“Pentimiento” by Jerome Fletcher

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Open “Pentimiento” by Jerome Fletcher

This narrative poem is a fascinating type of hypertext because instead of having five primary nodes from which to follow linear threads it uses a layering interface for navigation. The reader, instead of clicking on links, scrapes away at images to reveal an image beneath, and can continue to scrape away until she reaches the end of that narrative thread. This allows readers to reveal more than one layer at a time, as pictured above in a screenshot of three layers in the introduction.

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This interface is acknowledged from the outset and referenced throughout the work, as the painter sequestered in this room puts layers after layers of paint on the walls as her ideas about her piece develop. Thus, as animals become elements in a landscape and dream images inhabit the piece, and the work becomes symbolically and psychologically stratified.

Reading and interpreting the painting and writing on the wall isn’t merely a spectator sport in this work: much is at stake. From narrative framing details in the introduction to an allusion to the Book of Daniel within a layer of the North Wall (see image below), Fletcher adds political and historical dimensions to this piece that go deeper than a simple patina.

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The Kafkaesque impact of the conclusion is an argument for readers to experience the work sequentially, at least the first time, by exploring all the layers in each node before moving to the next one. Once you reach the end, I suspect you will want to reread it as I did, scraping with urgency to get to the bottom of this poem.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2012

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