Typewriter / Poemwriter / Computerwriter / The Electric Poem
Much has been written about the influence of the typewriter and modern poetry. I’ve often wondered if anyone, any poets, have read about how technology has influenced their work, especially as this technology, the typewriter leading directly to the computer word processor and to desktop publishing, affects them daily & directly. Most poetry that I’ve seen published online is little more than copied text, text produced on a word processor modeled on a typewriter. Is the rejection of the computer's capabilities much different than Samuel Soule’s?
The first typewriter to be commercially successful was invented in 1868 by Americans Christopher Latham Sholes, Frank Haven Hall, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, although Sholes soon disowned the machine and refused to use, or even to recommend it. It looked "like something like a cross between a piano and a kitchen table." Wikipedia
Here, a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to an article “Ezra Pound at 100”
Published: December 8, 1985
To the Editor:
James Laughlin more or less confirms an old guess of mine about the random spacing in a great deal of modern poetry written under Pound's influence: that it originated in poor typing, or a technical incompetence subsequently enshrined as a technique. Mr. Laughlin writes of his ''private theory'' that Pound's impatience at the typewriter ''caused him to make it jump all over the page - resulting in erratic spacings, dancing indentations, slash marks used as punctuation, constant abbreviations and repeated capital letters for emphasis.'' It is just a short, if dullish, leap from typing incompetence to rationalization, or what is often described as the making of esthetic theories.
Thus with William Carlos Williams, whom Mr. Laughlin refers to as similarly incompetent at typing, we get the ''variable foot,'' and with Charles Olson and his legions of imitators we get ''nonlinear poetry,'' a meaningless phrase until one realizes that it is intended to present an absence of secretarial skills as a superior esthetic achievement. One wonders whether the history of an entire quartier of modern poetry will not have to be rewritten in the light of Mr. Laughlin's observation.
A rather uninformed commentary, but at least he is taking seriously the impact & importance of the materials of poetic production.
I look upon this e-poetry site as a place for utilizing some of the capabilities of the computerized technology that is an intimate part of the life of anyone reading this. It’s been almost thirty years since the publication of Keith A. Smith’s Text in the Book Format. Who has read it? Anyone writing poetry (or fiction) should have. What did Olson say about being estranged? From the most familiar. It was the typewriter. Now it’s the computer word processor. So if interested in submitting poetry that utilizes the computer similar to how modernist poets used the typewriter, then go for it. And like Smith writes, “Words in a book come first.” But. Or However: “However, a book, that is the format, can be more.” So this anthology, and the printed books, encourage work that uses the computer’s capabilities, with the caution: words come first.