This month’s quote comes from a fascinating book on the avant-garde’s longstanding relationship with information technology. The book is The Poetics of Information Overload (University of Minnesota, 2015) by Paul Stephens.
“Much of the work of the twentieth-century avant-garde was extremely self-conscious of the rapid changes in technologies of communication and data storage. From Dada photomontage to hyper-text poetry, avant-garde methodology has been deeply concerned with remediation and transcoding–the movement from one technological medium or format to another. As Brian Reed has recently written, “Poetry is a language-based art with a penchant for reflecting on its channels of communication.” For Reed, poetry “offers unparalleled opportunities for coming to grips with the new media ecology. Poets, as they experiment with transmediation, serially bring to light each medium’s textures, contours, and inner logic.” While poetry may seem the most non-technological of literary genres, I show that poets were often obsessed by the changing nature of information and its dissemination in the twentieth century. The news that there is more news than we can process is not so new: while avant-garde poetry may not figure prominently in the global information glut, the global information glut figures prominently in avant-garde poetry. However, marginal it may seem, poetry will long outlast our current media platforms…”
–Paul Stephens, Preface, pp. xv-xvi