Week Four: open.ended

I’ve long loved the aesthetic of Aya Karpinska’s/Daniel C. Howe’s three-dimensional poem space in open.ended. Although I’m not sure that there’s a substantial, thorough-going literary engagement here (lines such as “Eyes closed / I am / Anywhere” don’t particularly grab me), open.ended … entrances me. Here’s how the authors describe their work:

With real-time 3D rendering & dynamic text generation, open.ended attempts to refigure the poetic experience through spatialization & interaction. As visitors manipulate a joystick to control interlocking geometric surfaces, stanzas, lines, & words move slowly in & out of focus, while dynamically updating text maintains semantic coherence. Order is deliberately ambiguous & multiple readings encouraged as meaning is actively & spatially constructed in collaborative fashion & new potentials for juxtaposition, association & interpretation are revealed.


And not surprisingly, given what I’ve been writing over these weeks, these beautiful little poem-spaces seem to come right out of a dream William Carlos Williams might have had – I wrote last week:

He has activated “blank” space and in this way turned it into what Charles Olson would soon see as a field of energy—a pulsating, fluctuating space that girds the words, as if Williams wants the words themselves to pulsate but, given the limits of the bookbound page, he settles for the surrounding space of the page which is unmarred and open for any appropriation. Further, since “. . . to talk in the American idiom you can’t talk as Shakespeare used to talk, or Milton, or Eliot. You have finally to get away from this pattern of speech and invent another speech . . .”, how else to reinvent language but to do so negatively, taking advantage of the flexibility of the blank space of the page—space that can be shaped, again and again, to reshape in turn the language of Shakespeare, Milton, and Eliot? “I’ve got myself in wrong before the critics by attempting to bring in the idea of mathematics. Of Einstein. Not Einstein, we’ll say, but Einstein’s ideas. The uncertainty of space” (Interviews 45).

Or maybe open.ended is also the opposite of Williams’ dream? Like so many digital poems I’ve looked at, quite in contrast with Williams’ firm belief in the redemptiveness of the particular, the way in which the ground, the ground of history and language, forms us, open.ended seems to be in love with the pure, abstract spaces made possible by the digital – spaces that we may visit but that are seemingly completely independent of the messy, organic world. This abstract quality is only exaggerated with the interactivity built into the poem that not only puts the abstract poem in touch, literally, with the organic world, but that also introduces chance into the poem. The reader/user can move the poem-cube in any direction, moving around, on top, or inside the cube; the reader/user can also double click on any wall of words to “create” the poem as it is simultaneously being read by the authors. But I still argue that this digital poem, just like those by Simon Biggs (see, for example, his web-work Book of Books) gives us the illusion of chance, the illusion of genuinely participating in the unfolding of the poem. It’s not unlike a Choose Your Own Adventure book: true, you have three choices, but not only are they predetermined choices, but the predetermined choices also have a predermined outcome set out by the poet/programmer. Thinking about the version of Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poemes that’s published by Gallimard – here each line of the poem has been cut across the page so that the reader really can construct “cent mille milliard” readings of the poem – how could it be that a bookbound poem offers us genuine chance operations, options for the reader/user creation of a poem that are as close to infinite as possible?

3 thoughts on “Week Four: open.ended”

  1. i’ve been thinking a lot about the book-bound possibilities of ‘genuine chance operations’ in the context of comics, or graphic narratives – i used to keep a kind of ‘comicked’ journal and every few months entertain the idea of trying to publish ‘it’ (as if it were one), but the question of timing and binding – sequence and container – thwarts any attempt to collate the stories, which are – like memory – moving simultaneously this way and that, and are often located in two specific temporal moments already (the time from which the story/moment is narrated and the time of the tale). i’ve thought about producing a digital work where narratives intersect and become one another through hyperlinked panels, but – as a reader and lover of objects – i feel, somehow, that solving the problem by digitalizing the material is like responding to a question with a different language than the one from which it is asked… it may provide an answer to a ‘parallel’ question, but the act of translation has already shifted the meaning and material of the original inquiry.

    so – how can we create ‘tangible’ works of art and language – objects that involve multiple experiences of texture and touch – that offer the same options of chance and choice as do those that are experienced through interfacing with an object such as this laptop before me? perhaps a multiplicity is needed – not one NOR the other, but a piece(s) that requests of the reader to move between the materials in order to summon the story: a narrative/web that links the book (or whatever we’ll call it) to the screen (to the city? to space and place as well?), through the activated, sensate body – which always feels to be long neglected, avoided (as if there has been an attempt at its voidance), during late sessions leaning over the keyboard, locked into a position of staccato tapping and typing, staring – regardless of the mind dance taking place.

  2. Lori….

    You brilliantly weave ideas and poetics in this post. Bravo…really…bravo….

    As far as 3-d structures, I am fascinated by futurists predictions that one day we will truly have virtual/holosuites or some such real world interactive spaces. And then I consider early and current experiments with 3-d and I find sadly that we have not even come close to exploring the possibilities and wonders of late 90s 3-d technologies/playthings. Let alone how we use and create with current techs and future possible iterations. So it would seem that revisiting these “older” forms would be a grand idea for our wee little field.

  3. I’m not sure if Zephyr or Heliopod will be notified of my note here, but thanks so much to both of your for reading and responding (and so sorry it’s taken me ages to acknowledge you–).

    Z: I love your idea of a movement between materials – I wonder what it would look like? Maybe something like the “interface free” touch screen that was introduced last year? Little compares to the pleasures of touching a book or a book object – I imagine your comic journal as a box of loose cards that can be arranged and rearranged, over and over again. what could replicate this experience in the digital realm?

    H: that’s great you mention the futurists – I haven’t done much reading on them but I’m still fascinated with the few Marinetti statements I know of where he talks about his dream of a cinematic poem…

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