TezTalks Radio #44: 'Metapoet' Sasha Stiles on Poetry and the Blockchain

The latest episode of TezTalks radio features an extended conversation between host Marissa Trew and artist and AI researcher Sasha Stiles, co-founder of theVERSEverse.


750 words, 4 minute read

The latest episode of TezTalks Radio features an extended conversation between host Marissa Trew and artist and AI researcher , co-founder of theVERSEverse, a ‘crypto literary collective where poems are art, poetry is technology, and language is limitless.’

One of the driving reasons why I’m really interested in […] pursuing AI in generative literature, is just because I really find that it’s a tool that empowers me as a writer. It doesn’t replace me as a writer. It doesn’t outsource the things that I enjoy doing. It just enables me to […] enlarge and expand my creative periphery a little bit and access areas that as 100% human writer, I haven’t really had access to. Sasha Stiles

During the conversation, Sasha Stiles explained how she found her way into the world of Web3 in 2020, when she was invited to contribute to a virtual exhibition, and found herself asking “why aren’t more writers […] playing with what NFTs can do for the written word?” Since entering the space two years ago, Stiles has come to recognize similarities between poetry and software, which she explores in her most recent work, ‘Technelegy’.

You’ll find some extracts from Marissa Trew’s conversation with Sasha Stiles below, and the full video podcast can be viewed at the top of this page.

What distinguishes a metapoet from a conventional poet?

I guess when I think about the term meta, I’m thinking of it less in the terms of the metaverse, but more […] what that word has meant in other realms and kind of what it meant in antiquity and this idea of meta as being kind of above or beyond, or kind of a level kind of above the literal. So it’s almost like when I say ‘metapoet’, I’m kind of thinking about a kind of poetry that is about poetry, or writing about writing.

How poetry has a lot in common with technology

I’ve come to realize […] that poetry actually has a lot of rules, and it has a lot of guidelines, and it actually runs in a lot of ways like a software program or a piece of code in that it’s a very specific, very precisely-organized piece of text that when you deploy it has a very specific intention. It evokes an emotion, or it transports you to another place or time, or it’s meant to make you feel empathy for another person’s point of view. And that’s all happening through this program of words. So it’s actually a pretty simple, but very profound piece of code.

[…] Over time, I’ve grown to think of poetry as kind of a storage device, more specifically than just kind of a technology in the abstract, that it’s actually a kind of technology that exists to preserve information and data. And by that, I’m really thinking of the fact that poetry is something that we invented to store information, to store narratives, to store memories and emotions and ideas and beliefs.

Why the blockchain can be a home for art which doesn’t fit elsewhere:

Normally in order to find poetry, you have to go for it and look in a bookstore or find a very esoteric literary journal or something like that,[…]. It’s kind of kept off to the side a little bit. And I think the idea of bringing poetry into Web3, into the blockchain, and making it more accessible, […] there’s a lot of ways to turn it into something that’s a little bit more accessible and relevant to the way that we consume modern culture. And hopefully, it’s just another way of enabling more connections between texts and readers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to find the words that they resonate with.

How Web3 creates an opportunity for a more inclusive artistic space:

It really upsets me and disappoints me that there is this belief that because we’re trying to do something different here, that we can just assume that the problems from these old systems are not being carried forward, because clearly they are. […] It’s been really inspiring and empowering and motivating to be in the Tezos ecosystem and just to be part of a culture that is so aware of what’s happening, and really is building with intent and purpose, not just building to build, but with an end goal in mind, and […] making sure, as far as we can, that we’re doing right by the others in this community as well.