“No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau.

Screen capture of “No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau. Photograph of a tablet displaying  a text in black font on a red background. It also shows someone's fingers touching the screen.
Open “No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau.

This new entry in the PoEMM series was recently published as a free iOS app, following closely a redesigned website and a booklet documenting the series. Designed for touchscreen devices, this poem fills the screen with its lines scrolling from one side to another at different speeds and in different directions. Readers encountering this wall of text may find it a bit overwhelming— too much language at the same time to apprehend.

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“In a World Without Electricity” by Alan Bigelow

“AndOrDada” by Beat Suter and René Bauer

“Know Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, et. al.


“Know Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, Christian Gratton, David Jhave Johnston, J.R. Carpenter, Jason Camlot, Jerome Fletcher, and Loss Pequeño Glazier.

The first version of the Know app was named after, designed for, and published a single poem: Lewis’ “Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better.” For version 2.0, he commissioned five poets to produce new poems with the authoring system. Here are some noteworthy observations on how they mapped out the app’s parameters.

  • David Jhave Johnston went to two minimalist extremes: using single word lines to produce a legible sentence while limiting the effect of the touch interface to two words in “4 Pound” (depicted above), and by using touch to make words move on such wide orbits that they effectively disappear.
  • J.R. Carpenter uses the structure to create a kind of semantic word cloud full of binary opposites in “Twinned Notions,” and in “up from the deep” conceptually maps the interface as a sea of words which the reader can pull maritime themed verse out into readability with touch and drag gestures.
  • Jason Camlot’s “Debaucher’s Chivalric Villanelle” draws connections between the repetitive structure of the villanelle and the repetitions of lines that occur because of the challenges of having overlaid language that can be activated by touch.
  • Jerome Fletcher’s “K Now” (depicted above) uses larger orbits for the words to move, creating space for legibility without needing to touch the screen, though touching any word brings out entire lines to the foreground for readers to better appreciate their sonorous approximations.
  • Loss Pequeño Glazier’s colorful polyglot “What Dragonfly Doesn’t Savoir Faire” uses multiple colors to signal slightly different behavior from the orbiting words— the red ones remain in the foreground, but the blue ones rotate with the white ones, occasionally becoming obscured. He also provides different instructions for the drag function, subverting the expected response from the interface. (Note also that either the app or iOS are unable to recognize or reproduce the character for accented letters.)

The structure of a word cloud from which one can pull lines through touch is a remarkably versatile structure and it would benefit from a version that allows readers to explore it with their own texts and controls, as they did with the Speak app.

Featured in ELO 2013: Chercher le Texte Virtual Gallery

“Speak Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, Jim Andrews, David Jhave Johnston, J.R. Carpenter, and Aya Karpinska

"Speak App" by Jason Edward Lewis and Bruno Nadeau
“Speak App” by Jason Edward Lewis and Bruno Nadeau

Speak Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, Jim Andrews, David Jhave Johnston, J.R. Carpenter, and Aya Karpinska

This suite of poems by several prominent writers in the e-lit community was written using the Speak app, an authoring system developed by Lewis and Nadeau. This is the first in the P.o.E.M.M series (Poems for Excitable Mobile Media), a series of apps designed to explore the expressive, artistic, and publication potential of Apple’s iOS computational environment, Store, and touchscreen devices. The app opens to “What They Speak When They Speak to Me,” Lewis & Nadeau’s original touchscreen poem for large installations. The app offers other poems as well as the option for readers to explore the system by entering texts. Considering the effort that goes into creating computational frameworks for e-lit works, it is a great idea to open them up for further writerly interventions. It is therefore worthwhile to see what four talented writers have done and how their own poetics and thematic concerns are expressed through this framework. The main observable variables are font and lines of text, which readers access in different portions and sequences.

  • In “Character,”Jim Andrews writes meta textual lines from the personified poem’s voice that focus the reader’s attention on the interface.
  • Jhave’s “Let Me Tell You What Happened” reveals fragments of a situation that most people would find difficult to speak about.
  • Carpenter juxtaposes two very different conceptual frames evoked by her poem’s title, “Muddy Mouth.”
  • Karpinska’s “The Color of Your Hair Is Dangerous” explores linguistic slippages resulting from speaking multiple languages.

It is worth noting that all five poets (including Lewis) engage the theme of speech, structuring their lines to allow readers to intuit their structure. They help map out the framework’s rhetorical potential.

Featured in ELO 2013: Chercher le Texte Virtual Gallery

“Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl” by J.R. Carpenter

“Living Will” by Mark Marino

Screen capture of "Living Will" by Mark Marino. A will is displayed with instructions. Text: "LIVING WILL / by E R Millhouse / LIVING WILL / You hold in your hands the Living Will & Testiment of E.R. Millhouse, making you the controlling executor/rix, beneficiary, and heir. / INHERITANCE / My daughter, Salomee / Bequests.......4 / Legal Fees........605 / Medical Fees.....160 / Ta........4 / DRXL........93 / POV.........Salomee"
Open “Living Will” by Mark Marino

This next generation hypertext fiction and game shortlisted for the 2012 New Media Writing Prize is a wonderful example of how contemporary HTML and JavaScript can bring in multiple nodes into the same page to produce a seamless new document— a testament to the paths taken by the reader. Powered by two JavaScript libraries, Undum and JQuery, this work uses a scoring system to reward and punish the choices made by the reader/player who controls a character in the story, presumably with the goal of getting the most money. All this, conceptually framed by the structure and language of a legal document— a last will and testament— provides a genre through which a deceased character with an aptly Victorian name, E. R. Millhouse, can address his living heirs.

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“Smooth Second Bastard” by Jason Edward Lewis

Screen capture from “Smooth Second Bastard” by Jason Edward Lewis. Background with multiple colors and shades: orange, cream, blue and red. An “e” takes most of the left space. Text: “you/ from/ here?/ betwl  x/ bastard,/ smooth”.
Open “Smooth Second Bastard” by Jason Edward Lewis

This poem is the fourth in the P.o.E.M.M. (Poem for Excitable [Mobile] Media) series, which explores iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) as a creative platform for poetic expression. Each work investigates meaningful interactions with this environment, such as arranging texts on the screen space for readers to discover with touch and dragging gestures (“Speak”), using multitouch capability to pull out a line of poetry from a text cloud (“Know”), and combining the latter with tapping gestures to provoke words out of moving objects (“Migration”). This latest work engages the iOS environment as a market— an important aspect of artistic production.

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“Strange Rain” by Eric Loyer

"Strange Rain" by Eric Loyer
“Strange Rain” by Eric Loyer

This haunting soothing work is made of equal parts narrative, game, and poem. Its different “play modes”— wordless, whispers, story, and feeds—allow audiences to experience it (respectively) as an interactive ambient musical art piece, a kinetic concrete poem, a story, or an artistic interface for Twitter. Except for the last, each mode is layered on the previous one, which helps train readers to successfully navigate the work. The added incentive of unlocking achievements through the Game Center, encourages readers to continue exploring the work by providing a sense of progress and a roadmap of curiosity and expectation.

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“The Dead Tower” by Andy Campbell and Mez Breeze

Screen shot from “The Dead Tower” by Andy Campbell and Mez Breeze. A screenshot of a cylycone form red and blue tower in a black and sinister surrounding. Only part of the tower is viewable and the rest is not because of the obscurity.
Open “The Dead Tower” by Andy Campbell and Mez Breeze