Sign In using your Campus Account

Digital Poetry Beyond the Prehistoric

I think digital poetry is a genre that can offer poets exciting possibilities to create new work that explores and expands language. And that’s what I’m aiming to do with my new course at the Poetry School.

Without disappearing down an internet wormhole ‘researching’ the topic of what is digital poetry, what are digital poetics and what is the World Wide Web, I thought I’d introduce you to digital poetry through blogging about why I’m interested in this genre.

After tweeting about the course and some debate on social media I’ve taken to blogging because you really can’t say what I’m going to in 280 characters, but you can serialise those tweets and publish them on a nice, wide screen.

So what exactly is digital poetry? And is this a digital poem?

(By the way I’m not talking the dissemination of poetry via the internet here, but the creation of new work).

Like anything, and particularly new artforms that use digital technology, we could get caught up in the different terms and labels within and of this genre: electronic literature, new media poetry, kinetic poetry, code poetry…

I like this one: “Digital poetry is a new genre of literary, visual, and sonic art launched by poets who experimented with computers in the late 1950s.” – Christopher Funkhouser.

In my own writing I have simultaneously been an experimenter of form and had a fascination with the 1s and 0s that began to instruct devices that became computers.

So picture me in 1987 typing code on a BBC Microcomputer just to switch it on! Or listening to the dial up sound connecting my laptop to the internet (only text, no visual interface) in 1992.

(I actually quite like the sound now, but I didn’t like the slow speed of trying to connect to the www).

I made my first web page at Route in the 90s. It was garish, with every part of it flashing, and utterly indecipherable! I was so pleased with myself and this newly-found and immediately-accessible platform for my writing and artwork, both for creating poetry and disseminating it freely and for free, that I forgot to pay attention to aesthetics.

My engagement with digital devices as mediators of language led to my earliest experiments, such as destinyNation – a poetic tapestry for the web or Foundland, an international online collaboration exploring how the web could compliment live literature.

Fast forward 25 years and I’m using augmented reality to create poetry (and collaborating with developers) and the methods of creating digital poetry have expanded as the landscape of digital technology has.

My journey as a poet has since meandered around film, theatre, installation as well as web. I have been exploring the screen through which we view the world of the poem; poems as physical objects; and the interaction and collaboration with the reader, all as both language and poetic devices.

If you want to take a peek here’s an online version of my augmented poem ‘Siachen Glacier’, part of Ripple, a triptych of freestanding oversized artist books that use augmented reality, organic objects and poetic text to explore climate change.

So, I’m hoping you will join me for in creating some digital poetic adventures of your own with the myriad of tools available to us on our digital devices.


Leap from page to screen and create interactive poems fit for our digital age with Maya Chowdhry on their new online course,  Integrated Circuits: Creating Digital PoetryBook online or ring us on 0207 582 1679.

Add your Reply

Image Credits:

Image: Satellite View of the Siachen Glacier, Kashmir. US Government, Public Domain.