This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)
Now that I’ve brought up the word “genre,” I must address the rhinoceros in the room, because nothing in the document seems to fit any traditional definition of poetry. Read the following excerpt for a representative sample of its writing.
This is prose.
It is well written prose and I could even make a case for it to be considered a prose poem, but that would be a bit disingenuous. The language here certainly contains literary allusions and metafictional references to how will is encoded through programming and scripting languages into electronic documents to carry out intentions long after presence has become absence.
“Wait a minute!” I thought. “Is this Mark Marino’s way of signaling readers that perhaps there is something in the code worth looking into?” He is, after all, a founder of the Critical Code Studies discourse. So I clicked with my right mouse button to reveal a menu (mentally snickering at how Mac users had to push the Control key and then click their mouse) and selected “View Page Source” in the menu. At the bottom of the source code, clearly marked by Marino’s documentation was a link (in line 157) to the main game file, which I followed. Here is what I found.
Documentation that remains in the main character’s voice. Deliberate line breaks. Word repetition. Enjambment. A direct address to the actual reader— not a character (or are we in character as we read the code?)— gently chiding us for needing more than what is offered on page generated by this code.
Well played, Mark Marino. Well played.
And he’s consistent, documenting and shaping the texts into a different presentation from what we encounter in the webpage. For example, let us revisit the same excerpt shown above, but this time in the source code.
The first thing to note is that the codes that display prose organized into sentences and paragraphs is cut into lines here. Is it because it is more comfortable to read the text when kept within the confines of a browser window without needing to scroll horizontally? Certainly, but these line breaks weren’t placed by a WYSIWYG editor: Mark Marino placed them deliberately. Read these lines to discover how some of these breaks portion the language into ideas, cognitive units, and phrases with a rhythm different from the generated paragraphs. These lines read differently, even though they (sort of) contain the same text.
This is a code poem, with instructions for your browser to produce a text and other instructions for readers to produce another performance of the text (as “executors” of the text). I recommend reading the “screen” text first, playing along with its powerful narrative experience. Then go into the source code (following my instructions above) and re-experience the work as a code poem, savoring its line breaks and variables.
There are pleasures in both texts.