Emotional Pierogi & Loaves of Literature: Polish Digital Poetry
#language & literature
default, 'Glitch Art is Dead' by Spencer Selby, photo: Rozdzielczość Chleba, center, #000000, rozdzielczosc-chleba-glitch-art-is-dead.jpg
The image of a poet is still often associated with a romantic vision of tuberculosis-stricken genius, writing in a candle-lit attic. While the financial realities of this outdated imagery are perhaps still true, poetry today has become much more than just text. The so-called digital poetry aesthetic is connected to algorithms, glitch art, Twitter bots, and confusing pictures of pierogi on Snapchat… Long live digital poetry!
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'Księga Słów Wszystkich' (The Book of All Words) by Józef Piwkowski, photo: http://2b.art.pl/ksw/ksw.php?
Digital poetry sometimes called e-poetry or cyber poetry is a relatively new form of literature, influenced by concrete and visual poetry, and created with the prominent use of computers. Its boundaries are quite opaque as it overlaps with other genres of literature and art such as hypertext, net art, digital holograms, installation art and sound poetry, not to mention videos and film.
E-poetry exists in a space between creative writing, reconceptualising coding, art and digital humanities. Its modes of functioning are well outside the traditional print-centric press structure, making preserving the works challenging. Digital poetry has quite an ephemeral form and, perhaps. only meticulous documentation can save many pieces form inevitable technological decay. On the other hand, of course, some artists genuinely wants their work to disappear, making their poems fleeting in design and intent.
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While digital poetry still plays with word and text, its form, code, aesthetic or even pre-existing rendered texts are far more critical than in traditional poetry. Consequently, poems move away from static words on a printed page – making digital poetry into a visceral, palpable experience.
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Roman Bromboszcz, a Polish musician, performer and e-poet, argued that in the case of cyber poetry, one should discard the 19th century notions of poetry and think about it more in the context of the interaction between human and computer. So… what would that look like exactly?
Don't go wasting your emotions
Polish digital poetry at large can be grouped into two categories: the more ephemeral ‘instapoetry’ and ‘flarfs’ (meaning content that is simultaneously corrosive, cute or simply awful) or more lasting ones that are connected to poetry generators. Instapoetry, Snapchat poems and flarfs or Twitter bots creators are quite theatrical and frivolous, there are no canonical conventions. These digital poets create original, unique new media posts, while tinkering and playing with the platforms’ rules. Their e-poetry frequently focusses on fleeting feelings and confusing emotions.
E-poets like Natalia Krzemińska came up with a bot that generates short film recommendations based on already existing reviews. You can read a two-sentence film review and go on with your life, instead of sticking to longer critical pieces. Surprisingly, even film critics end up engaging with the Twitter bots. There is also Ewa Sobolewska who is, at the moment, spamming Twitter with never-ending renditions of Shrek and Donkey's dialogues. SzrekoMania (ShrekMania) has over 3.000 tweets – and counting. Perhaps one day Shrek and Donkey will take control of the entire platform?
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Anna Banasik and Zofia Gnat have a different take on social media as their projects are Instagram-based. Anna Banasik on her account @flarfworld explores 'flarfiness'. With poems created with a heavy usage of Google search results, she examines twisted and fuzzy feelings and confusing and conflicting emotions. Meanwhile, Zofia Gnat created a fictitious love story, exploring the life of Li in Opole, mixing real-life places with stock-like pictures.
In contrast, Snapchat e-poetry evokes weird and eerie mood. Aldona Stopa posts both amorphous pictures of pierogi (with little emotive faces) and over-emotional poems dedicated to them. Pierogi Emocji (Emotional Pierogi) examines excruciating periods of sadness that seem endless, ecstatic happiness and outbursts of anger and anxiety – all that in the context of pierogi consumption.
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'C()n Du It' by Katarzyna Giełżyńska, photo: http://ha.art.pl/gielzynska
Poem generators are a collection of tools that create poems based on user input, most often utilising third-party tools. It mixes new media technology with crafted language. Computer programming is used in the composition and generating of the text, as it is based on algorithms focussed on the understanding of language.
For instance, artists like Katarzyna Giełżyńska created e-poetry mixing net art and animation. In her glitch art poetry C()n Du It she focused on algorithms and rendering already existing content as well as the notion of copying and pasting.
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Greg Marusiński's Projekt Besos (Project Besos) is an homage to the Polish television personality, chef and painter Magda Gessler and her silly catchphrases, with 'Besos!' among them. Gessler is the beloved star of such programmes as Kuchenne Rewolucje (the Polish version of Kitchen Nightmares) and MasterChef, where her fiery personality and trademark taglineshelped her gain quite a following. Marusiński is among them – he renders Gessler's microcosm with an HTML generator, resulting in Magda's adventures in never-ending, constantly shifting blocks of text.
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Leszek Onak in his generator WINNING! also takes on celebrities. He looks at more controversial international celebrities like the 1990’s action star Steven Seagal, the raunchy sitcom actor Charlie Sheen, the notorious producer, rapper and designer Kanye West, and former pharmaceutical mogul and convicted felon Martin Shkreli. His generator mixes up takes their Tweets and then mixes the up, showcasing the absurdity of the narratives being shared by those who are considered winners in the current social system. The outcome of the text generator is grandiose, vain, funny and, most often, borderline sociopathic.
Hunger for (glitch) aesthetics
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Hub Wydawniczy Rozdzielczość Chleba (Bread Resolution Publishing Hub) was nominally a publishing house created by Piotr Puldzian Płucienniczak, Łukasz Podgórni and Leszek Onak, which functioned between 2011 and 2018. In practice, it was a rather influential socio-technological production facility. The Hub's name refers to ‘the first act of piracy – described in the New Testament – committed by Jesus Christ himself, who multiplied bread for the needs of the people gathered around him’. Aside from the blasphemous inspirations during its existence, Rozdzielczość Chleba published numerous poetic volumes and even manifestos – as they promised: ‘we hereby undertake the obligation to provide you with the fresh loaves of literature, baked at possibly the highest resolution’.
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With its trademark eccentricity and publications like Płucienniczak's Firmy (The Companies), the Hub presented weird micro-narrations, snippets and samples of entrepreneurial word formations. Firmy researches wondrous and delightful names of registered polish companies that quite often end with 'pol' or 'ex'. It's not only traversing the fantasy of the heroic entrepreneur but also creating a conversation around comprehensible nomenclature.
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The Hub also published glitchy poems like Pamiętne Statusy (Memorable Statuses) – a collection of unique observations from our current digital age. Łukasz Podgórni was inspired by the weird experiences of being a social media user and how to cope with it. His poems play with various genres of post-Internet art, mixing glitch art, the art of the interface and vapor wave together. He uses texts derived from Facebook statuses, showing that social media can potentially create a (memeable) veneer of pseudo-celebrity.
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Often bizarre and obscure, modes of e-poetry can provide a way to re-engage with technology; it might even be the first step towards creating your own whimsical digital art.
Written by Olga Tyszkiewicz, Jun 2020
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