Listen to my words of wisdom … mashups welcome


[audio:http://daveydreamnation.com/audio/Prater_ELO_2012.mp3]
Audio: ‘Why “But is it e-lit?” is a ridiculous question’
Download [mp3, 22.3Mb]

During the recent K&D Stylings North American Tour, I took a detour to attend the Electronic Literature Organization conference: Electrifying Literature / Affordances and Constraints, which was held at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a detour as the second leg of my itinerary but WGAF. Anyways, I also presented a paper at the conference, and that’s what this post is really about. As you can see from the image above, my audience was vast. Again, I tell a squeaky little lie. This is what the auditorium looked like ten minutes before my panel started. Which was still at the godless hour of 8.30am on Saturday 23 June 2012.

Thankfully, a few hardy souls ended up arriving to witness me, Alexandra Saemmer and Clara Fernandez-Vara go through the motions. Overall, I was happy with my presentation, which was on the subject of Cordite Poetry Review, the journal of which I used to be the Managing Editor, and its status (or otherwise) as a work of electronic literature (read the full abstract). I don’t have much to say about the content of the presentation itself, but hope I’ll be able to draw something coherent together for the EBR thread dedicated to the conference.

The conference itself was really inspiring—although as usual it just wasn’t possible to catch everything I wanted to see, even for an academic community as small and well-defined as the e-lit scene. Highlights for me included Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux’s brilliant discussion of Dwarf Fortress, the goofy UnderAcademy College ‘panel’, the Taroko Gorge remix panel, Stephanie Strickland and Nick Montfort’s presentation about code commenting in Sea and Spar Between and Florian Cramer’s provocative keynote speech.

I also really enjoyed taking a few days out from an otherwise manic three city tour——NYC, Montreal and Chicago in less than three weeks: never again!——to experience the … serenity? … of Morgantown. So my personal highlights included an impromptu country hoe-down at the local brew pub, the quaint old fraternity and sorority buildings on campus and … most of all … the infamous Morgantown PRT!

Anyway, I’m quite serious about welcoming mashups of my talk. You can listen to and download it above. Use the feedback button on the right hand side of this page if you’d like to send me an mp3. Or if you’d just like to say hello. It takes all sorts.

Yikes! Where did the time go?

‘Regular’ ‘readers’ of this ‘blog’ would be excused for thinking that I’d fallen under a bus, given the absolute lack of any kind of update for over a month now. But the contrary is true: far from having fallen under a bus, I’m actually – ah, whatever.

The truth is, I haven’t had a whole lot to blog about recently. My new job has occupied a lot of my time, as has socialising with colleagues from said job and, when it comes down to it, who wants to hear how many Jäger shots I’ve had in the last thirty days?

‘And yet’. (I’ll explain the significance of this phrase one day). To answer the question posed by Big Star in the title of their song ‘What’s going ahn?’, I can say the following:

(1) I’ve had an academic article published

Hot on the heels of my post-doc research at BTH in Karlskrona, I’m excited to say that ‘Flash points: Reading electronic literature as a metaphor for creativity’ (PDF), an article I co-wrote with Maria Engberg, has now been published in the latest issue of TEXT Journal. To be exact, it’s a part of a special issue entitled Creativity: Cognitive, social and cultural perspectives, edited by Nigel McLoughlin and Donna Lee Brien. So that’s untold.

(2) I’ve presented a paper in Bristol on the subject of myself. Or, um …

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Bristol, UK for the final ELMCIP seminar, on the subject of E-literature in/with Performance. I presented a paper entitled Davey Dreamnation and the Performance of Self. Here’s the abstract:

Since 2002 I have maintained a series of personal websites (now amalgamated into one website: daveydreamnation.com) that explore questions of personal identity and performativity through the character of Davey Dreamnation, a failed rockstar and comic alter-ego. The performance of this character (what could be described as a form of avatarism) brings with it various notions of play, irony and humour that are not necessarily often associated with the performance of electronic literature. This presentation seeks to engage with notions of performance of the self with reference to (and critical appraisal of) theoretical notions of performance as expounded by Butler and others. The performance of character in an online space which is heavily mediated by its form (that is, the blog format and its attendant proprietary structures and limitations) raises questions about human interaction with personal websites ‘performing’ as actors in their own right – that is, as co-creators, the performance of which influences other users’ readings of character and identity. This presentation will offer a glimpse into the workings of one such character, with reference to archived screenshots, audio files, text extracts and character analysis, with the aim of offering a humorous yet serious examination of the playfulness of online performativity. The presentation will also take into account and address some of the issues raised in the call for papers, specifically the usefulness of performance studies in blog environments. Finally, both the presentation and the accompanying paper will seek to offer themselves as examples of performance writing about electronic literature.

And here’s a pic of me and Davey during the delivery of the paper:

(3) My poem Övergången has been ‘analysed’ online …

THis is kind of nice. William Fox, who tweets as @readism and who runs a Tumblr of the same name, has written an entry analysing my poem Övergången, from the chapbook of the same name. Have at it:

The authoritative voice works well because it gets at how confidently we can trace the narrative of our social successes these days. It’s therefore no surprise that the poem hits the ground running – the opening line is in dactyls that are promptly broken up by a line break & the more awkward phrase ‘very quickly now’. The smoothness of my own commute is always determined by the extent to which I don’t think about how quickly I want to get it over & done with. On a tram / train this is easily achieved. I think this ‘transition’ is a special case because the poet’s probably walking the streets after dark (‘It’s already too late to plead…’) & more than likely through a city. This makes casual & indifferent mannerisms even more imperative, if only to avoid getting the shit kicked out yourself. It also makes you yearn for the ‘ignorance’ of non-self-consciousness, or to be a ‘special case’ (i.e. to be so deliriously shitfaced that you don’t care if people laugh at you).

Read the rest on your own.

K. So, that’s not bad: three cool things have happened. And here’s three more cool things that are destined to happen at some stage in the future:

(4) My poem ‘Wireless’ is going to be published in Overland

Not much I can say about this right now, except that I’m rather chuffed that Overland poetry ed. peter Minter has chosen this poem for inclusion in that erstwhile journal of the progressive left in Australia. Wireless first appeared on my blog last year. But don’t let that stop you from checking out Overland’s cool new website.

(5) ‘Clouds Afternoon Jazz Sprinkles’ finds a home … of sorts

My poem ‘Clouds Afternoon Jazz Sprinkles’, dedicated to poet Jill Jones, will be appearing soon as part of a special project. And that’s all I’m saying for now.

(6) I’ll be giving a paper at the ELO conference in June

No, not that ELO. I mean the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) conference, Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, which is taking place June 20-23 in Morgantown, WV, US of A. My paper, whose semi-absurd title is “Why ‘But is it e-lit?’ is a ridiculous question: the case for online journals as organic, evolving works of digital literature”, will be part of a panel called Practices: Definitions and Pedagogies for E-Lit, and will be delivered at the godless hour of 8:30am on Saturday 23 June. Here’s the abstract:

Cordite Poetry Review (http://cordite.org.au), an Australian journal of poetry and poetics, was founded in 1997 as a print journal but since 2001 has appeared only online. Over the last ten years, as the magazine has grown in size and reach, the question of Cordite’s status as a journal has become more vexed. Can it be regarded as a ‘proper’ literary journal, in the way that other, offline journals are? Is it truly electronic, given the relative absence of works on the site that explore the possibilities of the online space? Or are these merely ridiculous questions, the posing of which reflects a pre-online hierarchy of prestige? Why do these questions exist in the first place? If we assume that any work or collection of works available online is automatically digital in nature, then the issue instead becomes one of whether or not sites like Cordite function as organic, interconnected and hypertextual spaces for creative expression. The inclusion of electronic literature works in the magazine for the first time in 2011 brought into focus the problematic nature of categorization. This presentation will explore the evolving nature of the Cordite site in order to demonstrate the highly complex and sometimes chaotic nature of journals and magazines in the online realm, and to therefore argue for a rejection of the binary characterization of new media literature communities as either ‘electronic’ or ‘static’. In doing so, it is hoped that the presentation will stimulate discussion of the ways in which electronic sites for literature embody the contradictory capacities to organically evolve, mutate and disappear.

I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow-panellists Clara Fernandez-Vara (whose paper is entitled “Electronic Literature for All: Performance in Exhibits and Public Readings”), and Alexandra Saemmer (“The (problematic) issue to evaluate literariness: Digital literature between legitimation and canonization”). I’m also just looking forward to being in a seriously hot and humid place this summer!

So, that’s all for now. Maybe I’ll see you again in a month or so when I’ve got some more news.

KFXBAI.

My Cordite Top Eleven!

As some of you no doubt know by now, I’ve formally stepped down as Managing Editor of Cordite Poetry Review to make way for a new editor, Kent MacCarter. In this post, I look back on my years as editor, and pick my top eleven choicest moments from what has been a thrilling, exhausting and ultimately life-affirming rollercoaster ride of love and passion. Or something.

*wipes away tears*

1. Cordite 29.1: Haikunaut

I first met Haikunaut co-editors David G. Lanoue and Keiji Minato at a conference of the World Haiku Association in Ten’ri, Japan in 2004. We really hit it off and it was also a delight to meet up again in Sofia, Bulgaria the following year. Fast-forward to 2009 and the need for a Haiku-themed issue of Cordite became clear. What started out as a mini-feature blossomed into a collection of over one hundred haiku in English, Japanese and Bulgarian. Haikunaut was our first issue to feature poetry in non-Western scripts, and it remains one of my favourite Cordite issues of all time, not least because it has embedded the word ‘haikunaut’ in the English language – also (hopefully) for all time.

2. Cordite 31.1: Post-Epic

From the shortest of forms to the longest – Cordite is nothing if not consistent. Or binary. Or both. After guest-editor Ali Alizadeh slayed all comers with his selections in the Epic issue, we decided to switch things up, with a selection of Post-Epic poems written, a line at a time, by our readers. It didn’t take long for the resident Cordite commentariat to latch on to the idea and, within a short space of time, over one thousand lines of poetry had been written. Just wow.

3. Cordite 21.1: Robo

Okay so this one’s a little obscure; in 2005, Nick Whittock came up with the idea of a Robo-poetry competition as part of his job at the St. Kilda library. He and I acted as judges, and we published the winners as Cordite 21.1: Robo. As Michael Caine would say, “Not many people know that.” In any case, I think it’s a very cute little collection of poems.

4. Cordite 16: Search

This one is also going back a bit in time; I think it must have been 2002 or 2003 when I was a member of the Poetry Espresso online poetry mailing list. List moderator Cassie Lewis invited me to be poetry editor for a month, and I invited list members to send me poems ‘composed’ using search engines. The result was Cordite 16: Search. While I’d like to think this issue came out long before Flarf was even thought of, the truth is rather more prosaic. Still, I think it’s a really cool issue, with some amazing pieces, including Carlie Lazar‘s stone-cold classic, ‘A Prank Call to John Howard’.

5. Cordite 23 & 34: Children of Malley I & II

We knew we were onto something when in December 2005, just after the release of Children of Malley, we received an email from Jen Jewel Brown, one of the contributors to the issue, in which she said: “May I say that, fun aside, these poems respresent an enormous mind-fuck of the first degree? That is to say, they really really get me off. Poetic excitement continues, courtesy of all Malleys and their intellectual whirlpools, and the brilliance of Cordite for dreaming this up and editing it.” It’s probably the most fitting testament I can think of to the editorial genius of Liam Ferney, who originally suggested the idea and then went on to select some awe-inspiring poems. Of course, the fun didn’t end there, with a protracted series of revelations as to the identities of the poets in the issue, who had chosen noms de Malley such as Flannery O’Malley, Sylvia Malley, Ouyang Malley and my personal favourite, Ern Malley’s Cat. Five years later, Liam reprised his role as Chief Malley Expert with Children of Malley II. This time around, the speculation as to the true identities of the Children of Malley was even more fierce. Stay tuned for Children of Malley III in 2015!


Image: the cover shot for Children of Malley (2005) by Flannery O’Malley (aka Adrian Wiggins)

6. Haikunaut Island Renga & Zombie Haikunaut Renga

Around the time of our Haikunaut issue, something very strange and wonderful happened. Co-editor Keiji Minato posted a series of essays on haiku and other short forms including renga, and then suggested a special Haikunaut Renga with himself as moderator. Just as would happen in the Post-Epic issue, we invited readers to leave their comments on the post and Keiji would hand-choose each of the thirty-six verses required to make the renga. We were completely overwhelmed by the response: over 1200 comments were posted, and the resulting Haikunaut Island Renga remains a staggering testament to crowd-sourced poetry. While the follow-up Zombie Haikunaut Renga, with Ashley Capes at the helm, only attracted some 600 comments, that’s still six hundred comments. Come on!

7. Cordite 22: Editorial Intervention

It may appear by this stage that my top Cordite moments have more to do with my own role as editor than with anyone else’s efforts. While that’s certainly not true – and I’d strongly recommend you check out the full list of Cordite issues to see for yourself the depth and range of talents involved in the journal – when it comes down to it, the job of an editor is a fairly thankless one, and you’ve frankly got to take every opportunity to blow your own trumpet. This was the philosophy behind Cordite 22: Editorial Intervention, which featured a selection of poems by Australian and international poetry journal editors. Because they’re awesome.

8. Cordite 33.1: CC the Remixes

Our thirty-third issue was the first to be issued under a Creative Commons license, which was kind of fitting, as its title was Creative Commons too. We made the poems in the issue available for download and then invited contributors and readers to remix the words in whatever style they liked. Our guest poetry editor for the issue, Alison Croggon, read through all of the remixes before making her selections, the result of which was Cordite 33.1: CC the Remixes. I really enjoyed this issue, although I can’t really explain why now.

9. Cordite 30.0 & 30.1: Custom | Made

I have no trouble explaining why I liked this issue: I was thrilled to bits when joanne burns agreed to edit the issue, and in fact I can reveal that the day this issue was released, Cordite achieved its highest ever number of hits. Cordite 30.0: Custom constituted a stellar assembly of poems and poets, and Cordite 30.1: Made was the icing on the cake, with each of the contributors to the issue re-mixing each other’s works. You can tell I’m into the remix concept, right?

Cordite 32: Zombie 2.0

Including this fabulously weird issue of poems was a real no-braaaaainer, heh heh. Reprising Terry Jaensch‘s original Zombie issue, published way back in 2003, guest poetry editor Ivy Alvarez managed to creep out pretty much everyone who came near Cordite 32: Zombie 2.0. Did I mention braiaaiiinzz?

11. Cordite 35: Oz-Ko

Another no-brainer. Some might say that Cordite 35: Oz-Ko should be at the top of this list but I’m not that into numbers and, besides, life is one big circle anyway. That being said, if there’s one issue of which I am the most proud, it is Ok-Ko. Originally conceived as a straightforward selection of twenty poems in English and Korean, Oz-Ko ballooned into three separate issues featuring over one hundred poems (eighty of which were in both English and Hangul), a series of features and interviews, beautiful images, poets’ tours of Korea and Australia and (hopefully) a long-lasting sense of inspiration and exchange. Ever since first travelling to Seoul as an Asialink resident in 2005, I had harboured a dream of producing such an issue. My second Asialink residency in 2009, during which I met and interviewed Ko Un, only fanned the flames. The fact that we managed to pull off such a feat is down to the hard work of the editors, translators, poets and arts administrators involved in the project. The same can be said for my time as Cordite’s editor. I seriously don’t think I will ever be involved in such an extraordinary adventure again.

*gives up trying to wipe away tears, looks back with pride and amazement instead*

Naturally, with over two thousand posts published on the Cordite site since I became editor in 2001, there is an awful lot of untold content that is not covered by this quite arbitrary Top Eleven. You can check out the Simply the Best: Cordite’s Top Thirty Posts for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. If that’s not enough, why, just click on a random post. What have you got to lose?

Words are bullets. Poetry is code.

The 2011 [D/DN] Top 30

HNY to all and sundry. It being Davey’s other resolution to blog more frequently and comically in 2012, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from him, starting tomorrow.

Kfxbai.