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Crypto Art: How Poetry is Building a Home in the Metaverse

The NFT marketplace and the metaverse are serving art creators all over the world, and offering a novel way for art appreciation.

It appears that poets and poetry, in general, are also not alien to this trend. 

NFTs Embracing All Forms of Arts

Since Everydays sold for  $69 million, “art” became a word that observers easily associated with NFTs. In fact, what mostly comes to mind when “art” and “NFTs” are mentioned in the same breath is visual arts.

The most popular NFTs (e.g. Everydays, CryptoPunks, Long Neckies) are digital expressions of what could have been traditional masterpieces hanging in art galleries. The association of NFTs with the visual arts has made many forget that art is quite broad. Such that NFTs in fact can be expressed in other art forms such as literature.

A collage of NFT poems branded as Etherpoems. Source: poetry-nfts

The mention of literature in crypto at once appears a longshot. As versatile as blockchain tech is, intersections between the blockchain and literature often seem difficult to imagine. Many think that the creative abstractions of literature can’t find home in the digital record book that is the blockchain. However, that notion is about to change with the literary gallery, theVERSEverse

theVERSEverse: Where Poetry Finds a Home on the Metaverse

In 2021, three women — Ana Maria Caballero, Kalen Iwamoto, and Sasha Stiles — versed in different forms of poetry (printed, spoken, experimental, and new media) decided to unify these forms on the blockchain. This decision birthed the literary gallery, theVERSEverse. 

theVERSEverse is poetry’s home in the Metaverse [. . .] where text is art, poetry is technology, and language has no limits.” their website reads. 

The gallery believes that reading is a form of communion and text is the foundation for other works of art

Music gains narrative when lyrics are added. Films start with a script.”

Therefore, theVERSEverse is for that writer whose works transcend mediums. It is for that reader who wants to experience the “magic of literary art and technology”. And it is for the art lover who wants to unearth the potentials of the Metaverse. 

Recently, theVERSEverse received a grant from the Tezos Foundation to support their literary innovations. The grant will help the women raise awareness for literary expression on the blockchain. 

The Significance of the Tezos Grant

Understanding the Tezos protocol is key to understanding the significance of the Foundation’s grant. Tezos is an open-source Proof of Stake platform created to address the barriers to blockchain adoption and application. It is “designed to power the Web3 revolution,” and is focused on ensuring that Web3 as the next web iteration is “truly user-governed and user-centric.” 

Tezos believes that it will “drive social, political and economic innovation on a global scale.” Therefore, the Tezos Foundation donates resources to initiatives that will ensure the long-term success of the protocol.

theVERSEverse was launched on Tezos. Therefore, the grant would help the platform scale up its Tezos tech integrations and community engagements. According to theVERSEverse, Tezos’s “cost efficiency, minimal eco-impact, ease of use, and proof-of-stake protocols present exhilarating opportunities for writers experimenting with metaversal literature.”

Literature and the Metaverse

Interestingly, the first time the word “Metaverse” ever appeared was in a book. In 1992, Neal Stephenson published a sci-fi novel titled Snow Crash. The novel described humans as programmable avatars that interact with each other in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. 

With this history, one could suggest that the idea of the metaverse came from literature. However, despite the global attention the metaverse is currently receiving, literature has remained only an ideator at best. The world fixates on replicating the real world in the metaverse but has relegated literature to the background. 

Figures like poet and digital creator, Sasha Stiles, are aware of this. It is why the AI researcher is working with a few others to tie tech with literature. Stile also remains one of the key figures pushing poetry to the NFT front. Sasha believes the NFT space offers poetry creators a new way to connect to millions while making money while at it.

To me, poetry is a wonderful use case for NFTs: writers can publish and sell texts in a way that’s never been possible before,” says Stiles.

IG Poet Arch Hades sold her NFT poem for $75,000 last July.

Could Literature ever Flourish in a Virtual Verse?

The question is a curious one, and perhaps an overly optimistic one. Several fields are finding use cases on the metaverse, but many might argue that these fields are essential, and literature might appear not as important in the grand scheme of things.

For example, real estate is a powerful industry, and it is just as powerful on the metaverse. Large brands are acquiring lands on the virtual verse, and even plots for digital weed farming.

And this is where the question of importance comes in. If subjects as trivial as marijuana farms are finding expression on the Metaverse, then surely Literature cannot suffer a worse fate.

In similar fashion, Fashion shows are holding in the metaverse. The gaming industry is likewise at the forefront of metaverse adoption — and tagging along online games is music. For instance, last August, Ariana Grande headlined Fortnite’s Rift Tour. Other artists such as The Weeknd, Travis Scott, and Snoop Dogg have done the same or plan to do the same.

However, as at now, there is yet to be a literary show on the metaverse. No virtual book signings, no virtual poetry concerts, no virtual book award ceremonies. Is the world boxing literature into a rigid art that cannot find blockchain expression? Maybe.
The intriguing project that is theVERSEverse  however could debunk the notion. Now that  literature is gaining entry into the world of blockchain, how much can it traverse the metaverse in order to stand head to head with other industries?

A Slow Rising Movement

Regardless of its lack of presence in the NFT industry, poetry is still finding its way into NFT marketplaces. Efforts like the Poetry-NFT collective, for one, remain one of the biggest drives for tech and literature interaction.

Infinite encores #246 . Source: poetry-nfts

There is also the case of Instagram poet Arch Hades who sold an NFT poem for $75,000 last July. Hades’ poetry collection would also go on later to sell for half a million dollars at Christies’s auction in November. At the time, Hades’ sale offered faint hopes for a possible frenzy of successful NFT poems.  However, since then, there have been little to no high-profile sales.

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Regardless, the increasing success of the VERSEverse is enough to get poets excited. Who knows, just this time, poetry might finally find its long-sought digital home in the metaverse?

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