Brian Kim Stefans
Since the beginning
Works in Los Angeles, California United States of America

Brian Kim Stefans teaches digital literature and twentith century poetry at UCLA. He is the author of the books of poems What is Said the Poet Concerning Flowers (2006) and Kluge: A Meditation (2007), along with Before Starting Over: Essays and Interviews (2008) and Fashionable Noise: On Digital Poetics (2003), among other works. His digital works are collected at
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Kluge: A Meditation and other works


A collection of new videos and electronic writing by Brian Kim Stefans

kludge or kluge (klooj)
n. Slang
1. A system, especially a computer system, that is constituted of poorly matched
elements or of elements originally intended for other applications.
2. A clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem.

A review of "Kluge" by Clive Thompson

"Why interactive poetry beats interactive fiction"

A while back I blogged about a cool literary project: A Flash site that delivers the chapter "e" from Christian Bok's book of experimental poetry, Eunoia. It turns out that the guy who designed the Flash app -- Brian Kim Stefans -- is both a superb designer and poet himself, and he's just released another, even cooler art project called Kluge: A Meditation and other works. It's a collection of interactive poems -- bits of shifting text and sound that feel like an intersection of poetry, magic realism and the aesthetics of online advertising.

In "They Said I Was Lonely", the cursor works like a peephole: You have to move it around the screen to slowly reveal a creepy little stanza and background image. In "A Car Drives to Rome", the cursor reveals words missing from a dadaist string of proclamations ("A practise has nurses, a beer drowns a fish"), while an Italian voice chirps "Grazie".

There's also a series of hilarious "One Letter at a Time" pieces, in which the screen displays the entire text of famous works of art -- from Ginsberg's "Howl" to the script of Star Wars -- one letter at a time, accompanied by old-school typewriter clatter. (It's a cheeky meditation on the idea that while the audience experiences the work as a total whole, the author has to hack through it in dribs and drabs.) My personal favorite of Stefans' work is the title piece, "Kluge", in which the cursor slowly erodes the text as you wave it around the page.

Stefans describes his technique as ...

"... the uses of digital technology to expand
the techniques that poets use -- whether this be
in multimedia, interactivity, algorithmic
processes, and digital typefaces."

For years, people -- particularly in the video-game world -- have been heralding the eventual arrival of "interactive narrative", stories that harness the fluidity of digital media. But the fact is that interactive narrative is an oxymoron. It's like talking about "dry water". The audience's lack of control over a story is the crucial part of what makes narrative narrative. The fun of a good tale is masochistic, submitting yourself to the will of the storyteller; it's sitting there and going "yeah? And then what happened? And then?" That's why the best narrative video games (such as the Metal Gear Solid series) are ultimately pretty uninteractive: You can choose from a couple of possible endings, sure, but the basic thrust of the story is set in stone. That's what makes them good stories.

But here's the thing: While interactive narrative may be a nonstarter, interactive poetry works admirably well. Think about lyric poetry for a second: The dense reliance on metaphor and imagery; the use of white space as a constituent element. This stuff all lends itself incredibly well to kinetic, plastic, interactive displays, which is precisely why really good online ads already feel like dynamic poems. (You could say the same thing about half of today's best TV commercials or music videos.) Once you're dealing with a lyric medium -- and most of modern poetry is indeed lyric -- interactivity seems to make sense.

--Collision Detection, May 2, 2006

Notes on the videos:

Vex 1. 2005. 2:08 mins. 29.1 mb. With Christian Nagler. Sound by Christof Migone and Gregory Whitehead from their series 'Cris-cris.


New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts and Theories (MIT Press)

New Media Poetics
Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories
Edited by Adalaide Morris and Thomas Swiss

New media poetry--poetry composed, disseminated, and read on computers--exists in various configurations, from electronic documents that can be navigated and/or rearranged by their "users" to kinetic, visual, and sound materials through online journals and archives like UbuWeb, PennSound, and the Electronic Poetry Center. Unlike mainstream print poetry, which assumes a bounded, coherent, and self-conscious speaker, new media poetry assumes a synergy between human beings and intelligent machines. The essays and artist statements in this volume explore this synergy's continuities and breaks with past poetic practices, and its profound implications for the future.

By adding new media poetry to the study of hypertext narrative, interactive fiction, computer games, and other digital art forms, New Media Poetics extends our understanding of the computer as an expressive medium, showcases works that are visually arresting, aurally charged, and dynamic, and traces the lineage of new media poetry through print and sound poetics, procedural writing, gestural abstraction and conceptual art, and activist communities formed by emergent poetics.

Giselle Beiguelman, John Cayley, Alan Filreis, Loss Pequeno Glazier, Alan Golding, Kenneth Goldsmith, N. Katherine Hayles, Cynthia Lawson, Jennifer Ley, Talan Memmott, Adalaide Morris, Carrie Noland, Marjorie Perloff, William Poundstone, Martin Spinelli, Stephanie Strickland, Brian Kim Stefans, Barrett Watten, Darren Wershler-Henry

Adalaide Morris is John C. Gerber Professor of English at the University of Iowa, where Thomas Swiss is Professor of English and Rhetoric of Inquiry.

Thomas Swiss is Professor of English and Rhetoric of Inquiry at the University of Iowa.

Table of Contents

1. New Media Poetics: As We May Think/How To Write
Adalaide Morris

I. Contexts

2. The Bride Stripped Bare: Nude Media and the Dematerialization of Tony Curtis
Kenneth Goldsmith

3. Toward a Poetics for Circulars
Brian Kim Stefans
Exchange on Circulars (2003)
Brian Kim Stefans and Darren Wershler-Henry

4. Riding the Meridian
Jennifer Ley

5. Electric Line: The Poetics of Digital Audio Editing
Martin Spinelli

6. Kinetic Is As Kinetic Does: On the Institutionalization of Digital Poetry
Alan Filreis

II. Technotexts

7. Screening the Page/Paging the Screen: Digital Poetics and the Differential Text
Marjorie Perloff

8. Vniverse
Stephanie Strickland and Cynthia Lawson

9. The Time of Digital Poetry: From Object to Event
N. Katherine Hayles

10. 10 Sono at Swoons
Loss Pequeno Glazier

11. Digital Gestures
Carrie Noland

12. 3 Proposals for Bottle Imps
William Poundstone

13. Language Writing, Digital Poetics, and Transitional Materialities
Alan Golding and Giselle Beiguelman

14. Nomadic Poetry

III. Theories

15. Beyond Taxonomy: Digital Poetics and the Problem of Reading
Talan Menmott

16. Time Code Language: New Media Poetics and Programmed Signification
John Cayley

17. Poetics in the Expanded Field: Textual, Visual, Digital . . .
Barrett Watten


Get yer Y=A=Y=A='=S out... Judith Goldman and Brian Kim Stefans reading at New Langton Arts in SF

Thu Jun 22, 2006 00:00 - Sat Jun 17, 2006

Judith Goldman and Brian Kim Stefans
Thursday 22 Jun 2006
8 pm
$8 general, $5 Langton members, students and seniors.

Judith Goldman investigates timely issues about border-crossings. All aboard!, you rightful, legitimate boarders at board, for Civilian Border Patrol: A tragicomic novel-policy on bioPiracy, featuring border-crossing; water-boarding; embroidering boredom's bordello; particle board; and Particules! Particules!

Words and images collide in Brian Kim Stefans' Electronic Writing. At Langton he performs Kluge: A Meditation, an interactive digital poem; shows several short video works including the series Vex; and also reads from his poetry, including In Pines, a poem for two voices.


Judith Goldman is the author of Vocoder (2001) and Deathstar/Rico-chet (2006). She is currently finishing a doctorate from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature and working on Civilian Border Patrol: a tragicomic novel-policy on bioPiracy. Goldman lives and works in Berkeley.

Brian Kim Stefans is the author of poetry books including Angry Penguins (2000); Free Space Comix (1998); Gulf (1998); and Fashionable Noise: On Digital Poetics (2003), a mixed-genre collection of poems, experimental essays, and an interview. Stefans edits, devoted to new media poetry and poetics, and is a frequent critic for the Boston Review. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

These events are supported by Poets & Writers, Inc.


Reading at Bar Reis (sorry if you got this already)

I had problems with my email so had to resend...

My farewell reading of sorts, but also a chance for you to hear a friend of
mine from England read in New York for the first time.

(Go Obama!)


The BBR Reading Series


Emily Critchley
Brian Kim Stefans

Wednesday, July 28, 8pm

($4 to benefit the poets)

Bar Reis
375 5th Avenue
(btwn 5th & 6th Streets) BROOKLYN 718-832-5716

(F train to 4th and 9th)


Brian Kim Stefans and Emily Critchley at Bar Reis, July 28th

My farewell reading of sorts -- I'm moving to Providence in August -- but also a chance for you to hear a friend of mine from England read in New York for the first time. With any luck she'll wear the cool tiara (see author photo at my blog)

My computer monitor is busted so I don't have anyone's email addresses -- please pass this on if you know someone who might want to come.

Wednesday, July 28, 8pm

Bar Reis
375 5th Avenue
(btwn 5th & 6th Streets)
(F train to 4th and 9th)