Week 5: Reflection

The field of electronic literature and its criticism do not represent a break from the traditions of literature and criticism. Rather, they represent an opportunity to delve more purposefully and deliberately into questions about representation. I chose to focus in the first week on Neruda, which I thought would simplify things. I deliberately chose to avoid some of the writers who are known proto-hypermedia poets, only to discover that poetry in general seems to be hypertextual… and that hypertext is not about choice, but about depth. To state it differently, I could say that hypertext does not exist, but poetry always has and will, as long as we communicate through representation.
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Week 5

The final assignment is relatively easy.  Answer the following questions:

  • What insights (both practical and theoretical) have you gained into the poem/poems that you have studied?
  • What have you learned (both practically and theoretically) about hypermedia?
  • What have you learned (both practically and theoretically) about your own work (creative and critical)?
  • What have you learned (both practically and theoretically) about your colleagues and their work?
  • What about epoetica worked well?  What didn’t?  How would you improve this process?


ah } kiss Tecate tutto –otica


Route       y        If a review appears in Serbian

Makarasana       of

terremotosLhasa             : : Lakshmi


(Loss Pequeno Glazier, “Io Sono At Swoons”)

Interested in breaking down with traditional syntax and in abandoning punctuation and linear arrangement of words, in “A Throw of the Dice” Mallarme invites the reader to follow the poetic text in a nonconventional format, which, at first sight, reveals itself as being devised under the sign of chance or random because words are left free on the page, verbs and adverbs, nouns and articles are no longer bound to each other, capital letters follow no orthographic rules, punctuation marks are almost absent, and sentences can be barely read and identified. The feeling of incidental organization is caused by the very first visual impact of each page that Mallarme had skillfully manipulated in an attempt to escape “the four extremities of the page by jumping the boundary of the spine to tie two conventional pages into one,” as Dorothy M. Betz beautifully describes the poet’s intention and writing strategy. In Betz’s opinion, “the generally-falling movement of the text across each page depicts the fall of the dice; the ship on page three, the hat on page six, and the constellation on page eleven depict objects named at those points” whereas the arbitrary position of the words translates the poet’s playfulness and intent to mock the limits of the book and to express his frustration in writing.   Continue reading Chance=Random

Week 4: Chance

Over the next week, introduce variance and/or chance into the structure.  (Many of you are already moving down this path).But I am interested in the critical moments of the piece? Can you identify a key turning point in the narrative of the work?  How is the turning point marked through formal decisions?  What is the content of this turn?  How would variance or chance change the piece?  [Use any means or media to communicate your insights to the rest of the group.]

A Feeling Event: Boredom, Regret, Lack of Poetic Value?

This event demands not only a series of repetitions across years, but insinuates by including the date included, that a huge and elastic group has repeated this event year after year. Events repeat on a more fundamental level as well allowing performers to produce “events” (in quotation marks) because it is a different structure now: I am following — following instructions; I am mimicking as a form of event-making. I did not invent the constraints in 1966, but I am acting it out now as if quoting the events of, say, Dick Higgins, Ken Friedman, Yoko Ono, or others. Peter Frank’s definition of seven different types of events already identifies internal structures, but the issues of signature, and time, of events gets little if any attention. The structure of repetition relates to the geographic distance (as opposed to the immediacy and presence) and musicality (of works waiting to be performed by others). Still, these issues do not completely express the inherent “event-ness” (in quotation marks) of the event structure. It does not exist as an original that one can recover like art historians recover the Mona Lisa, or even trace its provenance. Events become events as “events,” and that has significant implications for the meaning, signature, and social function.

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The Imago&Logos Duality of the Context

“Writing’s visual forms possess an irresolvably dual identity in their material existence as images and their function as elements of language. Because of this fundamental dualism, writing is charged with binary qualities. It manifests itself with the phenomenal presence of the imago and yet performs the signifying operations of the logos” (Johanna Drucker, “The Art of the Written Image,” Figuring the Word, 57)


While analysing the visual properties of writing in a captivating essay on “The Art of the Written Image,” Johanna Drucker perceives writing as encompassing two layers of signification: the visual and the linguistic codes, or, what she labels, the imago&logos duality. And the author goes on conceiving a definition that translates writing’s visual/verbal substance as she explains “it [writing] is both an object and an act, a sign and a basis for signification, a thing in itself and something coming into being, a production and a process, an inscription and the activity of inscribing” (57). To decipher writing’s dual nature requires to identify and interpret the meaning located at the intersection where the two binary qualities manifest themselves for the logos of writing ( the text’s linguistic content) intermingle with the imago of writing (the shape of the letter, the space between words and sentences, the arrangement of the text as a whole on a page). Thus, writing’s discourse gains complexity and, consequently, not only the text is necessary for its understanding, instead this newly-formed textual system in which the richness of signification broguht by the imago of writing comes into play as well. In this light, the context displayed by Mallarme’s “A Throw of the Dice”can be identified with the text and its placement on the page, or as Drucker says, “the space of the page as a space and his careful measure of the relative weight of words as forms on the page” (115).

Page three of the poem, the one brought into discussion for the theme on temporality, starts on the left page with “BE that the ABYSS whitened slack maddened on the slope slides desperately a wing its own al-” (each word on a single line with the exception of “slides desperately” placed one near the other) and continues on the right page adding to the last word “al-“ its last letters “-ready fallen because the flight was badly planned.” The ending lines on this page “its gaping deep so much that the shell of a ship pitched from side to side . . . “ foresees a “shipwreck” both by means of the linguistic and visual codes in the sense that the single sentence of the poem stretched on these two pages lacks any punctuation marks as there isn’t a full stop to signal a definite end, instead the poet prefers the use of the ellipsis signaling a suspension point, an endless abyss, which can be visually associated with something that is floating until is dissolved into nothingness or even an unfinished thought. In other words, the context can be located in the poem’s imago& logos duality, which conveys the generally-falling movement of the text. As Mallarme himself confesses in a letter to Andre Gide with regard to the intended effect through his free positioning of words in“A Throw of the Dice,” “Thus this attempt, a first, this groping did not shock you; it is still presented badly. . . . The poem is being printed, now, as I conceive it; regarding the pagination, where all the effect lies . . . The constellation will stand out there, accurately and as much as a printed text can convey, inevitably the appearance of a constellation. The ship passes from the top of one page to the bottom of the other, etc.”



Week 3: Atmosphere

  • What are the poem’s analogous atmospheric elements (sounds, textures, visuals)?
  • What does the poem feel like? Does a poem feel like anything?

Use any means or media to communicate your insights to the rest of the group.  You have one week to complete the assignment. P.S.  Over the next few weeks, consider looking at the ways that others have approached these questions in new media contexts.  Whenever possible, draw upon interesting works that enhance, challenge, or expand the readings of the poems that you have selected.  If you are unfamiliar with the field, this is a good place to start: Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1. 

Week 2: on context: “you agree that it is a fashionable grocery list”

Still! thinking about Williams…and this week’s topic of context is a perfect fit for this passage, tacked onto the end of Part II of “Book Two” of Paterson. In response to his interviewer claiming that certain passages from Paterson “sound just like a fashionable grocery list”, Williams responds: “It is a fashionable grocery list.”

Q: Well – is it poetry?

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Week 2: Breaking down contexts

“A labyrinth of symbols,” he corrected. “An invisible labyrinth of time. To me, a barbarous Englishman, has been entrusted the revelation of this diaphanous mystery. After more than a hundred years, the details are irretrievable; but it is not hard to conjecture what happened. Ts’ui Pe must have said once: I am withdrawing to write a book. And another time: I am withdrawing to construct a labyrinth. Every one imagined two works; to no one did it occur that the book and the maze were one and the same thing.

–Borges, Jorge Luis.  “The Garden of Forking Paths.” Trans. Donald A. Yates.  <http://courses.essex.ac.uk/lt/lt204/forking_paths.htm>

Last week, I provided a fairly straightforward reading of Neruda’s “Ode to Broken Things.”  This week, I am torn among proliferating approaches to the question of “context” in relation to the poem.  As readers do, I started first with a basic reading of the text (broken pots and clocks and things of that sort).  From there, as readers do, I began to interpret, translate, and decode more aggressively.  Next, I moved on to the human life process that is implied by the passage of time and the inevitable breaking of things.  What began as a lucid description of physical processes became quickly a meditation on physics.  And, always anthropocentric, I shifted my reading from physics to metaphysics, once again looking for the human story that the poem is telling.  From one text, I managed to generate anywhere from two to four different ideas about the realm in which it operates (objects in the concrete, humans in the concrete, objects in the abstract, humans in the abstract).  And, each of these approaches, I suspect is immediately prone to retranslating and further forking.

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Come Play in the Timeline: chance for publishing

Damnit. I forgot to include this is my last post.
This is a timeline widget I created a few months ago. No content is there yet, but it is driven by an XML file and is a unique and curious way of navigating through content.
So explore this and give me ideas on how we can all play with this……what I could see is for us to choose a common theme then add poems and other bits, inviting others to contribute as well, until we build a history of curious creatures. So explore this and send me ideas via the e-mail list Davin has been using….. Jason