Digital Poetry and A Very Busy Thursday

Thursdays are always my busiest day. They start at 8 am, continue at 930, go on at 110, at 230 and beyond! Today was no different, except I had a meeting at 11 about a pending essay I’m writing for my Ancient Comedy and Satire class. However, my usually tough morning was jolted awake by an introduction to a whole branch of literature I’d never even heard of before: digital fiction.

Today’s class featured poet AND digital artist AND critic AND Assistant Professor of English at UCLA AND bascially all around really cool guy, Brian Kim Stefans. Stefans was on campus giving a reading for Language Arts Live, which is Bates’ series of literary presentations, organized by my professor (and ADVISOR! oh yeah, I DECLARED!) Eden Osucha, as well as professor Jonathan Skinner.

Our class is an examination of fiction in the US, beginning all the way back with Poe and Hawthorne, and ranging up through such works as Toni Morrison’s Beloved. While we have been discussing narrative structure lately, jumping to digital fiction from Crane short stories was quite a shock for most of the class.

Before today’s class, we were all required to “play” a work of digital litearture: Stuart Malthroup’s Pax, and react in an online class forum. Most reactions were very confused, and many felt that they didn’t “get” the work; certainly we seemed unable to form a cohesive narrative in the sense of we were used to. The concept of characters, setting, vocabulary, and especially narrative were all questioned; mostly we were just worried if our reaction to ‘Pax’ would hinder our appreciation of Stefans when he visited class.

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when Stefans came in and just wanted to explain the genre to us. Or, how in digital literature, often when creating a new work, you’re actually creating an entirely new genre each time. WOW. While I definitely don’t think that I’m up on  that super contemporary level, with conceptual artistry, flash animations, and giant fish movies, I loved hearing Stefans lecture. Something about how he asked questions like “do you guys know Morrissey?” or trying explain the arc of a narrative using Radiohead as a counterexample– are you KIDDING ME? He’s so cool. SO COOL. And then wait, a moment later he’s making insightful comparisons to James’ Washington Square, the last novel that our class read?! So one second I think he’s Mr. Popular Culture Digital Poet Cutting Edge, and then he shows how old-school intelligent he is in terms of the reading material.

Honestly, I keep meeting adults and I can’t get over how intelligent they are. This question has started to live in the back of my mind, persistantly asking me, “are you going to be that smart someday? well rounded, and really cool, too!?” God, I hope so. I have a feeling I might end up there…I’ve got a lot of learning left to do, first.

BUT– Stefans was awesome. We unfortunately ran out of time (I so wish we hadn’t), but as I said, he was the kick-off of second semester’s Language Arts Live speakers. I totally disregarded the paper that was looming over the rest of my night, and I went to the reading.

Well, due to the unique nature of Stefans work (a combination of poetry, critical pieces, and of course electronic works) the reading was very interesting. When I’m not writing 5-10 pages about humor in homeric epics (as I am tonight), I definitely plan on exploring Stefans’ website,, more… But for now, I recommend checking it out. It’s a whole new side of literature, narrative, everything. I guess most of all, I find it very exciting. I just want to learn more!

About nbrouder
I'm a senior at Bates College getting ready for thesis and the real world!

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