This literary game which can be equally used to create prose and verse is a tribute to the Surrealist parlor game known as the “exquisite cadaver” and the paper-based Mad Libs created by Roger Price and Leonard Stern in 1953 (for more details, read Montfort’s introduction to the Literary Games issue of Poems that GO). This program originally created in Perl allows people to create texts and tag words to become “dreamfields.” When someone blindly fills in the dreamfield, it reconstructs the text with the reader’s input. Hilarity ensues.
This suite of two responsive visual poems are inspired by typography and phonetics, and the poetics of Concretism and Lettrism. “Vowel Submission” seeks to discover letters physically discoverable by breaking off portions of vowels. The interface leads readers to probe the space of the poem searching for triggers that will break the rotating vowels into the consonants that lie within. “Typespeak” is the more interesting piece because it vocalizes the sounds of each letter without combining them into words. In other words, one can type a word, but it will play as a simultaneous set of individual sounds. He turns the computer’s keyboard into an instrument that plays verbal notes from Madsen’s vocal apparatus. The random placement of brief letter animations on the screen also resists any attempts at writing words, a very Lettrist move because it subverts attempts at creating meaning.
This is a work of poetic narrative built upon the structure of interactive fiction. The protagonist of this piece is a defective (“bad”) machine whose malfunction has given it self awareness and independence from the clockwork functioning of a warehouse full of robots. The reader (player, interactor) is placed in this machine’s position and must learn how to survive in a world that will quickly take it apart and reabsorb it into its operational structure. The most poetic part of this work is that the lessons are in interpreting its language and interacting with the parser, both of which lead to a fresh experience of language as action and power. Using the imperative form reminds us of how powerful words can be to command a person or machine into action, much like computers follow programmed commands… provided they can parse the instructions and that they’re not defective. The shift in perspective offered by this “bad machine” is another way in which experience is made fresh, much as the Martian Poets did with their poetry.
This adaptation of Jorge Luis Borges’ story of the same name astutely uses the mechanics from ten classic videogames (think Pong and Atari 2600) to retell the main plot points, and highlight some of the ideology expressed in the narrative. Bookchin’s juxtapositions of videogames and parts of the narrative is the main strategy, as we consider the interpersonal relations implied in a game of Pong, whether one bounces a ball, words, or a woman across the table. The competitive relation between players as they outdo each other parallel the Nilsen brother’s feud over the poor woman that gets caught between them and seems powerless before their passions. Several games in this piece feature the woman, as language and things come out of her vagina, or she runs across landscapes, seeking to escape the vicious circle of the brothers’ possessiveness. The most visceral part is the realization that in order to continue listening to the narrative and finish the story, the player must become complicit in the victimization of this woman, even if it is masked by a videogame interface.
These two responsive sound poems provide intuitive tools for readers / listeners / composers to explore the minimalist sound lexicon Piringer has created for them. The lexicon consists of syllables turned into icons or tokens that the reader can move and place (or toggle) in the interfaces to activate brief recorded vocalizations associated with them and combine them with other syllables to create musical & poetic compositions.
This poem is the result of two creative collaborations: Max Dunlop’s poem “orbital: a postcard to space travel” and Neil Jenkins’ generative engine that creates an entirely different experience of the work.
This responsive (or “reactive” work as described in Megan Sapnar’s essay “Reactive Media Meets E-Poetry”) is a great example of a work that reacts to user input, though I’m not sure there’s enough of a language base to connect it to poetic tradition. Translated as “In the lion’s mouth” (though I feel “In the wolf’s mouth” is more accurate) this feels more like a visual art piece than a poem and I suspect Clauss would agree, since he describes his works in Flying Puppet as “tableaux interactifs” (interactive tableau).
This suite of three sound poems (or three-part poem) were inspired by Glenn Gould and his experiments with musique concrète (for a fun example, see this video). Nelson uses audio recordings of interviews on three topics— injuries, products, and robots— and places them on an interface that allows you to mix 8 clips at different volume levels and audio panning (sending signal to the left or right speakers). This can be used to listen to a single voice or place multiple voices in conversation, adjusting their virtual proximity (volume) and relative position in order to construct a sense of space in which people discuss a topic. Each interface is visually and thematically designed with a different background images, slider knobs, and an animated morphed image. The image above is from “Injury Analysis” and the following two are from “Product Sermon” and “Robot Party.”
This exquisitely designed site contains poetry in several modes: in lines of verse, as visual poetry, and as an e-poem that responds to the reader’s symbolic presence in the text: the pointer. The site is conceptualized “as a grave” made of [web] pages, words “flung to the far corners / of the earth” (quoted from the site manifesto). Each page consists of images and words arranged and offer the reader two ways of viewing the composition: discover (which keeps links hidden for reader to explore the surface of the image for them) and unearth (which provides a sepia tone for the background and reveals the links in the text, along with useful labels for them). Verbally it is also a collage of voices: from the victims to the pilot of the Enola Gay, who delivered the bomb in Hiroshima.
This work is a powerful memorial to those lost in Hiroshima (and by extension Nagasaki). Simultaneously fascinating and horrifying, factual and ironic, the work reminds us of the very human side to the event and its aftermath.
This two-part poem examines two sides of an emotional event in the speaker’s life. The first part, “Breathing” shows sadness, even depression, perhaps over the presence and absence of a woman, shown partly in the image standing by the door on the right side of the image. A mouseover triggers a whispery spoken soundtrack, stabilizes the softly vibrating lines so they become readable, and switches from one part of the poem to the other.