This poem has a very clear voice, an “I” whose beliefs are expressed throughout this work, which some readers may interpret as William Poundstone’s (or at least a persona he has created). From the outset, however, Poundstone explains that this poem was created from searches of the words “I believe” with various online engines, and that “Some texts have been recombined using a travesty algorithm.” He also provides a long list of people quoted for this poem in the page titled “Huh?” This subverts the notion of a single voice by acknowledging the multiplicity of sources and people quoted and the transformations potentially applied to the texts.
Generative works that produce output labelled as poetry sometimes beg the question whether it really is or not. Poetry enjoys a cultural mystique that evokes reverence towards this literary mode and resistance to anything generated or somehow automated. After all, if a poem is a trail through the wilderness of thought and human experience (i.e. Rip Rap), would we want to follow a path carved by a computer program? I like to think that cyborg poets (what else can we call those machines built out of human and machine languages, that carry out instructions that crystallize intentions?) can build trails that lead us to surprising and rewarding places.
I don’t know whether Tisselli was thinking of “Synonymovie” as a poem or not, but it is interesting for me to think of it as such because it a language centered experience. The kind of exploration that this work generates is a path through cyberspace powered by dictionaries and search engines, words and images. And it leads us to reflect on the relations between chosen words with an attention that we’ve come to expect from poetry.
With this brief piece, Strasser and Sonheim show us that the path to great multimedia poetry lies in simplicity. The way they’ve chosen to juxtapose the two short films and provide an interface that allows us to change their angle. Because the videos are of the view from a moving car, those positions can combine to change directions, produce a sense of openness, or drive towards a vanishing point. Its music, pacing, and brevity are evocative of the haiku, while the jagged graphic that rotates in the films suggest explosive violence. That combined with the year of publication (2004) and the use of the word Baghdad, makes for a powerful statement on the Iraq war.
This ethereal poem compels its readers to experience the evanescence of memory through a deceptively simple interface and navigational tools. The animations and sounds are displayed and fade at a paused pace to encourage reflection and allow time for the reader to forget where they clicked last, what they clicked, and where they were headed to next: much like the Alzheimer and Parkinson patients whose plight they seek to evoke. The mapped out sequences of dots reward those who follow them with sounds of nature, language, and gorgeous images— but the visual mappings fade after a few seconds, leaving the readers semi-lost when trying to reconstruct them.
This is a masterfully executed piece, using digital media tools with a delicate touch.
This is a delightful collection of seven short Flash poems inspired by OULIPO constraints and US politics from around 2004, such as the Iraq war. The introduction to the poems offers abundant detail on the combinatorial mathematics and constraints used, so I will offer a brief comment on each piece:
The two poems in this work were inspired by a personal experience of horseback riding in a place where and six unsolved murder cases: Calder Road. The first “Poem” consists of an prose poem describing a ride through the trail, followed by several short stanzas extracted from words in the original— an effect reminiscent of Tom Phillips artist book A Humument. The second, “Shards,” has four movements composed and recombined from phrases published in the Houston Chronicle about the murder cases.
The interface for this combinatorial poem allows for readers to read the lines inscribed upon the cubes individually or together as the cubes rotate in a virtual space. The layering of lines in the cubes is echoed by the layering of Howe and Karpinska reading lines from the poem. The controls allow readers to manipulate the cubes to align lines which combine to form new lines. The graceful rotation of the cubes, along with the soft overlaid voices, and textual combinations are simultaneously intriguing and mesmerizing.
This mesmerizing work by Cayley (with music by Giles Perring) invites the reader to look at this poem for a long time, searching for something to read, particularly if you cannot read French or German. Those patient enough are rewarded by words, phrases, lines, stanzas, and insight on the transformation of ideas when translated from one language to another, and the transmediation from an image of text into a digital text. Stare at the left column for long enough, and you’ll realize how much OCR (optical character recognition) we do when we read. Stare at the right, and you’ll realize how much we desire recognizing words, more than finding constellations in the stars.
Like the night sky, there is no end to this work. It ends with the reader’s aporia (that’s-it-I’m-done!) or epiphany (aha!)— which Espen Aarseth describes as “the dialectic between searching and finding” (91-2). If you become impatient, press Shift-E for about 5 seconds and the English translation will emerge. But don’t rush to understanding, or you might miss the point…
Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
This excerpt from Passage, an ambitious work by two e-poetry pioneers, is both theoretically interesting and aesthetically pleasing. As a generated text designed to never be displayed the same way, it cannot be reread the way one can do so with a printed text. At the same time, one can only intuit the logic of its mutability by rereading it with an eye for its variations. And because it is programmed in Director and published as a Shockwave file, we have no access to its source code.
No worries, though: its animation, music, and language combinations are delicately nuanced and intellectually stimulating. There is much pleasure to be found in its variations.
In this piece, Jim Andrews curates and meditates on a selection of proto-digital poems by Lionel Kearns from the 1960s to the present. Heavily influenced by McLuhan, Kearns intuited that “if one messes around enough with the physical form of language (either spoken or written), eventually you get to the point where it (the language) drops its load of conventional reference” and created works of visual and sound poetry “right on that edge, where language begins to work into either music or visual art.”