This narrative game poem was written, programmed, and ported to AppleWin Basic in 1985 to be read in Apple IIe computers. Using the structure of a mythical fable, this story integrates graphics, sound, and prose cut into small portions (verse, if you will) to tell the story of four swallows and their quest to understand the loss of their tree and find a new home. Writing a multimedia work for a screen, even (especially) as early as 1985 meant that text needed to be portioned, scheduled, layered, and juxtaposed with other graphical and aural parts of the work, in order to produce a coherent text and such transformations gesture towards poetry.
The limited resolution of personal computers in the 1980s and their screens meant that the graphics needed to work as abstractions and that any text bitmapped onto the screen needed to be brief, especially if it was to be animated or interacted with. Animations were equally limited, as any motion had to be evoked by redrawing the image in new coordinates, line by line. Such rudimentary technologies don’t make for an immersive experience for readers, so Zelevansky wisely chose to embrace the technological context and break the fourth wall by making this an interactive experience for readers. The metafictional approach helps draw readers in as they are required to traverse the text, sometimes by activating menu interfaces, sometimes by controlling movements within the work.
Taking Pinsky’s notion that the medium of poetry is the reader’s body, isn’t Zelevansky writing on cybernetic bodies, made of both computer and human parts? The graphical elements are so simple that with a few pixels and a word they evoke objects and entire worlds. And they operate more as language than as a cinematic experience, despite its animation, scheduling, and responsiveness. And with a simple tap of an arrow button, they can make swallows fly as high as the stars.