Perras y moda by Alex Saum-Pascual
Alex Saum-Pascual is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches Contemporary Spanish Literature and Culture (20th and 21st Centuries) and Electronic Literature (Digital Humanities). She is also part of the Executive Committee of the Berkeley Center for New Media. Her academic work has been published in Spain, Mexico and the United States. Her digital artwork has been exhibited in galleries and festivals in the United States and abroad.
We asked Alex a few questions about her selflex NewHive feed, which she defines as “another unpolished #SELFIEPOETRY project, this time about WOMEN & CAPITALISM.”
digital reproduction by Alex Saum-Pascual
What started you writing poetry?
Reading poetry, mainly. But also, when I decided I wanted to start a graduate program in a US University, I thought that writing poetry would be a great way to practice with all those crazy GRE words. I started a poetry blog where I wrote mostly in English and I sort of loss the fear of publicly shaming myself. As for my multimedia poetry… that started years later when I was teaching at UC Berkeley. I designed a course on creative digital writing and I thought I had to preach by example, by making my own e-poetry. I got absolutely hooked, obviously.
How does the selflex feed differ from your other NewHive feed? Is everything on selfex part of one project?
The selflex feed is everything else that didn’t fit into my other #Selfiepoetry feed. When I was working on the previous project I had a very concrete idea of what I wanted to explore, and all the pieces there revolved around the same ideas: the falsity behind literary and artistic histories, and the role of the subject faced with a piece of art or literature. Trying not to generalize or universalize any experience, I presented myself as the subject and thus incorporated a lot of private information, the type of embarrassing thing people share willingly and freely online. Working on that I realized that I was increasingly interested in this last part of the project, and I decided I wanted to keep exploring different ways of constructing myself in the web. I started selflex to work around issues of desire, identity projections, signaling and that sort of thing that, broadly women, but particularly this woman encounters in the web. I gave selflex the very pedantic subtitle of “WOMEN & CAPITALISM”, a bit as a joke, but also deadly serious.
amanecer by Alex Saum-Pascual
How does audio serve to enhance poetry in your work? How about other multimedia assets?
Although I work and live around words (I am a literature professor during the day), or perhaps precisely because of this, I find a lot of relief in visuals and sounds that push beyond what words can capture. I am fascinated with the liminal moment between understanding and not understanding (this happens to me a lot, when switching between different languages), and exploring how the brain works to try to make sense out of anything that resembles a word. Audio helps me create this space where the looping and overlapping of words turns them around until they become something that I find incomprehensibly beautiful. A similar thing happens with video, since I am interested in learning what movement can do for an expression like the written expression, like print, that we traditionally associate with stasis. I think the juxtaposition of movement and sound with words works gracefully together, helping us find new hidden meanings. Finally, since every word we use is a borrowed word, I see no problem with borrowing other stuff too, like youtube videos or images.
How do you know when found poetry is poetry and when it is just stuff on the Internet? Is it how it’s combined with other elements?
Everything is just stuff on the internet—that does not make it any less poetic or aesthetic. I believe anything can be poetry, and perhaps it has to do with what you suggest: its combination with other elements, the relation between their juxtaposed natures and contexts. It could be, but sometimes looking at something banal and mundane in isolation can also suppose a very powerful personal experience, and this can be a poetic one, although I suppose that that isolation, and that person, could also act as context, and thus, be completing the metaphor :) The thing about stuff in the internet, in contrast to stuff found elsewhere (like a book or a magazine) it’s the ease in which we take it and repurpose it. It takes us seconds to copy or download any media and make it our own, helping us to understand very quickly what new remixed contexts and sampling may mean. I think I would agree with you, and I would locate “found poetry” in those interesting (and sometimes random) pairings that happen in the internet. They can be quite illuminating.
Are all YouTube comments poetry?
I don’t think most users intend them to be, but you can definitely make them.