This selection of six poems built with a type of composite image known as animated GIFs used to create the earliest animations in the Web. In Zervos’ experienced hands (see his “Dimocopo” suite), this simple technology can be very expressive indeed, as can be seen in “Divorce” a kinetic concrete poem that uses moving typography to highlight some of the finer points in a divorce process.
This hypertext journey mapped on London’s Tube, is a cinematic tour de force by a poet of the digital. It earned an honorable mention in the 2001 Electronic Literature Competition, and the following write-up by competition judge Heather McHugh:
The first two of this list of poems stand out because of their use of Flash. Komninos’ approach to Flash in his poem “Beer” is similar to the work he published in animated GIFs: a sequence of words, morphing from one to the next producing surprising and amusing juxtapositions. It is with “Love” (image above) that he took advantage of Flash’s strengths: responsiveness to user input and audio synchonization. “Love” creates a simple interface that triggers some not-lovely sounds when moused over or clicked on. The words readable within its circles are replaced by their opposites, portraying love as a kind of minefield full of triggers that can turn trust into jealousy, heartache into separation, or simply cause pain.
This narrative “cyberpoem” started in 1995 with the goal of developing into a lengthy “soapie” about the life of i. The project obviously didn’t go on for a long time, though the 18 webisodes plus two alternate guest webisodes collected here are a testament to an ingenious exploration of the narrative potential of animated Concrete Poetry. Each piece is an ingenious animated GIF that illustrates and comments upon a moment in the early life of a character named i. The personification of the typographical character i and the transformation of other words into objects that i explores and interacts with truly exemplifies the Noigandres group’s description of Concrete Poetry as “tension of things-words in space-time.”
If this all seems too intellectual and dry, go read the poems: they are surprisingly moving as i comes to life.
This trio of early e-poems were written in HTML and use Java applets to shape their linguistic texts with a careful touch. “Infinity” and “Internet Junkie” both change the color of the text over a schedule to shape readings and to imbue them with a nervous energy. In “Infinity” (displayed above) the rarely used <blink> tag reinforces the instability of textual meaning as the phrases can be read with and without the three blinking words, “reality,” “literary,” and “Why?” In “Internet Junkie” the increased rate of color change from one stanza to the next mimics the increasing urgency of the addict’s need. The final poem in the piece uses the “NervousText” applet by Daniel Wyszynski to animate its words, “KOMNINOS is a poet,” which can be soothed into static stability with a mouse click.
The spastic energy of these poems gesture towards the Post-structuralist destabilization of meaning, authorship, and the text itself.
This suite of 28 early animated poems from 1995-1997 were created as animated GIFs but are really powered by a vibrant enthusiasm over the ability of computers to write kinetic language. In this suite, we see words morph into other words and into objects, words whose movements evoke their meanings, words used to build landscapes full of objects (a decade before WordWorld), and phrases reconfiguring and reshaping themselves into new ones— as is the case with “she left” (above). This poem is very economical with its language resources, yet so effective in describing the psychological process of a breakup in a relationship. These poems are little gems worth exploring, though the poet doesn’t necessarily make it easy for us.
This suite of 5 e-poems were written in the early days of the World Wide Web, when HTML and the tools it offered for animation, interactivity, and generative works were very rudimentary. Inspired by the Surrealist Exquisite Corpse technique Zervos rose to the challenge by using the humble animated GIF to produce surprisingly complex combinatorial work. This image format allows the creation of a sequence of images, presented at a predefined rate in an infinite loop. In these poems, Zervos uses some GIFs at different speeds and some at the same speed but aggregating a different number of images to create different combinations of elements.