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PALM LATITUDES

THE SCENE : Poetry, Pixelated

November 06, 1994|Malaika Brown

The reading is already 10 minutes behind schedule and Merilene M. Murphy is racing to get the connections right. When at last she gets the modem and "videophone" configured, the call that she--and everyone else in her Telepoetics Salon Hollywood--has been waiting for arrives. It's poet Heather Haley in Vancouver and another confluence of verse and video is about to begin.

Doug Knott does the first reading and seconds after he begins, the videophone captures a frozen moment from his reading. A still, black-and-white image flares up on a TV screen here and is transmitted, with a real-time audio feed, to another poets' hangout in Vancouver.

Welcome to Telepoetics, an electronic marriage of poetry and pixelation. Its L.A. hub is Murphy's salon. Local poets who have ridden the Telepoetic wave incluse Wanda Coleman, Joel Lipman, Rafael Alvarado and Theresa Stone. Their words and images have been sent over telephone wires to poets in Chicago, Paris, Vancouver, Seattle, Boston and Toronto.

"It adds to the artistry," says Murphy, a poet herself, who credits Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz of Santa Monica's Electronic Cafe (a gathering place for cybernautical artists) with the inspiration for the new poetry platform. "It isn't TV; it's guerrilla theater at best and cable spaghetti at worst."

The Telepoetics networks is growing, in large part because of Murphy. She ships the videophones, the brainchild of local inventor Frank Perelman, to poetry outlets for a 30-day trial. Half a dozen venues are now using the gizmo, which costs less than $300.

Murphy, naturally, has a poetic take on the whole thing. "Telepoetic is what happens in the fast lane of rebound technology in the hands of poets," says Murphy. "We are poet-techs on a telecommunicative poetry mission."

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