This minimalist scheduled poem engages our ability to hold language in memory in order to act upon it. The text is displayed on two spaces simultaneously, though the header stream begins first before the second one in the box begins to compete for our attention. Each text is displayed one word at a time at a rapid rate, faster than we have grown used to with works by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries or William Poundstone’s “Project for Tachitoscope.” In those cases the texts are synchronized to music, and potentially accompanied by other graphical elements, but Hatcher’s poem strips away all distractions from the text, which allows attentive readers to focus most of their consciousness on one of two textual streams, since it is virtually impossible to actually read both and make sense of them. You have to choose a track or risk having your train of thought derailed, so to speak, because of the speed at which they are displayed— 170 miliseconds per word (over 5 words per second).
This work is a kind of hypertext edition of Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” contextualizes the poem by placing it in conversation with historical and biographical events, culture, music, poetry, visual arts, and its publication history.
Its interface is simple (though unexplained): when you click on an image of a line from the poem on the “Arriving” column the image changes to one from a different printing of the poem, displaying its date on the left, and loading a random set of lines and images on the “Departing” column. Each date brings up a scanned image of the print publication as a visceral lesson on the impact of the materiality and socialization of texts, as Jerome McGann demonstrated in The Textual Condition. The lines and images in the “Departing” column are excerpts from other materials— clicking on them brings up an image, text, or embedded video (note: currently works best in Chrome) beneath the column. The title links to an “About” page, which is a scholarly short article that goes into detail on the contexts, inspiration, and theory that informs the work.
This digital re-reading — operating as both a detourned archive and an artistic re-imagining — puts the many editions of Hughes’ poem in direct contact with a constellation of images, texts and voices that respond to its call.
This narrative poem tells the mock-heroic adventures of an unlikely antihero on an imaginary quest. As Bigelow describes the piece,
In “How They Brought the News from Paradise to Paterson,” a first-person speaker narrates his story (in heroic verse) as he swims from one end of a resort pool complex to another in search of what he thinks is more alcohol, but is in fact a journey to find his marriage
and himself. The poem plays with the epic and tragic within a setting stifled with consumerism and class separation.
The poem is structured as the monomyth, in which the speaker, while lounging at the Paradise pool bar in a 5-star resort in Barbados, overhears what he interprets as a call to adventure: the bar has run out of rum. Taking upon himself to embark upon a journey through the pool complex to find the god-like Concierge at the far end, whose “sage advice / and quick, imperious commands” would restore the flow of rum in Paradise.
This bot generates poetry by sifting through 10% of all Tweets, parsing them with a dictionary for the pronunciation data, and identifying the ones that happen to scan as iambic pentameter. It then organizes the tweets into rhyming couplets and publishes them in Twitter by retweeting the original postings. Finally, it aggregates them into the shape of a Shakespearean sonnet in a website (Pentametron.com) that offers a sequence of 14 sonnets. Every hour, a new couplet is posted, changing all 14 sonnets as one couplet enters the sequence of 98 couplets and the oldest couplet, the final volta, exits the collection.
This mesmerizing work of observational poetry juxtaposes a generative haiku with a split-screen 6 minute looping video composed of short clips captured along the Tokaido line. Luers’ statement explains the concept in detail in the “About” page.
With our small cameras, smartphones and apps we document our travels. We capture and collect “haiku” moments, tokens of time and space, just as we always have, whether with pen and paper or the bulky camcorder. But with digital technology, we now store these moments as files in searchable databases. How do we use them? Do we try to find the narratives in the fragments or hunt for the suprising incongruities? Perhaps we only care about the isolated moment,the singular shot or sequence, which we “share” as soon as it has rendered. However we narrate experience, our devices and their databases remind us that there are always moments lost in any narrative retelling, always a different path through the data.
This charmingly handcrafted hypertext work is built upon the narrative framework of The Canterbury Tales, but in a completely contemporary fashion, using the Simon Cowell’s popular tv musical talent show The X Factor as the motivation for a pilgrimage to the O2 concert arena in London. The inviting hand-drawn train (reminiscent of Max Dalton’s art used in Wes Anderson’s films) uses its characters as an interface to learn about their motivations and interconnected stories. The background music consists of amateur performances of popular songs, of a quality that might give Simon Cowell abundant opportunity for a snide remark, but in this case fits the tone and aesthetics of the piece. The poem in the Prologue echoes Chaucer in its structure, but is cut from the same cloth as the music— offering lines that win readers over with enthusiasm and charm, as it does when it rhymes “telly” with “melée.”
For the most reading pleasure, leave any snarkiness at the door and be willing to sing along.
Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2010