too many were presented without light on the sitemaster, so I have no photos. Go browse.

Jerome Fletcher had a camera pointed at the audience, and his piece reacted to what the camera took. He had most of the audience waving, moving & hopping up & down. Ironicaly, the piece didn't work becuase he'd make some mistakes for the performance; I was too busy moving around to read the text.

stephanie strickland & cynthia lawson Jaramillo presented a piece composed of processed video of moving water with music concrete and poetry. The video work was excellent, some of the best water I've seen for a long time. Unfortunately, whoever mixed in the poetry didn't know what they were doing; they took no acount of the video which often resulted in unreadable words; so unreadable that, at times, the poet (presuming) couldn't read them in the performance.

Tibor Papp was the hit of the evening. His was sound poetry, almost a jazz-like scat performance, but with samples of other performances of his rhythmic sylllables, and clearly the live mix included some of the sounds he'd just spoken.

Sytephen Biggs had a work where you paint on the surface, and you paintbrush is stanzas of his poem. You click to move on to the next stanza. It may not sound exciting, but Patrick Burgaud, the conference organiser, jumped on poor Stepher's computer and couldn't stop playing with the work.

Last evening

I took no notes, unfortunately.

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image: poetry


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ePoetry Paris 2007
2K4 Poetry Summit
The 13th CCCP

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