I’m teaching this graduate seminar at UCLA this coming quarter and decided to post the description to my blog since graduate students from other schools in (and outside of, I think) the UC system can take the course if they’d like. I haven’t put together a website yet but the book list is set.

We already have students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and I’m encouraging students to pursue lines of research peculiar to their concentration. We might have guest visits from a few of the artists we will be covering, and I’m hoping the class can form a basis for more cross-departmental collaborations with Design/Media Arts and Information Systems (where Johanna Drucker has recently been hired), as well as with people working in the poetry and arts community at large in Los Angeles (and next, the world… after Berlin, of course).

Drop me an email if you have any questions.

English 257 Poetry in the Age of New Media

“Poetry,” for the purposes of this course, stands for two things: the “poems” themselves, and the social environment of poets, critics, readers, editors, publishers and academics that make up the world of “poetry” today.

Much of the course focuses on the array of new forms and practices that have arisen since the rise of the internet as a cultural force: visual and interactive poetry that utilizes technologies such as Flash and Java; constraint-based poetry that, in the tradition of the French group the Oulipo, executes bizarrely complicated literary forms; “conceptual” poetry that, in the tradition of Duchamp and Warhol, dramatically re-situates language in relationship to “originality” and the author function; poetry in a late-Romantic tradition that seeks to marry lyrical subjectivity with a poetics of process; and an array of poetry forms that work with the content of the internet itself, such as the playful collage poetry of Flarf. Specific artists and writers to be covered include the Canadian poet Christian Bok, the Korean artist collective Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, the conceptual writer Kenneth Goldsmith, the “elliptical” lyricist Susan Wheeler, and the otherwise popular non-fiction science writer William Poundstone.

However, not all of the focus will be on the avant-garde tradition; in fact, much of the “experiment” of poetry in the age of new media has been in the work of critics and publishers who are otherwise not interested in formal poetic experiment. To this end, we will look at online archives – audio, visual, bibliographical – of earlier poetries, poetry blogs that regularly feature criticism (such as “Silliman’s Blog”), the migration of bastions of the poetry world (such as Poetry Chicago) to the web, sites from other countries that have made an impact on American poetry culture (such as Jacket, published out of Sydney), and other evidence of the transformation of how poets are situated in relation to the world at large, and to each other, as a result of digital communications. A side narrative will involve the recent resurgence of the tradition of fine book making by poetry publishers (such as Ugly Duckling Presse) that can be seen as a reaction to digitally-based publishing such as print-on-demand.

This course, while tightly structured thematically in terms of assigned reading, will be quite free-ranging, driven by the students’ interests. Students will be expected, early in the quarter, to decide upon a strand of research they wish to pursue and to create a blog (or other sort of website) on which they will organize their research in the form of links and short blog entries. They will be expected to provide updates to the class periodically. Students can then either decide to write a final term paper or to revise their blog into something that could be “published” as a useful as a resource to researchers in the future.