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I think that I shall never see / a poem as lovely without an e

Screenshot from Alan Bigelow’s digital work, "This is Not a Poem" (2011).(Link below)

It’s not every day you get offered a front seat at an international gathering of the shapers of a still-emerging artform. But that’s exactly what will be happening this month, when some of the leading lights of the digital poetry movement—among them more than 100 presenters from more than forty countries—gather to compare notes, strut their stuff, and foment literary revolution. The tenth anniversary E-Poetry: International Digital Language / Media / Arts Festival takes place May 18—21 at sites on and around the campus of UB, and you’re invited.

But what exactly is “digital poetry”? For starters, it’s no single thing, as the subtitle of the festival should tell you. The official website explains that “e-poetry can exist in any number of formats, including programmable, performance, visual, sound-based, conceptual, and book art ... i.e., even on paper.” Expect to find “poetry” in the broadest possible sense of the word unfolding on stages, pages, walls, through speakers, on monitors, via web browsers, and perhaps in the very air around you. Individual examples might be slyly playful, overtly political, dreamily surreal, willfully obscure, easily accessible, or none of the above.

Among the better-known attendees (better-known to an interested onlooker like me, that is) will be DIY pioneer Miekal And, influential experimental poet (and former UB professor) Charles Bernstein, renowned composer and filmmaker Tony Conrad, acclaimed musician Joan LaBarbara, and theorist/media artist (and former Hallwalls artistic director) Alan Sondheim, but that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Check the site for the latest version of the lineup, incomplete as we went to press.

Festival president and artistic director Dr. Loss Pequeño Glazier (director of the Electronic Poetry Center for UB’s department of Media Study) promises “a tremendous selection of performances and readings, including … digital dance performances from the U.K., a European E-Poetry rave, an Austrian sound poet, Spanish digital poets, electronic voice sound art in the [John] Cage tradition, a ten-year retrospective gallery featuring works from museums in Berlin, Naples, London, and Paris, and digitally informed performances from Chicago, Montreal, and London.”

As that list suggests, E-Poetry 2011 is less a conventional academic conference and more of a roaming worldwide celebration. (Previous gatherings, which typically occur every other May, have taken place in Morgantown, W.V.; London; Paris; and Barcelona, after the initial one in Buffalo in 2001.) The explicit model is the kind of poetry festival that brought together similar groups of artists, scholars, and audiences—not that the lines between those camps are as rigid as they once were—throughout the last century.

In fact, despite the oft-repeated notion that the internet and other aspects of electronic culture have created a global village whose citizens don’t ever need to be in the same room to make art (or do anything else, for that matter), the E-Poetry festival is all about flesh-and-blood, face-to-face encounters in real time. And they’re inviting you to join them—so here’s your chance to meet some of the foremost shapers of literature, live performance, and technology from three continents at an exciting moment in the evolution of our understanding of what words, images, and gigabytes of information can do.

"This is Not a Poem"

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