In Memory of Jeremy Height.

The image Jeremy sent to be included in the talk.

In pre-covid pandemic 2019 I tried to do something that’s ingrained in all my creative endeavors, I tried to do something unique, something new, ‘something outside the norm’. I was given the opportunity to deliver an ELO keynote in UCC in 2019, for me that became about bringing the unique voices of other members of the electronic literature organization, those physically outside the conference itself, unable to attend for whatever reason, into very center stage, to put their (remote) views on offer.

I first spoke a bit about why I was on the stage and how the auditorium audience would get to chose from sixteen authors/ topics to create the second half of that keynote.

The first elit creator chosen by the audience was Jeremy Height. When I had previously asked Jeremy to send me something he’d like to say in my keynote if chosen, he wrote the following, (Which is unedited from his original reply) the audience responded first by a very short silence, followed by applause:

Electronic literature honestly saved my life. I as a kid studied philosophy, meteorology , etymology, writing and anything on odd science and nature I could get my little hands on. I was tested in third grade and moved to a school that had Nasa visit us and give us space ice cream (a treasure of treasures even if freeze dried basically) and voyager photos. We were little calculators given mass amounts of data and mostly memorization tasks. My parents got a call when I got a B in fifth grade. It led to boredom and tuning out and eventually burn out in 9th grade to the highest degree. A teacher in honors English even snuck me out to Burger King at lunch to give me a pep talk as she felt bad watching this tall shy kid evaporate and fail.

“High school saw math hit me head on at 100 mph and the PHD in experimental meteorology software development become impossible. I still loved words and writing and a teacher jumped out like a bat after graduation from a shadowy bush to tell me to keep writing (thank you) and won some teen awards but still felt it was all incomplete. In college I had ideas for poems made of soil types in deserts and by rivers, to be projected on fog, to be novels composed of seeming junk in drawers in old furniture. My first published poem outside of school was a poem made mostly of numbers published in Prakalpana in India. It was comparing the sun to zero on a number line. It was closer but still it was painful how the science and philosophy lied dormant and experimental writing was depositing into familiar tropes and fields.”

“After my MFA in writing at Calarts it seemed for a time that all was to be echoes, to be encased and calcified in forms and functions. It was massively depressing and deflating to be honest. Then a friend called and we made a gps driven narrative. It hit me first that text could skin the world with signal. It then came clear that much more importantly technology and creativity could give place a voice.”

“Since then I have worked in anti-blogs, ar poetics laid out with semantics based on location and elevation, netprovs, poetry edited by earthquakes and now artificial intelligence infused prose and poetry that reacts to how it is read and grows or shrinks and has a bit of sentience.” 

“E-lit to me is almost quantum (made a quantum mechanics narrative years back but it was obnoxious to ) in its range and possible attempts at core defining characteristics or parameters. The field is ever growing and the future is about to open doors never before possible to explore. It also to me is a family even as we are spread out across the globe. I am thankful daily for this.”

“If I had to attempt a specific definition it would be a fog of words but basically writing made possible and permutations of textuality made possible by technology.”

“For me it is home.”

Jeremy and I knew each other for perhaps ten years, we never got to meet in person but we exchanged many many emails, calls, drafts, and works, we both shared a common attitude about writing and art, that it should be different, new, something challenging, something maybe not so serious at times. A contributor to his Nibus Face-sine, shut down by Facebook, eventually the effect of the pandemic took its toll on the mental health of many people, my own included, added to that were parental bereavements on both sides, my own mother and Jeremy’s father. The pay and conditions for writing teachers are not ideal on either side of the Atlantic but as Jeremy and I discussed more than once, it can be particularly challenging when you don’t easily fit into the standard definitions or modes of creation used by universities to employ their friends’ friends. I will miss Jeremy, for more reasons than can be written here. My heart goes out to his partner Lisa and all who had the privilege of knowing Jeremy.

The fundraiser for Jeremy’s funeral is here: