“…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Coetzee’s Foe, Ballard’s Concrete Island, Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries, and lesser-known sources including an out-of-date guidebook to the Scottish Isles and an amalgam of accounts of the classical and possibly fictional island of Thule.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.

“The River Dart” & “Babble Brook” by J.R. Carpenter

Screen capture from “The River Dart” & “Babble Brook” by J.R. Carpenter.  A twitter account with the picture of a river in the background and profile picture. Some of the postings read: “Hail on magnolia leaves. These and other improbably sounds.”, “All hail the cold rain”, “It can halt in the sun for longer than one might imagine”, “Sudden sun hail shower”.
Open “The River Dart” & “Babble Brook” by J.R. Carpenter

This poetic performance on Twitter is a series of observations focused on the Dart river and its environs in Devon, England. The earliest tweets on this account, which started on November 19, 2009, focused on the practicalities of walking along the river, and rapidly settled into a language based study of the river and its environs. The tweets exhibit a curious mixture of subjective and objective perceptions, writing from a very personal perspective without falling into Romanticism. It is more like Olson’s dictum that “ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION,” but captured and delivered over time via Twitter.

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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

“Speak Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, Jim Andrews, David Jhave Johnston, J.R. Carpenter, and Aya Karpinska

"Speak App" by Jason Edward Lewis and Bruno Nadeau
“Speak App” by Jason Edward Lewis and Bruno Nadeau

Speak Poems” by Jason Edward Lewis, Bruno Nadeau, Jim Andrews, David Jhave Johnston, J.R. Carpenter, and Aya Karpinska

This suite of poems by several prominent writers in the e-lit community was written using the Speak app, an authoring system developed by Lewis and Nadeau. This is the first in the P.o.E.M.M series (Poems for Excitable Mobile Media), a series of apps designed to explore the expressive, artistic, and publication potential of Apple’s iOS computational environment, Store, and touchscreen devices. The app opens to “What They Speak When They Speak to Me,” Lewis & Nadeau’s original touchscreen poem for large installations. The app offers other poems as well as the option for readers to explore the system by entering texts. Considering the effort that goes into creating computational frameworks for e-lit works, it is a great idea to open them up for further writerly interventions. It is therefore worthwhile to see what four talented writers have done and how their own poetics and thematic concerns are expressed through this framework. The main observable variables are font and lines of text, which readers access in different portions and sequences.

  • In “Character,”Jim Andrews writes meta textual lines from the personified poem’s voice that focus the reader’s attention on the interface.
  • Jhave’s “Let Me Tell You What Happened” reveals fragments of a situation that most people would find difficult to speak about.
  • Carpenter juxtaposes two very different conceptual frames evoked by her poem’s title, “Muddy Mouth.”
  • Karpinska’s “The Color of Your Hair Is Dangerous” explores linguistic slippages resulting from speaking multiple languages.

It is worth noting that all five poets (including Lewis) engage the theme of speech, structuring their lines to allow readers to intuit their structure. They help map out the framework’s rhetorical potential.

Featured in ELO 2013: Chercher le Texte Virtual Gallery

“Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl” by J.R. Carpenter

“Whisper Wire” by J.R. Carpenter

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Open: “Whisper Wire” by J.R. Carpenter

This generative poem focuses on the dynamics of electronic communication, primarily analog wired and wireless technologies, such as telegraph, radio, and cassette tapes. There is abundant noise in these types of communication— static, crossed transmissions, echoes, and ghost signals— and for effective transmission to occur, both sender and receiver need to be proficient listeners. This is an apt metaphor for this poem, in which one can perceive there is a different signal to noise ratio from what we expect in print texts. In other words, some of the lines may not make sense, but others are crystal clear. Which lines are the carriers of Carpenter’s message?

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“Gorge” by J.R. Carpenter

 

“There he was, gone” by J. R. Carpenter

“There he was, gone” by J. R. Carpenter.
“There he was, gone” by J. R. Carpenter.

This poem’s paradoxical title is a key to understanding its design and strategies. The subject’s presence and absence from a location is made possible through the passage of time, as the speakers search and imagine his whereabouts. The generated lines are structured to form a dialogue: a call and response that builds and recedes in length and intensity, like tides on the waters depicted in the map. A third or fourth voice (perhaps from the missing one) scrolls in from the background, becoming legible when it reaches enough contrast in the image. The scheduling of texts in this poem enhance the uncertainty of attempting to locate a moving target by keeping readers constantly reassessing what they’re reading.

The gorgeous map provides a sense of place while inviting readers to explore its surfaces.

“CityFish” by J. R. Carpenter

"CityFish" by J. R. Carpenter
“CityFish” by J. R. Carpenter

“In Absentia” by J. R. Carpenter

Screen capture from "In Absentia" by J. R. Carpenter. Marks and a dialogue bubble on a satellite image of a large neighborhood with other depictions on maps to each side. Text: "(too small to read)"
Open “In Absentia” by J. R. Carpenter

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