Thursday, May 24, 2012

BPN 1600: Cyber poetry

Today the Dutch award for poetry will be handed out to Tonnus Oosterhoff. And this year it is going to be a special one, as it was awarded to moving poetry, according to the jury of the P.C. Hooft award 2012. The term moving poetry can be interpreted in this case as moving over a screen or cyber poetry. A look at his site of the poet makes things clear. It is not just a poet who delivers collections of poetry in print and uses internet as an extension for promotion. But the poet experiments with poetry on the screen.
His cyber poetry is interesting. Tonnus Oosterhoff does not just put up poetic text on the screen as was it a poetic micro blog, but he experiments with all kind of multimedia opportunities. The site only contains six poems and every poem is an experiment, using a voice, fading from black to white, handwriting, video, colours and spacing of text lines and words. Sometimes the multimedia assets have a content link; in one of his poems he talks about the morning and uses the black of the screen to go to very light grey, and in another poem he uses the percussions to the rhythm of the text.
In the Netherlands it has taken a long time for the computer to penetrate literature and certainly poetry. Certainly if you go back to the first introduction of the literature on computer by Michael Hart and his Gutenberg project in 1971. He started to type copyright free books and poetry collections, store them for consultation and reading on a dumb monitor.

A step further was taken by the Dutch-American professor Andries van Dam (Groningen, 1938), who coined the term e-book. His students at Brown University read poetry on a computer; not just a micro computer, but on a mini computer, most likely a PDP by Digital with dumb monitors. Van Dam was involved as an expert in a court case between the publishing company Random House vs Rosetta books on copyrights of printed books and electronic books : It is interesting that Van Dam indicates in the expert testimony that the eBook should have a dedicated storage and retrieval device: “In 1968, he (Alan Kay) articulated a new storage and retrieval device which he called the Dynabook. Kay envisioned that the Dynabook would be the size of a three-ring binder and would have a multipurpose screen that a consumer could use for both reading and writing. His vision of a Dynabook is seen by many as foreshadowing the first portable e-Book reading device and also served as a template for the personal computer.”
In his expert testimony he tells about the coinage of the word ‘e-Book’: “… by the late 1960s, computer manual for these systems, as well as other forms of technical and non-technical documentation, were store and could be retrieved and read on computer screens of various sizes and formats. Additionally,…,students in a section of a 1976 poetry at Brown University read poems and other critical materials on the computer, rather than on paper. It was after this class, in the late 1970s, that I coined the term “electronic book” from which the abbreviation eBook is derived.” This is an interesting statement. Students studied poetry from the screen. They performed actions like retrieving words, counting words and annotating poems.
It will undoubtedly a beautiful day for Tonnus Oosterhoff, receiving the award and 60.000 euro. It is also a nice thought that he follows in the steps of that other Dutchman, Andries van Dam, who let his students read poetry on screen.

BPN 1600