Internet Poetry: Harry Burke

Harry Burke, More Issues Than Vogue: Julien, 2015, digital image
Harry Burke, More Issues Than Vogue: Julien, 2015, digital image

In the wake of rampant, market-led nonsense, art is rekindling its fascination with poetry. Recently, galleries such as BHQFU in New York, David Roberts Foundation in London and SALTS in Basel have been throwing poetry events,  and art platforms such as Rhizome and 11:11 have been hosting online projects dedicated to verse. Part of the reason for this increase of interest in poesie is due to the revival of performance art as well as the influence of the internet.  The web is not only making it easier for poets to distribute their work, but also changing they way we use words and altering poetry’s material – our language. Harry Burke is one of the five poets the art world is listening to.

Taken from Sleek 47

Staying in England, Harry Burke is emerging as not only one of the most promising poets, but also as a talented editor and curator, too. And like many of his cohorts, he’s obsessed with the internet as well. “I think language is a technology, that, at fruitful times, intersects with other technologies in revealing ways,” he explains.

Burke, who has contributed to Texte zur Kunst, Dazed & Confused and Spike, recently curated “Poetry as Practice” an online poetry exhibition for New York’s New Museum. For a period of six weeks, during the recent triennial, a new poem by one of six artists was published online. The project was a practical attempt at thinking about how to form a contemporary exhibition of digital poetry and how we conceive poetry, and the end results looked more like buildings, animations and post-internet design – ­rather what is commonly considered to be verse.

Burke’s poetry collection “City of God” was a good example of the influence of the internet on modern poetry and the way in which it has transformed the layout of the poems, how they’re distributed, and how they are interpreted. Burke’s tome also included architectural renderings by Alessandro Bava, which is another instance of the image and the word sharing the same space. “We wanted to think of the drawings as like poems, and of the poems as like moral architectures, architectures for living and thinking,” says the poet. Burke’s broad conception of poetry also reflects the way in which our increased reliance on technology is re-conceptualising how we conceive existence. “They offer us a lens through which we can better understand the media that surrounds and manipulates us.”

However, for Burke, the influence of the internet on poetry is already becoming dated. “Net poetries, digital poetries, e-poetries, etc, have recently started to feel like historical phenomena,” he says. “There was an explosion in creativity and formal experimentation in digital poetries of the 1990s – think hypertext, Flash, Shockwave, GIFs, virtual reality modeling languages. But recently the experimental aspect of online poetry has mostly been the way in which it can help poets distribute their works.” Burke’s future projects include an e-book built as a video­ game and distributed as an app, and a poetry anthology that can be discovered in space using phone maps. Here, form is anything but static.

Text by Francesca Gavin

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