The André Vallias digital poem ” A Encantação pelo Riso” is inspired by Cubo-Futurist poem “Invocation by Laughter” published in 1910 by russian poet Vielimir Klebnikov and translated into portuguese by Haroldo de Campos in 1985. The original poem presents a new semantic system based on the words decomposition and phonetic experimentation resulting in a work with a strong sonorous appeal.
Helen Sword’s 2009 web sonnet, “Arachne” is an homage to the mythological encounter of Athena and Arachne. The contrasting stances of human and mortal are set against visuals of green leaves and spiders, with language forming the webbed pattern between them.
The poem advances as the reader clicks on the spiders, the heart of the web, or hovers the cursor over their forms, thereby navigating between either Arachne or Athena’s points of view. For those who might have trouble traversing the poem itself, there are links at the bottom of the page that allow for a full text view of the work as well as an audio version.
This poem may seem like a simple slideshow that combines text and images but it is built with born-digital materials that have little to do with print culture. The background images are taken from sprites—graphical objects that form part of a program visual design and contain programmed behaviors. Both in its choice of sprites and fonts, the work favors an 8 and 16 bit videogame aesthetic, evidenced by its pixellation and bold fonts. And even though by turning these materials into images, their programmed behaviors are stripped, they retain cultural impact, particularly for those familiar with their provenance. One doesn’t have to be videogame aficionado to appreciate their aesthetics, since a few decades of exposure to these videogame graphics has caused some cultural burn-in, to the point that they’ve become part of our visual and computational vocabulary.
As you read the poem in all its retro glory, consider how the speaker’s nostalgic language resonates with the materials it was written with.
This multimedia hypertext work weaves together unpopulated images, ambient sounds, and the text of overheard conversations in several cities to produce an immersive experience of a journey. Best experienced in cinematic conditions (good speakers or headphones, large screen, dark room, no distractions, fullscreen browser window), this is a navigationally minimalist. Each image has an area you can click on to go to the next, and it’s not difficult to find, since it tends to be large and placed over a focal point in the photograph. The simplicity of the interface and knowing from the outset that it is a linear experience, allows readers to relax into the work and not be distracted by wondering about where to go or what decision to make. The sounds and scheduled presentation of the texts also encourage paucity and reflection on the whole sequence of images as a whole.
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 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.