This award winning interactive poem tells the story of a man who has come to the acute realization that he has lost control of his life and potentially the love of his wife and son. The story of his “loss of grasp” is told through six movements, each one presenting texts and environments that respond to readers’ input through mouse and keyboard. Each movement contains an interface that advances the narrative while producing an emotional response in the reader.
The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.
The situation and chain of events this Prufrockian speaker finds himself in is a powerful enough objective correlative, but Bouchardon extends Eliot’s concept through the tactical deployment of simple interfaces, he creates traversal situations that evoke emotions in readers as they interact in order to read the text.
For example, in the still image above, readers can reveal the image of a woman (the character’s wife) by using formulaic getting acquainted phrases as a kind of brush— a clever visual representation of how shallow an understanding of a person one can get through such interactions. It is not surprising when twenty years later, the speaker gets an ambiguous message from his wife (see image below).
After a slowly scheduled presentation that focuses attention on each line and on how multiple readings arise as we read them in the context of the lines that follow, we are able to display the lines in the original or reversed order depending on where we place the pointer on the screen. The lines of verse read differently depending on the order they are presented in, creating rich interpretive possibilities through syntax and enjambment while maintaining the ambiguity of the question that frames this section. There are no easy answers in this poem, and one needs to read between the lines, sometimes literally (see image below), to experience its emotional impact.
As you navigate this delicately interactive work, consider how Bouchardon has scripted your participation in each section to enhance the speaker’s voice and narrative development throughout the piece. The final movement offers simultaneously the freest and most constrained interactive moment in the poem, directly pitting two voices to accentuate the work’s resolution.