The New Poetry

January 11, 2010

It used to be that authors coming to grips with the fragility of life and the horrors of modern society would turn to verse. Societal traumas as well as personal ones would be refracted through one individual or transmogrified into a new mode of expression. During the time of Modernism, new technologies led to new types of writing; new catastrophes, new poetic languages like futurism or imagism. Now there are videogames.

Or so I thought when playing TMZ’s new Conan O’Brien contract game. In the game, you play Conan’s head trying to avoid running into Jay Leno’s head while you try to grab as many contracts as you can. Better: hold on to your contract, as the more successful you are, the more Jay Leno swarms in on you, usurping your legal rights. Presumably he eats you, though there are no graphics of this taking place. The game is, of course, SFW, in that no Conan’s are visibly harmed.

There’s nothing new about the fact that we’ve decided to aestheticize our societal events, only the form. If poetry seems too high-falutin a media for the Conan-Leno battle royale, than surely we can agree that it would have been transformed into an episode of Law and Order.

No, the only thing new is the fact that we’ve moved towards the video game as the media for addressing societal problems. We’ve become more interactive. In this web 2.0 world, we all need to have our say.

Even old media has become more video game-like. Consider Avatar. Not only is the concept metaphor the same word we use to describe an online version of ourselves, the movie seems designed for its portability to video game form. As Mr. Filthy pointed out, this is the only way to interpret much of its content:

Filthy: If a movie is going to be 160 minutes long, it better give us something to care about.
Jimmy: I cared about the Inkaras.
Filthy: What’s an Inkara?
Jimmy: Uh, derrrrr, only the flying reptiles that the Na’vi become one with. Hellllooooo? They look awesome and would be a killer chapter of a video game.

From its graphics to its plot, the influence of video games can be felt everywhere in Avatar. That’s not necessarily a negative thing. Historically advances is one form of representation have found there way into another. Impressionism in music, painting, and literature; or romanticism. But we shouldn’t be surprised as the content of even the most innocuous video games becomes more weighty, and the form less diversionary even as it becomes more compelling.


One other thing: there is only one logical solution to the Conan-Leno mess. Put Conan on at ten. Having a comedy show on during prime time every night is not a bad idea. It just has to be, you know, funny. That or bring back Profit.

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