This award winning group of sixteen poems about a trip to Vietnam are organized hypertextually as a cluster of images of little odds and ends: a candy wrapper, a ticket, photograph, and so on. Each image will lead you to poems, short Shockwave animations, visual poems, hypertexts, a set of images, all experiences that will lead you to reflect on the politics, poverty, and culture of Vietnam.
These three works all use geniwate’s “concatenation engine,” a page architecture designed in Director and inspired by William Burrough’s cut-up. The first one, “Concatenation,” creates a responsive space of exploded letters which generate phrases when clicked upon by the reader following algorithms that randomize word selection and arrangement on the screen. “When You Reach Kyoto,” places the engine in collaboration with Brian Kim Stefans’ photography and text and was published as part of the Machine Poetics“page_space project.”
This is a challenging work because its presents a simple, yet imprecise, interface that allows one to explore an ever shifting 3D virtual space. Its boxes change colors and sizes and display texts randomly selected and assembled from four different datasets, triggered by a schedule or by user interaction.
In this collaborative work, Edward Falco writes a series of texts inspired by Mary Pinto’s photograms, and Will Stauffer-Norris designed the Flash hypertext that displays the texts over the photograms on a tight schedule. The “digital tales” point towards fiction, but they are really prose poems that contain elements of a narrative that a reader might put together from the stream-of-consciousness lyrical language of the texts. Since scheduling of the textual display only allows the reader a few seconds to read each text before they have to open it again, it reinforces the fragmented thought process of someone exploring a landscape, or series of landscapes. Allow yourself to lose yourself in these spaces and see what you find.
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!