Letter in support of the PO.EX’70-80 project research proposal

Letter in support of the PO.EX'70-80 project research proposal

Carta de apoio ao Arquivo Digital da PO.EX, por Johanna Drucker, consultora do projecto. [Texto]

I am writing in support of the PO.EX’70-80 project research proposal and to express my enthusiasm and interest in the projects goals and activities. The first PO-EX project made a considerable archive of Portuguese experimental poetry available in digital form. The conception of that project was perfectly suited to the intellectual goals and aims of the research—to make Portuguese experimental poetry available. So much of the materials of the 1960s, like that of the 1970s and 1980s, was issued in very small editions and in formats or media that are very fragile. Trying to preserve these materials while making their rich poetic expression available for study and research is very difficult. By using digital media, Rui Torres and his team have created a resource that allows widespread use and access without adding wear to original documents. More important, the PO.EX project is using digital media to bring sound poetry, performances, video, film, and other intermedial works to a new audience. These materials are almost impossible to access—they are rare, stored in private archives or in institutions whose collections can only be accessed by scholars or in limited circumstances. PO.EX is bringing this material into public view.

The PO.EX project is also a scholarly work. While digital projects require considerable technical expertise and effort, they also require careful research to ensure that the materials are reliable, well-edited, carefully documented. Here, again, PO.EX is an exemplary project. Built on solid premises and in accord with the best practices of critical editing and scholarly work, it is also adhering to professional guidelines with regard to digital standards. This ensures that the project will be able to be used for a long time to come, and migrated, as necessary, into new formats and onto new platforms ahead.

Above all, PO.EX is an exciting project because of the richness of Portuguese experimentalism. The movement was spawned in the 1960s, and the combination of political, theoretical, and poetic impulses on which it was based make it a unique poetic movement in the international scene. Portugal was in a unique place in the 1960s, and the theoretical investigations of experimentalism served many purposes, only some of which are fully researched and understood. While some members of this important movement are still alive, along with others active in the 1970s and 1980s, this is clearly the time to capture their living memory and testimony as part of the archive of materials for future use.

Because of the broad international network with which Portuguese experimental poetry was connected – in Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, and beyond – this material is not of interest only to those concerned with national culture. Portuguese experimentalism connects with other major experiments in Concrete Poetry, Sound Poetry, Lettrism, Fluxus and experimentalism broadly understood in ways that will only be fully apparent after more study and research. The archive being created by PO.EX will make this kind of research possible. In fact, without PO.EX, such work will be difficult indeed.

In summary, as a scholar concerned with the history of experimental literature, as well as with the design of digital environments for creating access and use of these materials, I can state without any equivocation whatsoever that PO.EX is a vital contribution to cultural history and legacy for Portuguese literature and international poetics. I hope very much it will continue to thrive and that the long-term plans for extending the work in the decades of the 1970s and 1980s will find the necessary support for this to happen under the excellent guidance and visionary stewardship of Professor Rui Torres.

Johanna Drucker | Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies