Seth Perlow – The Poem Electric, Technology and the American Lyric


University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-1517903664, Englidh, 296 pages, 2018, USA

It is not unfair to consider poetry as a system. So far we can look at it as a dynamic system of meanings and signs, producing its sense after its metabolisation. Perhaps this concept can be applied to any use of language in general, but poetry looks constantly for a higher density of these systems, rendering them more evident. This book connects poetic practices to the ‘electronics’ that alter them. In a way it investigates how the two systems (literature and media) change their structure and impact when they affect each other. It enquires into four historical scenarios: ‘affect’, ‘chance’, ‘anonymity’ and ‘improvisation’, with authors like Emily Dickinson, Jackson Mac Low and Amiri Baraka. The induced effects by, namely, telephones, recording tapes, software procedures and digital archives are tangible in either the literal construction or its perception. The accurate analysis of the verses is enjoyably paralleled by a detailed description of the social and cultural context, including the technologies involved and their effects. In the end Perlow provides an important contribution to the complex relationship between literature and media, enhancing their processual nature and exploring their relationship through a media archeological approach.