This generative sequence of poems are based on a carefully scheduled sequence of changes: words fade in and out, letters fade in and out to transform words, spacing changes in words to produce different meanings or direct our attention to the etymology of words, alternate spellings, homophones, and puns replace words to subvert traditional meanings, and much more happens in this sequence of 105 poems.
The title seems to enact some of these strategies to evoke Ezra Pound’s Cantos, his unfinished magnum opus, which is divided into 120 parts. Dan Waber’s Cantoos are in 105 parts, stating at the end that “next will be 106.” Since Cantoo 105 was published on September 8, 2010, I wonder if this will be a deliberately unfinished project.
This is an ambitious long sequence of deceptively simple e-poems. For example, one could simply read the scheduled words as they appear in order to produce poems that are lengthier than they seem. Think of each variant as a new stanza, but arranged on the same space over time. If allowed to play untouched by the pointer, they would produce the same exact sequence, but there’s a very subtle responsiveness going on here. Positioning the pointer over a word will stop its scheduled change, while the rest of the words continue to change, altering the combinatorial dynamics of the poem. This quiet little interactive element multiplies the generative possibilities exponentially.
There are many different approaches to the Cantoos, showing how much range can be achieved through this mechanism. As an example, Cantoo 81 uses word repetition and slight changes in position along with a quick scheduling to create a train of thought, one word combination at a time. The second word in a sequence is reused in a new sequence that leads you to reflect on how the meanings and even texture of the word has changed.
Cantoos 87-92 were originally published in the Other Voices International Poetry Project, Vol. 38 as “6 for My Mother.” These poems were originally implemented using the Dynamic Drive DHTML Ticker Script, but were recoded by Marko Niemi for the Cantoos. Comparing the two, I see a cleaner and more elegant approach in Niemi’s code, and it adds a functionality of random color changes for words (not used in these poems). The poems themselves are loving expressions of things said to a mother, or at least of things the speaker would like to say directly to his mother, but can only do so through metaphor and poetry.
Explore these delicate poems with attention they deserve, giving them the time to allow them to unfold, and interacting lightly to explore the impact of your contribution in the word dynamics of the poems.