This is a generative poem you can visit for years and continue to find things to surprise and delight. It is structured around a text— aptly named as “a strand” (as in a fiber or rope made of letters or characters)— which is shaped by “aspects,” which are programmed structures that shape and transform the strands through color, animation, scheduling, formatting, and other transformations possible in DHTML. Considering there are 10 “strands” (plus a “user-fed strand”) each of which can be shaped by 36 different “aspects,” each of which can have multiple controls and toggles, you don’t have to do the math to realize that this is a work of staggering generative possibilities. Combined with a few randomization and combinatorial touches, this is a work that will always welcome you with fresh moments, inviting you to play with its structures.
Jim Andrews has long admired this work, rightly seeking to draw attention to it. In 2004, he published a review of the poem, in which he states that “I regard it as one of the finer achievements in combining poetry, the visual, and programming for the Net.” Most recently, he produced four videos on this piece, each of which introduces the poem, contextualizes it differently (version 2 explains the Internet Explorer browser limitation), and performs different aspects of it. Composed of equal parts of documentation, commentary, and tutorial, I recommend all four videos to see some of the differences in the text, as well as Andrews’ growing insight on the work.
And of course, there’s nothing like experiencing it on your own, after which I think you’ll agree with Jim in his first video: “I don’t understand it, but I like it!”