The New Literary Devices of Cyberspace?

In this special issue of Text several new devices of this medium will be explored.
Not only has hypertext made us rethink the craft and theories of writing, but other software technology has allowed the testing of writing in new environments.


An Essay With Pictures - One Poet's Journey Into Cyberspace.

To begin to envisage what poetry might look like in cyberspace one must imagine a poetry in which the words are, not only freed from stanzas and lines, but freed from the flatness of the page. A poetry in which words have shape, colour, depth, thickness and they have mobility along a time-line. The motion of words gives them the property of being able to move in and out of the depth of field of an illusionary 3d space, to move about on their axis and to move about in a plane.


Cyberpoetry - 1995 a Masters in Creative Writing explored the placement of words in 3d environments, into fixed timelines as frames in a movie. The adding of animation to nouns, making them act out motions, incorporating the verb in the noun created a poetry of nouns only. Textscapes; that is scenes, using only nouns (Zervos 1995). Adjectives are not needed either, colour, shape, thickness, font face, speed of motion, depth of field, could all be 'carried' by nouns. A poetry without grammatical structure as we know it in print. A combination of nouns in 3d space doing the work of phrases or sentences; making statements.

In poetry on the page and in performance, whilst the definite and indefinite article, conjunctions, prepositions, other joining words, and parts of written language can be dispensed with, and have been dispensed with over the last 30 years, a poetry of nouns alone is difficult outside of cyberspace.

The textscapes suggested meaning beyond the meaning of the four or five words individually used. Of course the early textscapes were limited in scope, like landscape poetry of old, this imagery has become passe.

The introduction of narrative into the textscapes was achieved by sequencing the nouns so that a story could be told, emotions could be expressed and humour could be experienced. In scripting narratives it was easy to have all the nouns thematically linked, so that a flow developed, as in traditional narrative, but the journeys were always linear and the interpretation was rigid, allowing only minor departures from the authoršs intentions.

The country


The scripting of poems containing words, animated nouns, that are not usually thematically linked created a parataxis of words. The paratactic device of placing separate stand-alone phrases in one poetry line can be found in many poetries. The paratactic device is best exemplified in recent l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poetry (langpo) of the 1970s and 1980s, and fore-shadowed in surreal poetry early last century, and evident in medieval english poetry, and present in much contemporary printed and performance poetry that today would be considered mainstream.

Since words can do the work of phrases or groupings of verbs, adjectives and nouns, then in placing words in paratactic arrangement in 3d, it makes sense that it is possible to create poetry in 3d space which allows interpretation in the association of seemingly unrelated statements. The animation allows each word in the text to have relationships with selected words or with each other word, that on a page would be fixed into sentences.

The morphing capabilities of 3d software allow a change to letters within words over time. This creates a word that is constantly changing into something else. The poetry is in the associations of new morphs with previous manifestations of the word and the clashing of meanings that that stimulates in the end-user.

Marriage (letter parataxis)

Words are made up of composite parts, syllables, and letters of the alphabet. In my experimentation these composite parts wanted to be statements of their own. In the poem 'marriage' the i begins to wriggle uncomfortably within the marriage, it separates from the word marriage even before it has broken away from it. New words form from syllables of the old; mirage; rage; age; and new paratactic confrontations not present in the original word. In the second half of the poem words are split up as in marriage separation. divorce There is a new sort of syllable and letter parataxis made possible in this medium. If you are familiar with the work of Mez Net_wurker or Mary Anne Breeze, then you will be able to see another kind of syllable and letter parataxis. Mez's parenthetic (is this a word?) splitting of words, changes the way you first read the word when you rescan it and make a new combination of syllables within the one word. Her mezangelle language, developed in cyberspace seems to work equally well on the page.

It's a parataxis of letters and syllables within words.

The paratactic device can be seen as a portal to the poetic moment.

Poetry of the moment - randomness and accidental parataxis.


Let us consider the metaphorical spaces for the existence of poetry, and experience of it, by the reader, listener and wwweber. All of these spaces are mnemonic spaces, involving the memory in some way.

Initially there must be a subconscious memory of the look of words which makes reading possible. The sound of words, which make listening and identification possible. These are a part of a Mnemonic-Processing space, recalling memory of previous experience, to process new stimuli, interpret language, to give meaning to what is read or heard. The Argument space, where the memory is progressively scanned for comparison, refuting or supporting the arguments being made in the present; logical ; political; emotional arguments. The Imagining space where things are visualised; landscapes and scenes rendered, characters enlivened, stories acted out and senses heightened. A Reflective space or that feeling of going back in time to remember and relive a specific event in the past.

A competent poet can facilitate the creation of the preconditions to the poetic moment, through craft the mnemonic spaces can be conjured. Several spaces can be created simultaneously, different sites/zones of the memory being accessed in the present.

The poetic moment springs from the mnemonic spaces and is the portal to the poem. The poetry enthusiast searches through words to find that 'poetic moment' as Gaston Bachelard talks about in the Poetry of Space. That is, the moment that the end-user becomes one with the poem, the moment which precedes thought, a reverberation of the soul/psyche, like a door opening to let you in, the portal to timelessness (suspension of realtime or time as duration) where all time is contracted into the present moment.

However, by creating mnemonic spaces, a poem, the poet and the end-user do not necessarily experience a poetic moment.

I propose the parataxis of different mnemonic spaces created by the poem is what often triggers the poetic moment, whether that is being stimulated by a parataxis of lines in a list poem of Walt Whitman; or a parataxis between lines like the broken statements in much modernist poetry, or a parataxis of statements within a line of langpo, or a parataxis of words in some concrete poetry, and in videopoetry, or a parataxis of letters and syllables in cyberpoetry/netart/webart/hyperpoetry/whatever.

Whether scanning words on pages in a book or scanning voices at a sounding or navigating 3d spaces on a computer, the end-user is looking for that poetic moment. Like good drugs and sex, words can suspend time and create a space for poetry.

komninos zervos

poetry poetry

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