“[con]artist” by Randy Adams

"[con] artist" by Randy Adams
Open “[con]artist” by Randy Adams
This hypertext multimedia work by the late master remixer Randy Adams is an homage to the World Wide Web. Adams describes his impetus “to create a hypertext[url] Web art work that pays homage to the World Wide Web and, on the other hand, pokes some fun at it” and “to utilize and interpret, exclusively, text and images found on the web.” To achieve this he embarked upon a constraint-based writing described in detail within the project, but best read after experiencing the work.

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“Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis

Juliet Davis pieces of herself
Open “Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis

Davis portrays her view on theories of how women are seen in society by using pictures and interactive digital media. “Pieces of Herself” uses a drag and drop interface by using a dress-up doll which gives readers opportunities to customize their exploration of the poem. The character is portrayed as a kind of dress-up doll that appears on the left side of the window, while readers visit the woman’s house and discover different items to place on her. Every time something is placed on the dress-up doll, it triggers an audio clip and a short, looping animation that remains on the doll. The fact that we cannot remove any of these animations is a comment on the irrevocable layering of experiences on a young woman as she is shaped by the world that surrounds her.

As you explore the poem, notice the speaker’s tone when describing the scenery. What importance does the phrase bring to the poem’s context? Colors and images emerge as the mouse clicks on the interface, and each one has a special meaning to the doll’s life. Consider the small visual and aural parts of the work and search for the meaning of every sound individually and as it combines to produce a complete artistic experience.

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“Memory” by Alckmar Luiz dos Santos and Gilbertto Prado

Screen capture of "Memory" by Alckmar Luiz dos Santos and Gilbertto Prado. Words and numbers are seen through a fisheye lens, distorting the image into circular shapes. Text: "(illegible)"
Open “Memory” by Alckmar Luiz dos Santos and Gilbertto Prado

Memory” is an interactive digital poem composed by kinetic texts and speech sound programmed in Flash by Brazilian researchers and digital poets Alckmar Luiz dos Santos and Gilberto Prado.

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“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” by J. R. Carpenter

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“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” by J. R. Carpenter

“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” is a delightful combination of computer generated poetry, mapping and the reworking of texts.  The text is displayed as an interactive map that allows the reader to explore each island and the texts that they generate and regenerate.  It alludes to an earlier piece, “Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl” (also reviewed in this site), which also employs a map to structure the text.

In “…and by islands I mean paragraphs” the space is larger than the computer window, vast like an unknown sea, goes beyond the horizon we can distinguish. The reader is forced to explore this vastness in which text recreates itself or is altered by the reader’s own interaction with the islands. It is impossible not to wonder whether it likely that one might find the same island twice. However, a reader that submerges herself in this world ends up too involved in the mutability and the textual permutations and the search for possible repetition becomes less pressing.

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In her introductory text to “…and by islands I mean paragraphs,” Carpenter states:

Their fluid compositions draw upon variable strings containing fragments of text harvested from a larger literary corpus – Deluze’s Desert Islands, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Bishop’s Crusoe in England, Coetzee’s Foe, Ballard’s Concrete Island, Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries, and lesser-known sources including an out-of-date guidebook to the Scottish Isles and an amalgam of accounts of the classical and possibly fictional island of Thule. Individually, each of these textual islands is a topic – from the Greek topos, meaning place. Collectively they constitute a topographical map of a sustained practice of reading and re-reading and writing and re-writing islands.

Although Carpenter names many of her texts, others are left to be discovered by the reader: Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle or Joan Blaeu’s Nova Descriptio Shetlandiae Descriptio Insvlarum Circa Scotiam (this last one, not mentioned in the bibliography). Some of the islands have names or are named in their accompanying paragraphs. Others are mysterious and their texts reorganise themselves without apparent direction by the reader. Some of the islands rely on a javascript file that controls the behaviour of the text. The rest is HTML. All in all, the code is elegant in its simplicity.

The texts themselves, the islands, have different characters: they can be lyric, factual or a combination of both; but, independently of their own character they succeed in transporting the reader.

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“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” is a truly magical piece of electronic literature: evocative and ethereal, without completely giving up the concrete (for which it used the grounding aspect of the map). It allows the reader to explore a world and to discover its wonders and surprises. If you have never encountered eliterature before, this is a wonderful piece to discover a whole new world.

“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman

“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman
“Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw” by Donna Leishman

In “Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw,” Donna Leishman uses a series of animated images to tell the story of Christian Shaw, an almost eleven year old girl who lives in Balgarran. This is an exploratory piece that allows the user to experience Christian’s world.

Although there is some text, the piece is mostly non-verbal. The images change when the user chooses to hover over them and they show strange things happening. The world inhabited by Christian is filled both with terrible creatures that observe her from behind the barren trees or marvellous flora that changes in unexpected ways. Her experiences affect her perception.

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“Here and There” by Katharine Norman

Screen capture from "Here and There" by Katharine Norman. A clock-shaped interface displaying Roman numerals over a black-and-white computer script. Text: "(three lines too small to read)"
Open “Here and There” by Katharine Norman

The image of the clock in Here and There invites the reader to read the texts in order, perhaps starting at 12 o’clock; while at the same time it presents the challenge of breaking the structure and jumping randomly from one number to the other. In doing this, the reader might discover the echo in lines that evoke others or feel the weight of brief pieces that could stand as a single, definitive image. But what looks like a clock is really a chart much larger its scope. The lack of sound in this poem (which contrasts other works by Norman, like “Window“), underlines the vastness of the universe contained in the chart and which is also suggested by the images and the allusions to celestial bodies.

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“Arachne” by Helen Sword

arachne
“Arachne” by Helen Sword

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.

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Leonardo Flores Loves “A(l)one” by Annie Abrahams

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“A(l)one” by Annie Abrahams

Note: you’ll need to allow pop-up windows to read this poem.

This minimalist e-poem  influenced me greatly in my development into an e-lit scholar. When I first encountered this poem in 1999, I was impressed by its use of colorful pop up windows in different sizes and positions to illustrate how one can be alone, even when surrounded by others. The distinctive features of each window yield to a common look and feel as the all become the same in color and message, as seen below.

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The yellow words that take over all the windows is a background image– an animated GIF alternating the word/phrase “alone” and “all one.” This repetitive sequence resonates with E. E. Cumming’s spatial juxtaposition in “[l(a]” because both poems provide compelling images of loneliness. Whether you are a leaf falling from a tree, detached (in death) from the company of other leaves, or a window surrounded by 15 other windows for a little while only to be left alone, in the end you are bound to feel “one.”

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“Into the Green Green Mud” by Miriam Suzanne

Screen capture of "Into the Green Green Mud" by Miram Suzanne. A cloud of black scribbles forms behind an apparent tree, from which hangs a broken swing. Text: "(too small to read)"
Open “Into the Green Green Mud” by Miriam Suzanne

“There Are Many Detours Between Information And Instruction” by Joe Milazzo

Screen capture from "There Are Many Detours Between Information And Instruction" by Joe Milazzo. Grey, blue, baby blue, orange and beige pixelated background with a textbox with 4 lines written in it. Text: "Languid / days / are over. / I suppose."
Open “There Are Many Detours Between Information And Instruction” by Joe Milazzo

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.

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