A Poet's Take on Turning YouTube Into Art

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During an otherwise pessimistic and occasionally grumpy panel about "writing in the Internet age" starring novelist Tobias Wolff, playwright John Guare, and poet Jane Hirshfield, there was one shining moment of optimism about the possibility for new literary arts in our time.


Hirshfield, a long-time member of the online community the WELL, saw a historical precedent for the development of art out of the messiness of YouTube in the creation of the poetic form of haiku. 

"I think we are almost inevitably going to see a high YouTube art form develop, the way the 17th century poet Basho took this game - 17 syllable poems - and took his attention as a poet and human being and turned it into what might be the most widely practiced form of poetry in the world today [haiku]," Hirshfield said.


What would this new form look like? Who is going to be the new media Basho? No one quite knows, Hirshfield admitted. 


I submit that Andrew Filipone, Jr, creator of the video, "'Charlie Rose' by Samuel Beckett" (embedded below) may qualify as a maker of "high YouTube art." But I'm confident that there are dozens of others, too.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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