New Histories of Writing II
2003 MMLA Meeting
Chicago, IL
08 November

Alan Golding
University of Louisville

 Language Writing, Transitional Materialities, and Digital Poetics

One common critical trope in discussions of new media writing-as in most discussions of newness-involves the establishment of genealogies, and by now what Jay David Bolter calls "the connection between the hypertext movement and the avant-garde tradition" (160) is a widely proposed connection. Bolter himself lays out what has increasingly become a standard line that includes Mallarme, Apollinaire, Dada, Russian Constructivism, Lettrisme, concrete and visual poetry (most versions of the lineage also emphasize Marinetti). These writers' and movements' productions, in Bolter's words, offer "expressions of a growing dissatisfaction with the conventional forms of print." But they do so "from within the technology of the printed page; they [stand] as a critique of the conventions of the medium" (Writing Space 2001:153). This confinement to the page is finally what limits even such efforts as Marc Saporta's looseleaf interactive fiction Composition No. 1 "to resist the perfection of print" (151). It is also, however, what often leads new media theorists back into a view of print as incorrigibly rigid. Thus Bolter writes of "the freeing of writing from the frozen structure of the printed page," of "liberating the text" from the page (Writing Space 1991: 21). Richard Lanham, considering "what happens when text moves from page to screen," argues that "the digital text becomes unfixed and interactive" and that as a result "the fixed, authoritative, canonical text . . . simply explodes into the ether" (31)-an imagined effect that is one social extension of George P. Landow's claim that "hypertext does not permit a tyrannical, univocal voice" (Hypertext 11) as print does. For Lanham as for Bolter, print is frozen, digital writing fluid: "Hot type was set. Digital typesetting programs pour or flow it" (44). For Landow, "unlike all previous forms of textuality, the digital word is virtual, not physical," and "the resulting textuality is virtual, fluid, adaptable, open" ("Twenty Minutes" 216, 218).

This view of print's confining fixity is closely connected to opposing views of "materiality," a source of some debate in the developing critical conversation about new media poetry. Celebration of a liberatory immateriality pervades, for example, the1996 special issue of Visible Language on new media poetry. Throughout most of that issue, "the immateriality of new media poems" (Vos 222) is held to be transforming poetry. When literary revolutions have not been claimed in the name of a return to "common" speech (see Wordsworth on), they have been claimed-at least in the twentieth century-in the name of an intensified materiality, the word and letter as such. From the perspective of at least some new media practitioners, however, we may be looking at our first immaterial avant-garde, with the twist that it is celebrated in a rhetoric derived from that materialist Marinetti. Within this particular line of discourse, poetry is constrained by taking on material or physical form. In the E. M. de Melo de Castro videopoem, however, "the page is no longer there, not even as a metaphor," so "the words and letters [can] at last be free" (de Castro 141); in Eduardo Kac's holopoetry, the word is "freed from the page and freed from other palpable materials" (Kac 189). To anyone who has even a nodding acquaintance with Futurism, this rhetoric will sound familiar.

In the immaterialist position, a version of the theorizing about new media that I have cited in Bolter and Lanham, print is associated with such terms as stiffness, immutability, stability, solidity; it is given, static, fixed. The electronic text is associated with such terms as instability, variability, fluctuation, and change; it is oscillatory, malleable, a matter of fluid signs, of signifiers in motion. For Mark Poster, "the computer dematerializes the trace . . . . The writer encounters his or her words in a form that is evanescent, instantly transformable, in short, immaterial" (111). To sum up by quoting Eric Vos, "in terms of the labels often attached to new media, we are dealing with a virtual, dynamic, interactive, immaterial poetry" (216)-and who doesn't want to be dynamic and interactive? Other new media theorists, however, take a different view, summarizable in Matthew Kirschenbaum's position that "the tendency to elicit what is 'new' about new media by contrasting its radical mutability with the supposed material solidity of older texts is a misplaced gesture" when, among other things, we consider the historical evidence of ephemerality, unreliability, and fragility that textual studies provides. Loss Pequeno Glazier rests the entire argument of his Digital Poetics on the premise that "the e-text . . . is material," and spends much of his book explaining how. Johanna Drucker and N. Katherine Hayles both offer helpfully nuanced middle positions. Drucker draws on Kirschenbaum's distinction between the "phenomenological materiality" and the "ontological immateriality" of the electronic text: the "visual form of the letter on the screen [is] fully material . . . even though the 'letter' exists as a stored sequence of binary digits with no tactile, material apparency to it in that fundamental condition" (171-72). While Hayles grants the perceived immateriality of the digital text and its "flickering signifiers" ("Materiality" 166), she also defines materiality as "a selective focus on certain physical aspects of an instantiated text that are foregrounded by a work's construction, operation, and content" ("Interview" 4), and as such it can be a feature of new and old media poetry alike.

It is within the context of this debate about the material features of the print and digital environments that I want to position my argument. One well-known feature of the writing produced by poets associated with the Language school is the redirection of readerly attention to the materiality of the word. (In this way, many Language texts can be seen as what Hayles calls technotexts, her term for work that foregrounds its own materiality or inscription technology [Writing Machines 25].) This interest expressed itself in multiple forms, but one underdiscussed form involves the visual component of Language texts. Visual and concrete poetries are widely cited as historical precursors to new media poetries, but the visual and (re)combinatorial component of Language writing forms a significant bridge or transition between these two projects, most especially in the work of the two writers to be discussed here: Steve McCaffery and Robert Grenier. In their different ways, these writers point us toward considering new media poetries as part of the ongoing project of, in the terms of McCaffery and Jed Rasula's coedited anthology, "Imagining Language" in all its textural and material variety. They have worked on the edge of what is usually called "writing," proposing that work ranging from non-alphabetic glyph-like designs to hand-produced letter-like drawings to barely legible palimpsests to simple pen strokes can be seen / read under the sign of poetry. In their visual works, and in the online re-presentation of those works, they raise questions about seeing and reading, the mark and the sign, circulation and distribution, and the meaning of "materiality" that seem crucial to thinking about new media poetries. Meanwhile, new media technologies fulfil certain impulses towards different forms of materiality in Language writing that were perhaps only nascent or at least partly unfulfilled in the earlier stages of that movement. McCaffery's and Grenier's work introduces into the critical conversation around new media poetries the idea of what I would call "transitional materialities": forms of visual text that interrogate the material limitations of the page-based, word-centered poem and look forward to the possibilities and achievements of digital poetics.

In such works as the very early Transitions to the Beast and Broken Mandala (1970), parts of Evoba (1976-78), the Carnival panels, Modern Reading (1967-90) and his video poems, Steve McCaffery has been insistently concerned with "allowing a type of reading to develop that was much closer to the classic category of 'seeing'" and with "a base sense of the materiality of the letter" (Seven Pages 435, 434). He describes this aspect of his work in terms most appropriate to new media poetry, talking in terms of "animated letter shapes," "3 dimensional syntax," "a network of non-linear signifiers" (434, 437, 436). In particular, the transposition of Carnival onto the web is a key moment in McCaffery's effort to make concrete these claims to materiality as the work "deliberately problematizes the simple distinction between seeing and reading and offers itself for both distant viewing and close reading" ("Carnival Panel 2" 70). This web publication also reminds us that works like Carnival can now be circulated on a scale and in a form impossible before. Furthermore, they become readable in ways very different from, and sometimes in contradiction of, their writers' original intentions, and in the process of movement from paper to monitor their nature as texts changes. With these texts, that process involves something more than or different from remediation, the importing of "earlier media into a digital space in order to critique and refashion them" (Bolter and Grusin 53) or "the recycling of different MEDIA through one another" (Hayles, Writing Machines 5). Their appearance on the web helps actualize kinds of reading already immanent in the original. The process could more accurately be termed rematerialization, a shift in material medium or environment that raises a new set of aesthetic and theoretical questions about the texts.

Carnival is a packet of sixteen eight-and-a-half by eleven panels, stapled along the top edge but perforated along that edge to allow for tearing. One obvious way in which web publication changes Carnival is that it removes the whole component of manual de- and reconstruction, radically altering the material nature of the text. In that sense, it violates McCaffery's original directions for the book, which are only fulfillable once in any case--the book can only be torn up once. (Insofar as my library still has an intact copy, it has to be said that no library user has ever read the "book" properly.) As McCaffery and bpNichol describe it, "Carnival is an anti-book: perforated pages must be physically released, torn from sequence and viewed simultaneously in the larger composite whole" (Rational Geomancy 65). Peter Jaeger calls Carnival "a mechanical device that comes complete with its own instruction manual" (a book-machine, as McCaffery would call it), and those instructions, on a postcard that comes with the publication, read as follows: "In order to destroy this book please tear each page carefully along the perforation. The panel is assembled by laying out pages in a square of four." There's as much sly humor in that juxtaposition of "destroy" and "carefully" as there is in the inclusion of an errata sheet substituting three non-semantic blocks of text for three others. (The dissident reader, of course, might lay out pages in various arrangements, much as Robert Grenier does in the reading of his drawing poems, which I will discuss below.) As various readers have pointed out, then, echoing McCaffery's own description, it is necessary to destroy the book in order to read it; the book comes into being at the point of its own dissolution as a whole object. Examining closely how this anti-book fares online by comparing the print and electronic version reveals what can be lost and gained in the move from one material environment to another.

Thirty-three years after its original publication, my print Carnival is somewhat yellowed and rubbed out along the edges. Its slightly faint grey type and staples announce both its own small press origins and an affiliation more generally with alternative publishing institutions of the period. In other words, as a material object it embodies a particular phase of literary history in ways that its online presentation cannot possibly replicate. Non-horizontal sections of text are, not surprisingly, much harder to read online; craning one's neck to view a monitor at ninety degrees is a tougher proposition than turning a sheet of paper. I have already pointed out how the book's original purpose cannot be fulfilled since it cannot be torn up online; it can be re-integrated but not dis-integrated. From this point of view, digital presentation is more static, less susceptible to transformation and manipulation, than the original, and introduces into Carnival an unintended level of semi-permanence: a significant complication of the much-vaunted fluidity and productive instability of new media technologies. And if these are metaphorical losses, there is also a small literal loss: because of the online version's slightly reduced scale, about a quarter-inch of the original's right margin is lost on each panel. Now, if the material environment of the web loses some semantically significant features of the original, what does it add? Mostly, the visual "noise" against which we measure information. At the top left of each panel, we read instructions for navigating the text: "CARNIVAL [in red] panel 1 map assembled previous next." At the bottom right, we get the necessary concession of the small press to market concerns that the original (though both are published by Coach House Books) could avoid: "order / tip online books mail chbooks CARNIVAL [in red]." If we agree with Jerome McGann that "the way poems are printed and distributed is part of their meaning" 168)-a principle so fundamental to my argument that I could well have used it as an epigraph-then surely the social meaning of Carnival has changed with its entry into an online context that has attributes both of a gift and a market economy.

I hope it is clear that I mean this account as description and analysis, not complaint. One has to be grateful for the ability to view in any form not just both panels of Carnival, in their individual segments and assembled, but also thirty-five unpublished outtakes from Panel 2. McCaffery published Carnival Panel 2, created between 1970 and 1975, in 1977. "At the time of its composition," he writes, "I conceived Carnival as a calculated intervention into the material stakes of poetics" ("Carnival Panel 2" 70). And what were those stakes? An extension of Charles Olson's ideas about the typewriter as a writerly tool and "the repudiation of a breath-based poetics" (70), the principles so influentially articulated in Olson's classic essay "Projective Verse." Carnival seeks to offer both immersion in and distance on language, both reading and seeing: "The panel when 'seen' is 'all language at a distance'; the panel when read is entered, and offers the reader the experience of non-narrative language" (Seven Pages 446). McCaffery says that "the roots of Carnival go beyond concretism . . . to labyrinth and mandala" (444), and even if we have a different experience of their scale, those shapes can clearly be discerned on screen when we view the panel assembled. However, since Panel 2 in its physical form is even more materially dense than Panel 1, that dimension of the work is inevitably lost. "Panel Two places the typed mode in agonistic relation with other forms of scription: xerography, xerography within xerography (i.e., metaxerography and disintegrative seriality), electrostasis, rubber-stamp, tissue-texts, hand-lettering and stencil" (443), McCaffery writes. How to get all that online? Rather improbably, McCaffery asserts that "my own personal line of continuity goes back from Carnival to Pope's Dunciad," but the explanation is revealing. The typewriter was invented the year of Pope's enlarged The Rape of the Lock and one year before his Iliad, allowing McCaffery to suggest by association that "the roots of the typewriter are Augustan; its repetitive principle is the principle of the couplet enhanced by speed. The typewriter oracled a neoclassical futurism." This enabling of a future avant-garde by neoclassicism may seem less odd later in this paper when we get to the aesthetic and material importance of the typewriter's regularity and repetitiveness in a certain stage of the work of Robert Grenier.

The other McCaffery text that I want to discuss is actually a reading of a McCaffery text: Brian Kim Stefans' shockwave interactive animated reading of two pages (80-81) from Rational Geomancy, "Rational Geomancy: Ten Fables of the Reconstruction," a work that allows us to think of digital poetics not just as a way of writing but as a way of reading. In the original pages of Rational Geomancy, McCaffery and bpNichol are discussing Madeline Gins' Word Rain as "a book about the reading experience that necessarily includes the reading experience," and with photographed thumb-tips in the bottom left and right corners they replicate one feature of Gins' book: "An ambiguity exists between the page & its photographic reproduction. Some pages are 'held' by thumbs. These thumbs are photographs which your own thumb holds" (80). Materiality self-reflexively trumps transparency in McCaffery's Gins; meanwhile Stefans uses digital (the pun is appropriate in this case) technology to push this reading and the theorizing of the material book-as-machine a number of steps further, complicating the thematics of absence, presence, embodiment and representation that recur in McCaffery's work. For Stefans' digital image of the thumbs gives us a multiply deferred or refracted presence: by the time of the online presentation, the thumbs are simultaneously Gins', her reader's, McCaffery's (as one reader of Gins), his reader's, and Stefans'-who ends the chain by placing the thumb image on screen, beyond the reach of further thumbs.

My point is that this process shows the capacity of a new media reading to highlight concerns already immanent in a previous text. On screen, traces of the body (like Robert Grenier's hands holding his little book Pond I in its online presentation) stand as visible signs of its absence, a self-consciously rematerialized evocation of a previously material book, and in this way Stefans honors the Language writers' investigation of ideas of "presence" and extends them into another medium. As if to acknowledge that any reproduction of McCaffery's original will be somehow incomplete, in Stefans' presentation the top couple of lines are cut off and a shadow or stain across the book's gutter obscures a certain amount of text, which remains otherwise largely legible,. Following the instructions-"click on the book to get a close-up. Click again to return to long view"-gives a close-up of fourteen or fifteen lines of text featuring mobile details oscillating against a static ground to foreground certain themes. Admittedly the results are not always startling: to have letters dripping down the page from the phrase "word rain" seems little more than imitation Apollinaire, though the gesture could be read as homage to one who is often cited as a modernist precursor to new media poetry. In another closeup, the words "problems" and "uncertainty" form a frantic dancing palimpsest over their originals in the base text; in yet another the first three letters of the alphabet buzz like annoyed bees over a stable background, as if to reference the debate over digital mobility and print stasis.

McCaffery, then, troubles the seeing-reading distinction in ways relevant for our thinking about new media poetry while his materially intensive texts variously point up the limitations of the electronic environment (in the case of Carnival) and its potential to extend the implications of a print text (in the case of Rational Geomancy). The appearance online of Robert Grenier's series "rhymms," "for Larry Eigner," "Greetings," and "Pond I," barely legible one-of-a-kind handwritten poems rendered mostly in four different pen colors, raises a different set of issues: the electronic circulation of unique texts into instant availability and the consequent tension between reproducibility and aura, between current and earlier, even ancient, technologies of writing, between what Tim Shaner and Michael Rozendal have called, in discussing Grenier, emergent and residual technologies (48 n.2). Some words about Grenier's process and poetics are in order before moving on to these issues. It's worth remembering that Grenier has worked with looseleaf forms of publication, outside of codexspace, throughout his career, ever since the now almost mythic Sentences: five hundred minimalist poems on five-by-eight index cards, written 1972-1977 and published in a foldup box in 1978. In the urgent search for or construction of historical precedents that marks moments of significant literary and technological change, even Grenier's closest readers disagree as to whether Sentences is an early form of hypertext. Bob Perelman argues that "while the lack of binding allows for any sequence, Grenier's allegiance is not toward any early version of hypertext" (46) but toward an emphasis on his materials. (I'd suggest it's not an either-or choice.) Charles Bernstein, however, includes Sentences in his list of "hypertext avant le PC" ("Mosaic") and even finds it pointing up, by contrast, one limitation of new media technologies: "you can't flip through a data base the way you can flip through pages or index cards. I'm thinking, for example, of Robert Grenier's great poem, Sentences)" (My Way 78). Barrett Watten calls Sentences "arguably one of the first (and most primitive) hypertexts in literature," "a direct predecessor to hypertext's challenge to the physical unity of the book" ("Breaking Codes"). Complicating matters further, the original publisher of Sentences, Michael Waltuch, has made it available in a web-based version using a JavaScript code to randomize the cards but has also proposed that "the 'boxed version' allows for a 'freer' mode of interacting with the work than the online version." Grenier has produced more such publications than he has bound books. The drawing poems that he began to produce in the late 1980s, then, are consistent with this pattern.

Grenier describes the process by which he came to write these poems in a 1998 talk with the characteristically punning title, "Realizing Things." Language writing's emphasis on linguistic materiality always seems to have taken very literal form for Grenier. (As he said in a 1982 talk, "you start writing in relation to . . . writing materials" ["Language/Site/World" 230].) In his account, at a certain point in his career typing came to defamiliarize the letter and immerse him further in the minute attention to language to which he was always inclined: "in the Selectric typewriter methodology, each letter is given an equivalent width -- the i's are the same width as the m's, the l's are the same width as the w's -- & I was able to count each letter as 'one' . . . & so that would be a further 'removal', I suppose, & reengagement with the language process only." Partially handwritten poems started to come out of textual annotations on typescript that Grenier wished to preserve as part of the writing process, as in the 1984 poem "May Dawn Horizon Many Graces Pollen" from Phantom Anthems (1986), at the same time as he also sought intensified materiality through type: "I got off the Selectric & went back to my highschool typewriter which made a darker image, with a dark ribbon -- this was a manual -- & that image somehow. . . I thought that was more, somehow, 'that of which it spoke' than the Selectric image . . . it was darker, denser." Apparently dissatisfied with his "delusion" that the manual typewriter would provide the sense of "a greater, hands-on tenacity or 'facticity,'" however, Grenier moved to handwriting or drawing poems with various combinations of the four-color pens that he used in his proofreader's job.

If "Grenier is interested in the phoneme as a thing in itself" (Watten, Total Syntax 9), he has become equally interested in the grapheme as a thing in itself. Grenier himself offers a revealing pun when he speaks of "beginning to write letters by hand, to draw them into existence" ("Realizing Things"). He does literally draw his letters, creating shapes that sometimes bear only a distant relationship to their alphabetic originals. But he also "draws them into [discrete] existence" out of a kind of Platonic ur-letter from which they emerge as much as they are constructed: "Letters draw themselves out of corresponding letter shapes . . . AS IF ALL WERE MADE FROM THE SAME LETTER" ("Untitled" 72). This is Emerson as postmodern materialist, the transparent eyeball now a transparent Uniball pen. Through this hands-on engagement with the materials of language, Grenier engages the material of the world: "the 'idea' is, if you focus sufficiently on the materials of language itself, possibly you'll be able to bring [yourself?] back to the participation in & with things a means of actualizing what's happening . . . the farther you get into the structure of language itself, I've found, the more are you enabled at times to be able to go into the metamorphosis, the flow through things that Emerson speaks of" ("Realizing Things").

Grenier's narrative of his process directly reverses N. Katherine Hayles' account of the increased lightness of touch and the reduced "material resistance of the text to manipulation" involved in the move from manual to electric typewriter to keyboard ("Materiality" 164). One could argue that part of Grenier's project is to reintroduce the resistance of touch (or the memory of it) in the face of this apparently dematerializing technology, proposing the body as a site of cultural resistance in much the way that Charles Olson-a crucial figure for Grenier, and one not infrequently cited as a print precursor for certain aspects of new media poetics-does in his 1953 essay "The Resistance." If new "technologies modify the body's proprioceptive sense," as Hayles has argued ("Materiality" 166) (and proprioception is another key term for Olson), online presentation of Grenier's handcrafted work puts opposing materialities and opposing experiences of the body in productive tension. The question then arises (and it's one I want to keep open): does web distribution de-materialize Grenier's emphatically embodied work, or does it paradoxically fulfill that work's project by foregrounding precisely these oppositions?

A related contradiction involves the electronic circulation of unique texts into more-or-less instant availability and the consequent tension between reproducibility and aura, between current and earlier writing technologies. Behind this tension lies the economics of production and distribution. Stephen Ratcliffe lays out the cost of codex production quite precisely, arriving by detailed argument at a figure of $22, 000 for producing a print run of 400 of Grenier's current poems. Given the economic unfeasibility of such a book, Grenier's recent work has had its distribution through limited color xerox editions (David Baratier's Pavement Saw Press sold 12 from rhymms for $20 a set in 1996, for instance); through gallery presentations (five hundred-plus slides of the work had been made public via a dozen showings and readings as of the time of Ratcliffe's writing in the late '90s); and on the web (the best way to preserve the originals' color, among other things). As Karl Young, editor of the Light and Dust website where Grenier's work appears, writes, "Robert Grenier's illuminated poems, his main work for the last decade, present a number of problems in reproduction, distribution, and, for some, in reading. These poems are written in colored ink, and require color reproduction. Four?color process printing makes them too expensive to produce. . . . . I hope that the web will help bring Grenier's illuminated poems out of the small and restricted circle of distribution in which they have moved, and make them available to a larger audience" ("10 Poems"). Especially in the handling of Grenier's work, however, this reaching out for an audience is not an unproblematic move. Far too pricey to produce in book form, these works derive considerable aura from the uniqueness, individual manual production, and unavailability of the original "hard" copies. As Bob Perelman proposes, Grenier's emphasis on his materials leads to "the special poetic or ontological value or magical potency that [he] seems to be trying to create" (53), a potency usually comprehended under the term "aura." Walter Benjamin, then, is not far in the background, and gives us one set of terms for thinking about the relationship between such aura and the "mechanical reproduction" of web publication in Grenier. At the same time, his famous claim that "the whole sphere of authenticity is outside technical . . . reproducibility" (220) has been rendered untenable not just by decades of poststructuralist theory but most recently by the new media. You can't have your aura and your widespread access too.

In this interface between the most ancient and the most contemporary of text-producing technologies, as much as Grenier wants to return his work to the body, it cannot--if it is to be distributed--escape the machine. In reading Grenier's drawing poems electronically, we are confronted with the extremes of hand-craftedness and technological mediation: extremes not immanent in the work but in the disjunction between its modes of production and distribution. From one point of view, Grenier's recent work seems the absolute antithesis of new media poetry. From another, its digital presentation highlights--as if we needed reminding one more time--the (in this case literal) inaccessibility of any original: online, we experience the web presentation of slides of photographs of one-of-a-kind handwritten poems the originals of which most people will never see. Paradoxically, their online reproduction can be seen both as a fulfillment and a contradiction of the originals' impulses towards personalized signature and fiercely specific attention to material texture.

Grenier's particular form of materiality is a retrospective (not to be confused with retrogressive) gesture driven by an almost Emersonian concern for natural origins. As Stephen Ratcliffe puts it, "the thingness of his writing . . . moves it backward, closer somehow to where it is that writing must first have come from" (125). Yet "naturalness" in Grenier is complicated. The artifice of his own reading style distances his voice from speech, and of course he's notorious for his contentious but influential manifesto statement "I HATE SPEECH." At the same time, Ratcliffe finds the "shape of letters analogous to shape of landscape" in Grenier, "making the page itself a landscape" (121). Certainly at the level of content, some of Grenier's graphic work is almost elemental in its minimalist focus on (to cite the "Pond I" sequence) "pond," "sky," "ground," "wind," "water," "sunshine," "minnows," "coyote." (In one nicely ambiguous conjunction of natural imagery and textual materiality, it's hard to know whether to read # 28 as "spelling" or [appropriately, mis-spelled] "saplling.") This evocation of and immersion in the organic seems to sit uneasily with the poems' web presentation. As Michael Basinski points out, however, "Grenier has been able to invent a form of poetry that is suitable for the computer era but also moves beyond the stagnancy of text based poetry, visual poetry and performance poetry. His poems best utilize the capacity of the computer. He does this not by using a computer as a tool to manipulate text but as a medium to present" the work (33). Grenier's poetics exhibits a kind of materiality of organic form, as if language (as it was for Emerson) were at the heart of nature, and he adopts an organicist metaphor for his highly graphic aesthetic: "I wish more strange young poets wd dedicate life to making briars and blackberries [a phrase from Whitman] out of words, letters, etc. for the fun of it" ("Untitled" 73). He wants poems that will embody-including visually--the prickly entanglements of those plants. The allusion to Whitman is appropriate, since Grenier's materiality of organic forms sounds like nothing as much as Whitman's preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass (that title, of course, itself enacting a pun between nature and book). But for all its organicism, the fact that Grenier's work is so hard to reproduce in print pushes it toward the web as its-dare I say?-"natural" home, and it fits at least one current if controversial definition of what Loss Glazier calls "e-poetry": "works that cannot be adequately delivered via traditional paper publishing or cannot be displayed on paper. This would include innovative works circulated in electronic form" (163).

If we neglect the category of "materiality," N. Katherine Hayles argues, "we have little hope of forging a robust and nuanced account of how literature is changing under the impact of information technologies" (Writing Machines 19)-nor, I have tried to suggest here, an account of how some literature has anticipated or complicates that impact. Hayles assumes that when the materiality of the artifact changes, meaning is also transformed: "The physical form of the literary artifact always affects what the words (and other semiotic components) mean" (23-24). Her work makes clear how internally conflicted the category of "materiality," and its relationship to print, remains in theoretical analysis. Hayles argues that the electronic text helps "bring into view by contrast the specificities of print, which could again be seen for what it was, a medium and not a transparent interface" (43). In other words, it should now become clear that "literature was never only words, never merely immaterial verbal constructions" (107). Yet the acknowledgement of print's materiality, a positive for Hayles, is a negative for those theorists and writers who see the problem with print as being that it is entirely too material a medium. The concept of "transitional materialities," however, places different materialities on a spectrum rather than in opposition to each other. In what is, to be fair, a list of heuristic oppositions to which she herself does not necessarily adhere, Marie-Laure Ryan associates print texts with terms such as "unity," "order," "monologism," "sequentiality," "solidity." Readers of Language writing will recognize easily enough the inapplicability of these terms to that writing. Far more applicable to the poets discussed here are Ryan's opposing terms for electronic texts: "diversity," "chaos," "dialogism," "parallelism," "fluidity" (102). Looking at both the online work and the work online of these poets may help move the discussion and historicizing of new media poetries beyond such binary oppositions between the material attributes of print and electronic texts.

Works Cited

Basinski, Michael. "Robert Grenier's Opems." Witz 7.1 (1999): 32-34.

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken, 1969.

Bernstein, Charles. "An Mosaic for Convergence."

---. My Way: Speeches and Poems. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. 1st. ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991.

---. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. 2nd. ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.

--- and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT P, 1999.

De Castro, E. M. de Melo. "Videopoetry." Visible Language 30.2 (1996): 138-49.

Drucker, Johanna. "Intimations of Immateriality: Graphical Form, Textual Sense, and the Electronic Environment." Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print. Ed. Elizabeth Bergmann Loiseaux and Neil Fraistat. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 2002. 152-77.

Glazier, Loss Pequeno. Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2002.

Grenier, Robert. "Greeting."

---. "Language / Site / World." Writing / Talks. Ed. Bob Perelman. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1985.

---. "Pond I."

---. "Realizing Things." State University of New York, Buffalo, Oct. 28, 1998. Unpublished talk.

---. Sentences.

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