Monthly Archives: April 2009

Ron Silliman in London, 5th May 2009

The Birkbeck Centre for Research in Contemporary Poetics presents

7–8.30pm, Tuesday 5 May 2009
Room 101, Birkbeck,
30 Russell Square, London WC1

This is the first time Silliman has been to the UK. For more details click on the thumbnail below to view the full-size flyer.


A Quick Apology

I must quickly apologise to the several people I tried to convince the other day that the guff-chorus generally known as Movin(g) on Up was by popular band Sub Sub, despite being told — correctly and repeatedly — that it was by M People.

The song of which I was thinking was, of course, Ain’t No Love. Here are the two, gifted to us by youtube for you to compare and take notes. Surely I can be forgiven for having these songs merge in my memory, sounding as they do, absolutely the same and level-pegging in their godawfulness.

The Artifice of the Game in the Age of Digital Projection

Ian Bogost has posted a fascinating article about the nuances of the screen indicitive of historical technological advances over the years, in the context of the Atari VCS. Bogost notes an extremely important factor in the reception of ‘retro’ gaming and the emulation of the medium (in this case, the open-source Atari emulator, Stella) — that of the unique side-effects of the CRT screen – the only option available at the time these machines were widely available and used:

In today’s world of huge, sharp LCD monitors, it’s hard to remember what a videogame image looked like on an ordinary television of the late 1970s. Emulators like Stella make it possible to play Atari games on modern computers, serving the function of archival tool, development platform, and player for these original games. But unfortunately, they also give an inaccurate impression of what Atari games looked like on a television.


Many of today’s players may only experience Atari games in emulation. Indeed, many of my students may have little to no memory of CRT televisions at all. Given such factors, it seems even more important to improve the graphical accuracy of tools like Stella. 1

Those of us, ahem, old enough actually to remember playing on these games as kids might notice the differences Bogost highlights between receiving a game on CRT and doing so on an emulator through which such quirks of the medium are automatically ironed out.

It is interesting that even in the supposedly ‘clean’ digital medium (which is itself a misleading term given the analogue nature of many old electronic and electrical devices) – indeed in the utmost cleanliness of the medium – there is an effort being made to consider and produce as an option the ability to recreate material specificities which are highly significant to the reception of the software, grounded as it is in a historical, technological and social context as integral to the software’s identity as the medium itself.

Having this as an optional setting on Stella will be great. Hope it happens soon.

Bogost’s full article is here.

He links to it from this recent blog post.

(The header image is a screenshot from Berzerk, my favourite game for the Atari 2600 back when I was about 5 or 6…!)

  1. Ian Bogost, A Television Simulator: CRT Emulation for the Atari VCS.

Joke (1.) from Mercurial Articulations, by Steve Willey


I’ve been meaning to post this for a while but just haven’t had time. Steve Willey recently posted up a poem on the Openned site. From the site, to sum up:

This poem, Joke (1.) is the beginning of a new sequence provisionally entitled Mercurial Articulations. It is part of a larger sequence entitled Opera of which the sequence Venus & Other Noises is part. […]

I saw Steve read this at the Openned night on 25th March, and enjoyed it very much. It’s interesting to see the visual layout though, and I wish I’d had an opportunity to take a look before hearing it read.

Clearly, there are a gazillion visual devices at play here: the three-pronged texts shooting out from a base text, which at seem to invite several spatial options as to the direction of reading; loose ‘bubbles’ of text which are removed but are menacingly apparent and influential throughout; text alignments reinforced as visual carvings; mixed fonts; text sizes; the angle and shape of the poem as a whole.

My personal preference here was to ‘mis-read’ by sweeping right the way across what appear to be the masts of some kind of grotesque text-ship, spanning across horizontally where possible. But then, my other preference was to mess with it in Photoshop by turning it upside-down, duplicating it and showing how it might also look like a bunch of space invaders. Steve, in every possible way, this is textual excitement. I hope you’re not offended by the header image, Steve…

To see the poem in high-quality image, as well as background info and more on where this has been read recently, go on over to his place, he’s having a Wimpy.

Did I mention it’s a good READ, too?

Floating Camino

For all none of you who browse this site using the fantastic Camino browser, I’m sorry that my site has been up for almost a month and has been broken for you. There was a floating issue with the sidebar, which became invisible in Camino. It is now fixed.

In the meantime, if you are experiencing any quirks when browsing the site, please contact me and let me know. I’ve tested on all major browsers but you never know.

We’re Being Burned

sod all
math steak
surges upward
her dark smile
rigs become countries
I clean
I farm
I get two hours poetic
layer cake AND horses
Me vs. Your Diet

Hardback poets writing
to orphans in
man syntax
muscle pandemics
for doggie crumbs, and
“oh yeah, I feel” fruity

I spray,
I ferme,
I leave,
and I adore you!

Recurring Poetry, Recursive Readings

There is an interesting mini-debate on the Openned website, sprouting from one of its blog posts via that posts comments. The original post makes reference to 3 examples of poets currently self-publishing longer works serially on their blogs. Though surely many more examples exist of such instalment writing, there are not likely many examples as good as the ones cited here.

Of particular interest in the subsequent discussions (which are here), the comment that blog posts outside of the ‘poems proper’ actually form part of the wider reading of these poems — something which will surely be lost when finally published in its own context in a bound book. For sure, in the blog context, the composite texts arrive in a chronology which invites digressions, interruptions, as part of an ongoing reading process.

But this also hits on something of arguable importance — that the blog format itself is a medium which ought not to be ignored, and which carries with it unique elements stemming from a dynamic organisational structure which can be quite interesting for a reader.

To offer a simple example (and Sean Bonney’s The Commons will be the text to which I’ll refer), the present-to-past chronology of blog archives is designed in direct relation to the navigational strategies and ‘use values’ of blogging as system. I.e. the assumption is that the most recent post is the content demanded by the user, and therefore should be towards the top of the page for convenience. This is the opposite order to a regular journal, or a manuscript which a poet might write. All this is very obvious and needn’t be dwelled upon in great detail, but the point here is that one person following The Commons from the very first post right through to now will have a vastly different reading experience to someone encountering Sean’s blog for the very first time and browsing through reverse-chronologically. Pointedly, for a work which seems to thrive in its relation to the ‘outside’, being in a (to me) dynamic with a social political context, there is an important difference too between reading a work and being fed a work, across time, in separate chunks which leave one’s experiences between them as composite influences on subsequent instalments. But this is not so media-specific.

Publishing dates, feasibly removed from the actual date of writing, form another archival grouping. Again, a month’s worth of The Commons presents a new form of holistic reading.

Perhaps a more intriguing example is if one uses the search function to filter content based on certain vocabulary. If, for example, I type the word “voice” into Sean’s blog, I get several phases of The Commons containing that word, followed by Notes on Baudelaire. All extracts are joined together by an arbitrary string, but this facility alone in this medium makes viable — to my mind — such arbitrary systems as valid reading practices. And perhaps it’s not as arbitrary as it might at first seem; I chose “voice” because it seemed, to me, to be one of the pertinent pieces of vocabulary which seem to thread through the work. Trying the word “small” I get some sections of The Commons, again some Notes on Baudelaire, and a selection of tunes. Using such vocabulary as a reading catalyst offers a kind of vocal-thematic structure, which, whether intended or not, binds fragments both inside and outside of the work.

Intention is quite another thing, of course, and it’s quite possible that none of these poets Steve mentions are concerned with the above. Blogs are, too, simply a way of archiving the progression of a piece of work, or simply housing it. That said, I personally find it vital to consider how the structural and dynamic aspects of such archival system do and should inform and transform readings.

Openned Night 25th March Videos up

Steve Willey has just uploaded videos of most of the performances from the Openned night held on 25th March 2009. The videos fall under the Openned Recordings category of the site.

Included in these is a coverage of my performance of Ideas on Oedipal Bitstreams. You can’t see the projection of the words moving (which is behind me, out of shot) but it’s still nice to have a document of one iteration of the work. There’s a short moment where the video struggles to compensate for me switching off the lamp, but it corrects itself eventually :)

Thanks to Steve and Alex for having me on the bill, and for recording it. I’d like to do a brief write-up of the evening at some point soon. Stay tuned…