This award-winning responsive poem focuses on the Australian ghost town Wittenoom, abandoned due to toxic dust caused by asbestos mining. Each of its nine parts focuses on an aspect of the abandoned town and consists of an image from Wittenoom, generally portraying urban decay, an brief looping instrumental audio track, links to other parts of the poem, a title for the section, and a text accessible through different responsive interfaces. A brief parenthetical help text near the bottom left corner of each screen provides encouragement that hints at the interface, promting readers to explore the interactivity and intuit its internal logic. The thematic focus and consistent visual design pull the work together, while the varied interfaces lead to new explorations of the spaces, together producing an experience both jarring and immersive.
This work prompts readers to write according to a set of poetic constraints, offering original, famous, and obscure forms and examples. The interface offers a series of virtual pages floating in fixed positions in space, and allowing readers to tilt them, zoom in and out, and flip them over to read the examples on their verso. A close examination of its yellowed pages reveals barely perceptible ink marks from handwriting on the other side, but that information is missing when one flips the page. Why evoke such physicality in the pages?
This “psychometric trial” prompts readers to explore their sacred name through manipulation of the “lettered sieve” an infinite set of language constructed as follows:
For the following trial, imagine the alphabet, followed by, in alphabetical order, all permutations of pairs of letters of the alphabet, followed by all permutations of triples of letters of the alphabet, followed by quadruples, and so on for quintuples, sextuples, and so on. Let us call this infinite set of letters a ‘Lettered Sieve.’ Possessing a working concept of the Lettered Sieve is essential to completing the first seven parts of the trial.
This series of installations are poetic visualizations of a personal database, consisting of every word written in the author’s computers for a four year period (2002-2006). The database contains metadata, such as time-stamps for each word, capitalization, and its source. This allowed Mendoza to create software installations that lead us to pay attention to the language in through various conceptual lenses.
“Every Word I saved” (pictured above) recontextualizes the language in the dataset by displaying it in alphabetical order as a stream of text flowing in the screen, suggesting a radically reorganized stream of consciousness. The words are stripped of all data, except for their capitalization, a minimal touch that provides significant variation from the steady stream of repetitions of the same words. The kinetic presentation of streaming text allows us to perceive these meaningful graphical cues as they crest like waves over the steady linearity of lower case letters.
This scheduled poem plays like a silent video composed of a series of photographs of a wheat field in the background and kinetic language in the foreground. The text unfolds through a series of transformations of words by moving letters around into to form other words, and letter substitutions that create rapid word sequences. Timing is all in this poem, which could be organized internally by the speed at which its words are transformed and the means by which they change from one to the next. Notice the speed at which a sequence of four letter words change through letter substitution, forming a stream of associations, and the emphasis this gives to the pause at the end. Contrast this to the longer words that transform into other words by moving letters around, emphasizing each word and its meaning as moments with a thematic charge that punctuates the poem.
Allow this short poem to loop and read it a few times to allow its thematic and visual coherence to sink in.
This video poem created in Flash is a meditation on the word game Hangman. The Western banjo rock music— a clip from Modest Mouse’s “3 Inch Horses, Two Faced Monsters“— evokes the American “wild west,” reminding us of its improvised deadly justice system that often resulted in hanging. This cultural backdrop enhances the poem’s ruminations on what would otherwise seem like an innocent little word game. Its scheduled presentation of language appropriately conforms to the game mechanics, placing blanks and filling in all of one letter at a time until the complete phrase is readable. The animation centered on the letter “O” is a pictorial analysis that cleverly leads to the poem’s title. Its use of color is not only a reminder of the imaginary stakes in the game, but also shapes the reading in some of the poem’s stanzas. As you watch and read this short e-poem and appreciate its deconstruction of the game, consider what it has to say about the real and imagined human body and that of language.
This new entry in the PoEMM series was recently published as a free iOS app, following closely a redesigned website and a booklet documenting the series. Designed for touchscreen devices, this poem fills the screen with its lines scrolling from one side to another at different speeds and in different directions. Readers encountering this wall of text may find it a bit overwhelming— too much language at the same time to apprehend.