What will a poetics of artificial intelligence, or a digital poetics more generally, look like? I'll end with two suggestions. First, the look of the poetics will be informed by broader public imaginings of what the digital wor(l)d already appears to be. That there is an aesthetic which we associate with the virtual is plain; it's visible on the pages of Wired magazine in its most generic and least interesting form, but the genealogy most properly belongs to the post-alphabetic experiments of contemporary graphic design. Poets and artists will respond to this aesthetic as the Dadaists and Futurists responded to the printing conventions of their own day. Poets and artists will also be particularly attracted to the computer - and this is my second point - because the computer, more than just a word processor, is a design tool: it is an instrument for crafting writing environments. One poet who already knows this is Charles Bernstein, who has lately been engaged in a series of "visual texts," as he calls them, created with the aid of a computer. You can find them off of his home page at Buffalo's Electronic Poetry Center. Bernstein's texts are gorgeous, radiant celebrations of the visible word, simultaneously directed at the luminous canvases of the virtual and the tradition of language arts represented by William Morris, Blake, and the medieval Book of Kells. Go and see for yourselves - please.



Notes
I'd like to thank John Lavagnino for the opportunity to present the paper from which these remarks are redacted at the 1996 MLA convention, as part of a panel sponsored by the Association for Computers in the Humanities on the topic of "digital poetics."