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e-lit' flashback: The Boston T-1 Party

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Poets and audiences of the e-poets network cross geographic and cultural frontiers, and use new media to alter and experiment with the quality of the audience/artist relationship. Our primary focus is performance poetry, which sets us apart from most of the other people you'll see here today, at the T-1 Party. [Most other presenters were hypertext-oriented authors or people who developed what was called "" or hyperfiction.]

We use videoconferences to link performance poetry revues between our wired sites, in places such as London, Vancouver, Seattle, Monterey, my hometown Chicago, and elsewhere. It would be nice to know we had regular partners for that here in Boston, too, so I invite anyone interested in doing this to step forward and speak to me after the presentation.

We've investigated using webcasts with this videoconferencing tech, too, and were able to build a poetry reading where artists performed in Chicago, were interviewed by webcast hosts whom they could see in Monterey, and where we could all track a simultaneous chat where webcast viewers could ask us questions. We had only to speak in order to reply. So we've been at work to recover the audience's voice in these encounters and have met with some success in experiment.

A third, and more day-to-day way to present performance poetry, is to publish it online as streaming media and text. This recovers performance poetry from being ephemeral and dispells the criticism that you have to be there to "get it" by putting performances in readily accessible places where they can be studied, replayed at will, cited, and critiqued. In this role, I've felt myself become less of a web publisher and more of an anthropologist, where I've brought my audience along for an expedition of collective discoveries in living spoken word, the cultures in which it's found, and the changing interaction between society and literature. As an anthropologist, I have to take my society (specifically, my city) "as-is". It's not my business to make people more technological, but to put my technologies in service to their spoken word, so the audience can have a good listen, whether they're on the South Side, or South Africa.

Our main vehicle for documented spoken word and performance is called "The Book of Voices." As a project going on two years, it's main mission has been to build an expanding library of recorded poetry, with an ecumenical ear for style, generation, race, ethnicity, and aesthetic.

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