“No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau.

Screen capture of “No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau. Photograph of a tablet displaying  a text in black font on a red background. It also shows someone's fingers touching the screen.
Open “No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau.

This new entry in the PoEMM series was recently published as a free iOS app, following closely a redesigned website and a booklet documenting the series. Designed for touchscreen devices, this poem fills the screen with its lines scrolling from one side to another at different speeds and in different directions. Readers encountering this wall of text may find it a bit overwhelming— too much language at the same time to apprehend.

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“Know Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, et. al.

 

“Know Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, Christian Gratton, David Jhave Johnston, J.R. Carpenter, Jason Camlot, Jerome Fletcher, and Loss Pequeño Glazier.

The first version of the Know app was named after, designed for, and published a single poem: Lewis’ “Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better.” For version 2.0, he commissioned five poets to produce new poems with the authoring system. Here are some noteworthy observations on how they mapped out the app’s parameters.

  • David Jhave Johnston went to two minimalist extremes: using single word lines to produce a legible sentence while limiting the effect of the touch interface to two words in “4 Pound” (depicted above), and by using touch to make words move on such wide orbits that they effectively disappear.
  • J.R. Carpenter uses the structure to create a kind of semantic word cloud full of binary opposites in “Twinned Notions,” and in “up from the deep” conceptually maps the interface as a sea of words which the reader can pull maritime themed verse out into readability with touch and drag gestures.
  • Jason Camlot’s “Debaucher’s Chivalric Villanelle” draws connections between the repetitive structure of the villanelle and the repetitions of lines that occur because of the challenges of having overlaid language that can be activated by touch.
  • Jerome Fletcher’s “K Now” (depicted above) uses larger orbits for the words to move, creating space for legibility without needing to touch the screen, though touching any word brings out entire lines to the foreground for readers to better appreciate their sonorous approximations.
  • Loss Pequeño Glazier’s colorful polyglot “What Dragonfly Doesn’t Savoir Faire” uses multiple colors to signal slightly different behavior from the orbiting words— the red ones remain in the foreground, but the blue ones rotate with the white ones, occasionally becoming obscured. He also provides different instructions for the drag function, subverting the expected response from the interface. (Note also that either the app or iOS are unable to recognize or reproduce the character for accented letters.)

The structure of a word cloud from which one can pull lines through touch is a remarkably versatile structure and it would benefit from a version that allows readers to explore it with their own texts and controls, as they did with the Speak app.

Featured in ELO 2013: Chercher le Texte Virtual Gallery

“Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better” by Jason Edward Lewis

“Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better” by Jason Edward Lewis
Open “Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better” by Jason Edward Lewis

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