This elegantly understated work of generative poetry takes the words in a phrase and substitutes its nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs with synonyms from an online dictionary. Its stylish interface blends the worlds of paper and digital media: a messy ink blot serves as background for white words, Internet icons, and switches that control the display of the text. The simplicity of the interactivity is inviting: readers can simply click on words to have them replaced, click on the refresh icon to change all the words, explore sets of sentences or adages, and write their own— which can have the most impact because the writer is invested in what they write, and can see it transformed away from their intended message.
Like Eugenio Tisselli’s “Synonymovie,” this work leads us down a path of signification that provides insight on the denotations, connotations, frames of reference, and other textures of words, but in this case, working at the level of phrases and sentences. The initial set of sentences (with the exception of a Shakespearean quote) seem to have a consistent voice from a speaker who yearns to achieve things, yet the mechanism of the poem deconstructs those expressions— a theoretical move gestured at by the repeated use of the word “trace.”