[rumori] meta name="poetry" (fwd)

Steev (steevATdetritus.net)
Tue, 20 Jul 1999 03:50:09 +0000 ( )

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1999 14:50:56 -0700
From: South to the Future <hollerATsttf.org>
Subject: meta name="poetry"

July 19, 1999

Dateline - San Francisco

meta name="poetry"

High-tech verse on the verge of becoming high art.

THEY CALL IT "meta-poetry." In late night gatherings at brightly lit coffee
houses in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, young "meta poets" assemble to
do their thing. One by one, they take center stage and recite the allusive
lyrics that are the hallmark of their high-tech verse:

Meta name equals keywords, content equals
Alaska, Alaskan, Fairbanks, property, commercial, wilderness,
unspoiled, Anchorage, real estate, properties, information,
help, new, idea, tips, info, remote, hunting, Business, building,
opportunities, Vacant, Land, lodges, campgrounds, lodge, resorts ...

So begins Mandi Nolan's three-minute oration "realtyalaska.com." But unlike
most spoken-word artists, meta poets do not author their works in the
traditional sense. Instead, they comb the Internet searching for "found
poetry" in lines of HTML, the code used to construct Web pages. What they
are after is the long lists of "keywords" used by programmers to describe a
Web site's content.

Although hidden from most who browse the Web, this list of descriptive
words and phrases is present in the source code of almost every site, and
allows search engines to classify pages by subject matter. Search for the
word vacation online, and a search engine will return a hyperlinked index
of sites which contain "vacation" in an encoded list of keywords. The meta
poets take their name and their material from these often whimsical lists,
which are also known as "meta tags."

"Everyone on the Web is searching for something," says up-and-coming meta
poet Steev Wobblie. "It's in the meta tags that the Web is trying to tell
us something, to fulfill the unconscious desires of our society."

Whether or not literary critics agree with Wobblie's assessment of the
poetry behind the Web, the audience is listening. On Thursday evenings at
Cell, an arts and media collective located in San Francisco's Mission
District, upwards of 50 young hipsters and more than a few graybeards
convene to "upload" and "download" meta-poetry. The event has become so
popular that organizers are planning a weeklong festival in the fall. An
album of live recordings titled "meta name=poetry" is also in the works.

The meta-poetry scene gained national attention when one of its most
celebrated poets, Denise Crusoe, was featured in The New Yorker magazine.
Many consider her poem "collectorsnet.com/miles/ (or Miles of History)" to
be one of the genre's best. The composition, which is taken from a Web site
for Civil War buffs, is as haunting as it is banal:

Meta name equals keys content equals
Weapons, Firearms, Prints, Music, Song, Reenactors, Living History, Rebel,
Secesh, Southern, Johnny, Union, Yankee, Manassas, States Regiment,
Company, Fort, GAR, USA, Grand, United, SOV, UDC, SUV, SCV,
Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Wilsons Creek, Booth, Jeb, Stuart,
Dug, Artifact, Battlefield, Minie, Howitzer, Fuze, Fuse, Shell, Shot...

Berta Isaksen, senior editor for the Kenyon Review, credits Crusoe with
single-handedly elevating meta-poetry from underground performance art to a
bona fide literary genre. "Whenever contemporary language erupts into
poetic form people get upset," remarks Isaksen, "but Crusoe has created
something truly inspired ... with the technological code that inundates our

Others in the world of poetry have mixed feelings about the success of meta
poetry. Although spoken-word performances and poetry "slams" have helped
bring poetry back into the limelight, some aficionados draw the line at the
reciting of computer code swiped from the Internet.

"Cut and paste as a mode of production will inevitably lead to certain
insouciant vacancy," assesses Christopher Neal, professor of comparative
literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "Meta poetry is a fad,
perhaps, but poetry it is not."

The South to the Future World Wide Wire Service is a weekly feed of
technology and media news commentary and satire published by the San
Francisco Bay Guardian. Quotations attributed to public figures who are
satirized are often true, but sometimes invented. Some fictional statements
may, in fact, be true. Any other use of real names is accidental and

Inspirational thoughts for the one-eyed man living in the land of the blind.

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