April means many things to many people. Spring, as one suggestion, a matter largely geographic. On the one hand you have people in Colorado sitting on ten inches of snow while in south Texas it's already time for air conditioning. Or those Mexicans who complain about daylight savings time, noting that changing the clock just seems meaningless if there's no change of seasons, at least not from that geographic perspective.
In many ways April is a kind of down time, shoulder season, off-peak, a kind of gray zone between the big winter events and the promise of summer.
So perhaps it is the crocuses, the slightly warmer days, the lengthening hours of light that makes April also about poetry. Popularly conceived of as off-peak, the practice of poetry seems to fit in with the promise of the season. And this year, at this rusty hinge of the digital millennium, it seems most relevant to turn our attention to poetry in the electronic realm.
What is electronic poetry?
In a sense, it has been around much longer than anyone realizes. Its early explorations are bound in the wheels of Appollinaire's "Petit Auto", in the verbo-visual assemblages of Concrete poets, in the procedures (or in today's parlance, algorithms) of Emmett Williams, John Cage, Jackson Mac Low, and other practitioners who grappled with the matrix at the intersection of image/word and procedure/intention.
Its origins also can be found in the availability of computer hardware in the 80s. A writer of that age, tired of white out and lift off tabs, would see life transformed by the rudimentary word processors that appeared. Never mind the dot-commands of WordStar, the marriage between writer and machine would outlast generations of mark-up conventions, operating systems, and protocols. After some time at the word processor, it was an easy to leap for the writer to make: What else can I do with this machine?
That is to say, electronic poetry is not just a sonnet etherized with silicon or a Y2couplet. It is a high arc in a trajectory that has been long in the making.
Though it relies on traditional skills -- rhythm, image, metonymy, sound, form, expression -- it does so on new terrain. It is the writer's engagement with the cogs and wheels of the microprocessor, the arc of the mouse trail, the angst of the error message. It is a way of figuring out what one can make here that one cannot make in any other place.
It is an exploration. Both reader and writer must look at poetry with a new perspective, feel their way through it, realize that it is here to stay. But it is not just a theory or art form that is out there, i.e., on the horizon. No, as you will see by the works collected here, spring has sprung. It is a terrain of new landforms, contours, and planes, a geography of pixels that bend.
Poems for this new April, let the reading begin.
-Loss Pequeño Glazier, April 2000
Thanks to the contributors and all the folks at webartery.com who helped make this possible. Special thanks to David Knoebel for his generous editorial assistance.