This hypertext poem is organized through lines of color arranged in a circle around a common center, designed to evoke a compass. Positioning the mouse over each color line reveals two lines of the poem, the one above labeled as “poetic” and the other as “subpoetic,” creating a contrast between something that corresponds to “northern” and “southern” (or sub-equatorial) poetic traditions. Jason Nelson born and raised in the Midwest of the United States, and working in Griffith University in Australia is a poet of two worlds: a northerner in the southern hemisphere, a place that he describes as “compass confused” because its aborigines are “pulled toward the center” while its European colonizers are “forever pointed north and west.”
Keeping these frames of reference in mind, think of the design of the “poetic” and the “subpoetic” in terms of outward or inward poetic traditions and Jason Nelson’s search for direction as he is lost among ever-multiplying creeks and trails, as seen in the video. Extending this hopelessly mixed metaphor (are you lost yet?): what is his north, and does he even want to go in that direction?
This sequence of poems arranged on three dimensional environments explore conceptual spaces between words. Each poem begins with a sequence of two words which are then represented pictorially on a virtual space, one in the front and another at the end of an open 3D tunnel, similar to the first version of Dreamaphage. As the reader navigates the diverse, visually engaging, and occasionally dizzying environments she encounters poetic texts, e-mail addresses, and passwords that provide access to short videos.
If you feel a bit lost in these spaces, remember the words at the beginning of each section: they are your cardinal points and won’t betray you. And if they do, wasn’t this foreshadowed by the title?
This minimalist poem hovers right on the edge of being an art piece, because each of its 50 environments offers a different mouse-driven (aimed?) interface and music. The four words positioned on the screen’s cardinal points create a space amid them that is both conceptual and a canvas. What is the relation between words positioned in opposite spaces? How do they relate to the title to each section? How do the sound and animation relate to the words and title? Clicking on the words lead to another node in this wondrously strange hypertext… This intriguing art poem is highly entertaining, as long as you can abandon thoughts of meaning and simply enjoy playing with the piece.
This suite of poems were created from speech to text software listening to different kinds of audio— movies, talk radio, television, and political speeches— and a poetic shaping of the output from that computer operation. This ingenious approach produces some fascinating poems which you might label as “Conceptual writing” or “Flarf poetry” (flip a coin). Part of the interest of this method and its results is how different is the texture of the language produced:
The (mostly) still video of a staircase over which the menu/submenu structure of the poem unfolds is a visual representation of the concept Jason Nelson is exploring with this poem. How can the poetic line be structured around the concept of interior menus and submenus? Does it correspond to a stanza, or are the relations less clearly defined? Jeremy Douglass used this structure to shape a narrative poem, elaborating on details within each subfolder, but Nelson’s structure is more exploratory in its use of submenus for lines.
Based on television footage from Jason Nelson’s childhood in the 1980s, such as Frankenstein reruns, news coverage of President Reagan, ads for Pacman pasta, bubble gum, and dinoriders, this series of narratives and poems are structured on graphs that are as absurd as the footage itself. The graphs and their accompanying narrative and poetic texts chronicle the rise and fall of characters, a President, secret organizations, and the physical and mental health of gum chewers. Characteristically witty and incisive, Nelson’s writing thrives as a Postmodern critique of culture and politics. At the same time, there is a personal touch to his work, as we can reconstruct aspects of his childhood through the video clips, all evidence of the electronic and physical toys (and their power sources), film and food, and a link to politics and the Cold War— with the terrifying specter of nuclear war hovering over it all. With that in mind, read carefully Nelson’s word choices throughout this work to discover a subtext more poignant than snarky commentary.
The third in a sequence of incisive poetry art games, this poem uses a labyrinth interface for the reader/player to navigate the surface of ten different texts presented as evidence of everything exploding. These texts are as varied as they are absurd— including a Dada manifesto, a letter from a young Fidel Castro and another from Bill Gates, the patent for a special kind of box, a NASA flight plan, etc. — and the game maze built on them highlights and comments on them in Nelson’s characteristically humorous poetic style. Completion of each level is rewarded by an odd little video in which a speaker shows and discusses the contents of a matchbook collection. Explosions are obviously a central theme in this poem as reaching every target in the maze reveals new texts after startlingly loud detonations. This idea is also applied to texts, blasted open to reveal their internal politics, implied messages, and ironies.
This poetry game is a sequel (of sorts) to his popular “game, game, game and again game,” this time focusing his satirical voice on popular Internet sites. His strategy is reminiscent of Tom Phillips’ famous artist book A Humument, because Nelson is inscribing on the surface of these websites to create games that critique and invite reflection upon their content, politics, and curating/filtering strategies. The platform game interface allows readers to explore the heavily inscribed pages, revealing poetic texts, videos, and getting subtly unsettled by harmless game “threats,” teleports, and amusing non-sequiturs. The title and the dynamics of the game poem itself engage the adversarial rhetoric of player vs. game (designer) and reader (and critic) vs. poet, particularly the perception that the goal is to win/understand the game/poem. My advice is to let go of those preconceptions and simply experience the work.