Poetry as Code/De-Coding

Below is the first part of an unfinished presentation I'm writing for my contemporary poetry and poetics seminar. I'm enjoying writing it and I thought some of you might be interested. The Tapeworm Foundry is a conceptual long poem (fuck, what isn't) available on UbuWeb. Link.
It's strange that my measure of 'presentability' is whether or not I'm comfortable posting something on here. "Is it good enough/engaging enough to be posted on my blog?!" versus "is it good enough to perform in front of 20 people, including someone who will give me a grade?" *rolls eyes at myself and then lights a cigarette*
Also really enjoyed this blog post from a recently-discovered blog that has quickly become one of my favourites. Wicked shit about suicide-art Badiou embodiment etc.
Also just wanted to say thank you to people who read this. My, uh, readership, has drastically increased over the past 4 months and I am genuinely appreciative of all who give a shit. *here I roll my eyes again and feel sheepish*
the word 'sheepish' is strange, yeah?
“The issue is not about poetry online. It’s the other thing that’s at issue here: online poetry, a poetry that explicitly includes the processes of coding, programming and designing as part of the creative act; a poetry whose content is, to some degree, specific to the qualities of the environment in which it exists.” DWH.

In “Antifesto,” Darren Wershler-Henry refers to creative writing as “code.” The Tapeworm Foundry engages with this idea and exemplifies "our current confrontation with the codes and code-condition of language, poetry, and digital media" (Drucker). The Tapeworm Foundry performs this process of coding/de-coding the ideological and material foundations of creative production. Each page functions like a screen of data that provides an inventory of information; a list of proposals for art projects and instructions for creating poetry that subvert the traditional modernist definition of art and poetry. In this sense, the poem is radically non-hierarchical, combining low and high culture seamlessly and with great humour. Equally demonstrative of this equalization is the use of “andor” to separate each unit. This strategy implies an opening up of language; the poem unfolds itself and the reader takes up its possibilities.
This focus on form and presentation rather than content emphasizes the materiality of language and poetry-construction/coding. This technique is reminiscent of the language poets attempt to dislodge the signified from the signifier. Similarly, Wershler-Henry shows that language is not inherently meaningful; language is given meaning when positioned within a particular narrative context. Although traditional reading and writing codes typically remain “invisible” and unnoticed, the value of online poetry is that the coding/de-coding is explicit and thus functions as a critique of passive or uncritical reading. Thus, The Tapeworm Foundry challenges and subverts the traditional/modernist narrative codes that condition readers to consume and engage with a text in a predetermined, prescribed framework of reference. The ceaseless flow of text - each unrelated component - prevents the reader from superimposing a linear and all-encompassing narrative onto the poem. As a result, we can't consume the text as we would a commodity. Both the construction of the text as material object and as a narrative is magnified. In this sense, Wershler-Henry decodes how language functions by producing a meta-code that draws attention to its own construction in order to critique how code functions in general.


  1. I can't tell you how much that would kick me down- resisting my efforts to superimpose an overencompassing narrative- that's basically all I do, how I transfer something intelligible into my head, first by making it make sense to me.
    well, I mean, that would kick me down if you hadn't given me a headsup, and therefore a new framework to take the work in.
    well, maybe I would have gotten it on my own.

    *thoroughly enjoys eye rolling in print- it reads to me*

    will have to read The Tapeworm Foundry this evening, thanks

  2. K.
    you got brains, beauty, wit, tact,
    and compassion.

    I think this will go over well,
    leaving all the people in their seats,
    knocking their knees together
    and nodding their heads up and down, as if they're saying,
    'oh i see'.

  3. Hey there thanks for linking, really like what I find here too, will add you to my Reader, best, Jeroen

  4. I retract my comment about imposing an encompassing narrative on things because it's an altogether too obvious thing to say.

  5. do you understand the importance of andor in traditional computer language?

    have you ever read brian massumi?

  6. sarah - you are a sweet and likeable person, who is also talented.

    isaac - refer to (soon-to-be-sent) emails

    ryan manning - refer to emails

    jereme - no I don't and no I haven't. I'm intrigued. tell me.

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