This essay addresses the much discussed problem of archiving digital poetry. Digital media are labile, and several writers of digital poetry are incorporating the media’s ephemerality into their poetics. Rather than rehash arguments that have been taking place within the field of digital media and digital poetics for years, I turn to the field of contemporary art curation and preservation, a field in which curators and archivists are struggling with the very immediate concerns, ethical and otherwise, related to archiving works that are made from ephemeral media. One particular digital poem that has recently broken, has recently become unreadable, is Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia. Memmott composed the poem in 2000, and he incorporated the poem’s inevitable obsolescence into the text of the poem itself. He has since refused to “fix” or “update” the poem, because he contends that that would make it something other than what it was intended to be. Rather, he is choosing to let the poem die because that is what the poem is supposed to do. This essay concludes with a discussion of the political implications of acknowledging the ephemerality of digital media, the resistant potential of the poem when its ephemerality is embraced, and some ways in which archivists can preserve the memory of the poem without necessarily preserving the poem itself.
Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Amichai, Yehuda. “Yehuda Amichai: The Art of Poetry No. 44.” Interview by Lawrence Joseph. Paris Review. N.p., Spring 1992. Web. 17 Jan. 2015.
Cahyka, Kyle. “Candy Sells for $4.5 Million at Philips de Pury Auction.” Hyperallergic.com. n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Critical Art Ensemble. Disturbances. London: Four Corners Books, 2012. Print.
Damon, Maria, and Ira Livingston. Introduction. Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader. Eds. Maria Damon and Ira Livingston. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2009. 1-17. Print.
Derrida, Jacques. “Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression.” Diacritics (1995): 9-63. JSTOR. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
“Felix Gonzalez-Torres at MMK.” Contemporary Art Daily. 13 Mar. 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.
Gonzalez-Torres, Felix, Jan Avgikos, Tim Rollins, and Susan Cahan. Gonzalez- Torres. New York: A.R.T. Press, 1993. Print.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. Print.
Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 2008. Print.
Hayles, N. Katherine. “Metaphoric Networks in Lexia to Perplexia” Electronic Book Review. Electronic Book Review, 2005. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Hedstrom, Margaret, and Anna Perricci. “It’s Only Temporary.” (Im)permanence: Cultures In/Out of Time. Ed. Judith Schachter and Stephen Brockmann. Pittsburgh: Center for the Arts in Society, 2008. 26-40. Print.
Joron, Andrew. The Cry at Zero: Selected Prose. Denver: Counterpath, 2007. Print.
Larsen, Deena. Deena Larsen. n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Memmott, Talan. “Lexia to Perplexia.” n.d. Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
Memmott, Talan. Personal Interview. 14 Mar. 2014. E-Mail.
Montfort, Nick, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. “Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature.” 14 June 2004. The Electronic Literature Organization. Web. 3 Jan. 2014.
O’Neill, Mary. “Ephemeral Art: The Art of Being Lost.” Emotion, Place and Culture. Ed. Joyce Davison, Laura Cameron, Liz Bondi, Mick Smith. Burlington: Ashgate, 2009. 149-62. Print.
Raley, Rita. Tactical Media. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009. Print.
The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago. “Felix Gonzalez- Torres Traveling October 02-November 06, 1994.” renaissancesociety. org. 1994. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Retallack, Joan. The Poethical Wager. Berkeley: U of California P, 2003. Print.
Schall, Jan. “Curating Ephemera: Responsibility and Reality.” (Im)permanence: Cultures In/Out of Time. Ed. Judith Schachter and Stephen Brockmann. Pittsburgh: Center for the Arts in Society, 2008. 15-25. Print.
Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2002. Print.
Whalen, Zach. “Lexia to Perplexia (2000-2013).” Zachwhalen.net. Zach Whalen, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.