November 2, 2010
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Holding your horses

Artist statements can be the bane of art galleries, but in the visual arts they do serve a useful role by helping orient the newcomer to what the artist has in mind and to what the artwork responds. If art is a dialogue, the casual visitor is sometimes not clear just which conversation they’ve stumbled upon.

I’m much less certain that artist statements work well in electronic literature. The work itself is free to say what it wants. The digital poet doesn’t need to switch media to tell a story or cite her antecedents, while a musician or a painter might not have a good alternative to writing stuff down.

HTLit recently pointed to Jason Nelson’s Heliozoa. Nelson is a dandy digital poet, but when he turns to explain the site, I’m afraid he starts to run down the sideline before he has possession of the football. is designed as a stable of sorts, for the these poetic digital horses to sleep.  Readers can play within the possibilities of the electronic poem, to inspire and frighten, to allure and repel. An introduction to what poetry has become, and the imaginary lands I build to keep them in hay and away from the rain.

That first sentence is a tricky gadget play, but the defense isn’t fooled by the metaphor and Grammar, on a delayed blitz, breaks into the backfield to disrupt the play. On second down, “Readers” take the direct snap, but something goes wrong in the handoff to “the electronic poem” and we wind up in a pileup with Frightened, Allured, and Repelled. Grammar is again in on the tackle. On third and long, the poet drops back to pass and can’t find an open verb. Three plays, lots of motion, lots of complex looks, but a straightforward three yards and a cloud of dust might have served better.