This Flash hypertext poem is elegant in its simplicity. Its interface— a night sky with bluish stars that reveal narrative poems— allows its readers to explore the thematically interconnected stories as they choose. The narrative poems are minimally formatted— free verse center justified in the middle of the screen— focusing attention on stories of the challenges of life and love on the characters. The ambient sounds and introductory movie with a voice reading the opening poem in Arabic— the lines of which are associated with each star— set a dreamy, meditative tone for the poem.
This hypertext Flash poem written between August and December 2001 by Marjorie Luesebrink (M.D. Coverley is her nom de plume) arranges old photos arranged along an image of LA skyscrapers. Clicking on each leads to an brief sequence in which a photograph of people is juxtaposed with audio and a few lines of narrative poetry, whose display or legibility are scheduled. The black and white photography, unsettling sounds, image transformation, and the stanzas describing lives touched by the transformation of the sky into glass resonate with the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks on countless lives. This is a powerful, yet delicate work.
Like “Translation” and other works by Cayley, this poem can be described as an installation piece: it is designed to run indefinitely. “Wotclock” uses texts and images from What We Will combined with speaking clock algorithms designed by Cayley in Hypercard since 1995. (For an early visual poem which informs this piece, see “The Speaking Clock.”)
This award-winning long poem by Cayley shifts in and out of intelligibility as it morphs from one stanza to the next, one group of letters at a time. Yet even when the traditional meanings of words are left behind, the generated words gesture towards meaning, especially as the synthesized voices read them aloud.
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 tribute to the work of Jean Pierre Balpe is challenging because the reader must figure out the poem’s logic in order for them to progress through this e-poem. I can imagine many readers will not reach the end of this work, particularly if they cannot read French, and that’s okay, because this piece responds to what Philippe Bootz calls “l’esthétique de la frustration” —the aesthetics of frustration (link).
To enter the space of this poem with the goal to traverse it to the end is to enter into a game with Patrick Burgaud— or the logic and intentions he programmed into his poem. And there are both pleasures and frustrations in this game. Bonne chance!
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.
This “short story-poem-comic strip-musical” by Chris Joseph and María Colino consists of 10 highly stylized Flash pieces in the Dada and Constructivist traditions. Two particularly arresting poems are “River” and “Sex/Conception” (see images above) because of how they use their images and randomly generated texts.
The simple yet unexplained interface for this sexy Flash poem is a metaphor for the subject of the poem—kids who barely know how to drive (or interact romantically) cruising in a small town in Wisconsin— because the reader is also a novice on how to read and navigate this poem.
The guitar music and clear voice delivering the aural version of the poem, presented simultaneously with the visual text the reader must learn to traverse in order to read, and the pictures of cars, streets, and neon signs combine well to deliver an immersive, and very hip, experience.
As a sound and visual poem in the Lettriste tradition, Nio consists of a set of glyphs made of stacked letters, each of which plays its own musical phrase— a recording of Andrews’ voice— and its own animation. Verse One allows readers to layer sounds and animation, while Verse Two allows both layering and sequencing.