This generative poem attacks marketing on several levels: the generative poem in the center of the page does so thematically, the banners that surround it conform to standards for Web advertising banners, and Portuguese commercial slogans are cut up and remixed to expose their underlying messages.
What an impressive little poetry generating machine Rui Torres has put together! The poem itself isn’t that complex, consisting of 10 variables that randomly display words from carefully chosen word datasets. Part of what makes it impressive is how Torres has crafted two interfaces to interact with the poem and one to publish the results— all of which highlight the immensity of potential texts in different ways. The horizontal interface takes a visual approach by creating a textual landscape with infinite vanishing points in all directions. The vertical, almost more viscerally, displays a number of possible poems so huge (as of this reading “999999579351521 poemas possíveis [possible poems]” that it reminds us of the permutational possibilities of this and other poems in the tradition of Raymond Queneau’s “Cent Mille Milliards de Poemes.” The background voice and sounds soothingly set a poetic tone while reinforcing a sense of space. A neat feature is that readers can assemble poems with the interface and materials provided and publish them in a blog, so they can leave behind records of their reading.
Clarice Lispector’s short story “Amor” takes us from the quotidian life of a married woman into an emotional and sensory explosion where the smallest details are magnified into sensuous monstrosity and compassion (here’s a Spanish translation of the original story, and a partial translation of Torres’ work in Catalán). This work explores these moments in 52 short poems that saturate the senses with rich color, video, text, and sound while focusing our attention on Lispector’s luscious words through scheduled arrangement of lines on the window and a voice reading the poem aloud. The reader can move and rearrange texts and trigger the voice reading a line by clicking on it— essentially being able to create a new poem from the lines— but it feels like a distraction from the impressive work that has already been done by Torres. Perhaps he wished to make us complicit in this “plagiotropic” poetic reinscription of Lispector’s story.