Final Project: A Twist on Nick Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge”

Taroko Gorge was one of the first works we addressed and looked over in class at the beginning of the semester. It is different than many other works considered Electronic Literature in that it is completely randomized poetry specifically. Each line is created through the use of JavaScript arrays that have specified words in which to pull from. While it does not always create coherent sentences, since it is poetry, each line could be interpreted in a number of different ways and meanings. It is up to the reader to decide what is being said.

There was also this massive community of artists forming around Nick Montfort’s creation, taking the code and transforming it in different ways to create something new.

Not identifying as a poet myself, I found this work to be particularly interesting in how it used the code behind the scenes and specified words set in a particular order to generate poetry. Even when taking into account that it did not always create sentences that made sense, it did create a ripple, allowing the reader to comprehend the results in independent and unique ways.

I decided to take that idea and expand upon it to create a sort of tool for myself (and others, should they feel inclined or drawn to use it). While I do not identify myself as a poet, I do write creatively and collaboratively with an inclination toward fiction. However, as many writers discover, they reach certain points where ideas are difficult to come by, whether they are new ideas for a story overall or ideas for specific events that may take place.

“Writers block” can be incredibly difficult to overcome. For that reason, I felt inspired by Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge and saw a potential to adapt it into a tool to generate such ideas. By incorporating the combinatory, generative poetry that Taroko Gorge allows and adding in a kinetic aspect, I have done what numerous other artists in the community have done by creating my own variation of Taroko Gorge but for the purpose of using it as a tool or device to generate ideas for fictional creative writing.

The words that are set in the arrays of the code also reflect that emphasis on fiction. Additionally, the kinetic feature of this project is reflected in the typing animation that takes place as the line is written out across the screen. Both the monotype font and the animation itself assist in emphasizing the generating of ideas as though someone were typing out the ideas themselves on their computer.

This choice of a project was both interesting and beneficial in that it gave me a chance to work with JavaScript to better understand the structure and functionality. I had to research syntax in order to figure out the best way to form the most coherent sentences based on what was generated. Originally, I was also going to add in a level of interactivity that I have since decided to do without. Since the poetry is already generated at random, there was not any added benefit to having another layer of randomization.

From start to finish, this was a learning experience in every sense. Though the project did not turn out the way it was originally envisioned, this work of kinetic and generative/combinatory poetics still accomplishes and meets the purpose and goal it was intended for. For that, I’d like to share Fantasy, a poetic tool to help inspire fictional creative writing.


“The keywords in this file were typed into AOL’s search engine by users who never suspected that their private queries would be revealed to the public.”

The one I mostly looked into this week was the video “I Love Alaska” by Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug. The first thing I noticed is that the background is a picture of Alaska, which is obviously fitting for the story. As the story goes on, it looks like the picture is moved and becomes dark which I saw as the passing of time in a day/night cycle. I wasn’t sure but at least to me it looked like the picture was the same throughout. The format of this piece of work is flarf, which is using primarily Google searches in a type of poetry or other work. The online network is made very visible to us in this work, as the “storyline” is that of a middle aged woman, whose searches on the internet were made available to the public by AOL. Throughout the video she is referred to as “#711391”. She uses the internet to talk about her secrets when she can’t talk to anyone else. Such as searching things like,

“I thought I could handle an affair but I couldn’t”.

The story itself is very interesting because you get to essentially see into the mind of someone who didn’t ever expect anyone to see her searches. This story is so emotional and raw I was extremely invested in it. It’s also a good reminder that not only is the internet permanent, it’s never really private. This is an important lesson in today’s time because a lot of people think the internet is more private than it really is. Google always remembers your searches, FaceBook knows that you’ve been looking at recently and will show you ads to represent that.

Soot, Sand, and Digital Poetry

Out of the poems here, the ones that interested me the most were “The Ballad of Soot and Harry Sand” by Stephanie Strickland, and “MUDs” by  David Jhave Johnson.

I thought that “The Ballad of Soot and Harry Sand” was engaging because not only does it offer unique characterization, but also has a multilinear quality that reminded me of some of the other pieces of e-literature we read in class. Truth be told, I didn’t really enjoy a lot of the digital poetry until I read this piece.

I believe it is part traditional poem (it does follow a narrative and the words do make sense, unlike some of the Dada and Dada-inspired poems both mentioned by Rettburg and within this module) but also part Lettristic, as a lot of the poem seems to rely on the sound of the words. For example, this section:


Tangy Soot. Tang-I-Bull Soot.


Trua-vir Sand. Liv-a-Tru Sand.
Physics: The Movie. R.I.P.,
crown assays in a bathtub,
or Galileo, trekking to the far side
of the valley to touch that blue
boulder on the ridge.
And would this prove he saw
mountains on the moon in any case,
Sand asks.

Or this section:


Sand panned speed. Languid was she. Oh seeming fast, fine foil for

de…lay, lo, slow. Some slip…age, she…


                                                         He, Harry, hurried, harried host.

“Tang-I-Bull” in the first example made me pause, as I read it first phonetically and then as the word ‘tangible,’ which made me go back and reread ‘Tangy Soot’ with a hard ng, like the actual word tangy, and then a soft g as in the word tangible. There are also a lot of cases where it seems the author used particular word combinations both for the meaning and for the intense alliteration. There are some other words and combinations such as the sentences “Trua-vir Sand. Liv-a-Tru Sand.” where I wasn’t sure if they held a deeper meaning or not. I tried googling the words and some other variations and couldn’t find anything, but thought it might mean “live a true” as in Sand being blunt and true to himself–or else just an interesting combination of sounds. If anyone else read this piece and has feedback or ideas about this I would love to hear them.

The second example I included because it did some character work as well as played more with the sounds of words as well as the meaning.

Another reason I liked this piece because it kept giving me cause to pause and reassess the characters. At times I wondered if Sand was actually a computer or program, because she was continuously associated with binary, light, glass, colors, and other computer related imagery, such as “a screen of violet / silver unscrolled,” while Harry Soot is compared to much more mundane, human scenes, such as grinding his keys in his pockets, defacing his Metrocard.

Sand is also surrounded with both musical and natural metaphors, though, so after reading it through a few times I think that they are both human. All in all, it was a really intriguing poem about two people, and I thought the multilinear nature of it really enhanced the experience by inviting the reader to become involved with the story of it.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually like MUDs, or if I’m just intrigued by it. I did really enjoy “Because,” and I believe that the others are very visually appealing, but a lot also made me uncomfortable. I did not like “Fur” for that reason, and I didn’t think it was interesting enough either to make up for that discomfort.

Another one that I liked was “Truth.” I believe that “MUDs” overall is a great example of concrete poetry, as the shape of the title word plays a huge part in shaping the meaning of the poem. In “Truth” in particular, the meaning would be incredibly altered if it was displayed in static text, or even in the same video but with the word ‘TRUTH’ simply hanging unchanging. Similarly, in the poem “Because,” the title word growing increasingly mangled adds a lot of depth to the poem in a way that would be impossible to replicate on paper. Overall, I am not in love with these poems, but I respect the idea behind them.

Digital Poetry

“The actual experience of interacting with IF can however sometimes seem more like conversing via telegraph with a precocious chimpanzee who has worked out a compass and the possession of objects than conversing with an adult human.”


I feel like this quote from the book encompasses how I felt reading it. The ones I was most drawn to were the works that embodied concrete poetry. The visuals helped the meaning come across more clearly. Cruising was visually captivating, although I liked the simplicity of Shy boy.

However, Rain on the Sea, in contrast, is a simple black and white text-based video. Although the words flash so quickly on the screen the viewer must be very focused. I think I understood what the author was trying to say although, I will admit even after viewing it a few times I know I missed some of the words. I think the poem is talking about relationships and a bit of inner turmoil. In the first part, the character is talking to God whom it seems like she is thanking for getting her out of a bad marriage? At least that’s what I thought the story was about. I do think that others could take different interpretations of the poem.

I would be interested in looking more into A is for apple. Most of the links seemed broken, which I guess can happen to any digital piece.

Kinetic Poetry

Rettberg’s chapter on Kinetic and Interactive poetry covers many types of digital poetry. The sections I found myself most interested in were those on visual and sound poetry. I appreciate the kinetic aspects and found that digital poetry that combined sound and text as images held my interest best.

“Rain on the Sea” by Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES was incredible. It took me by surprise (as did most of the works we studied this week) because I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t explored their work before. After experiencing “Rain on the Sea” I found more of their work to see what else they’re doing, and found that they have a style. The use of Flash, and pacing their text to upbeat music so that words are presented almost too quickly to comprehend created a juxtaposition. I found myself enjoying the music but trying to follow the story, and feeling oddly conflicted trying to experience the story, visual art, and music all together. I grew a little frustrated with the edges of the text being cut off and flashing by so quickly, but liked the story and the music. At the end I was left feeling both wrung-out and exhilarated.

Tachistoscope was another piece I really enjoyed. The presentation of single words (mostly) atop images that at times enforced and other times contradicted the text was visually interesting, and I enjoyed the story that Poundstone was telling. The addition of sound drew me in more and kind of helped me keep pace with the story. I went through it a few times, trying to focus more on the words in white font and find out how they’re affecting my experience or interpretation. It was difficult but I think I got more of the story that way.

This class module is very interesting and I’m super enjoying exploring it!

Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

The first pieced I looked at was “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar. It was a really cool and interesting way to tell the story. As you move the mouse side to side, it goes through a slideshow type strip a the bottom. When you pull the mouse up or down it will either zoom in or zoom out of the story. Although it was a really cool idea, I’m not sure I exactly liked it. It was pretty hard to control, at least for me, and the constant moving and zooming in and out actually made me feel a little nauseous. It is possible iI was just doing it wrong though. The second one I looked at was “The Dreamlife of Letters” by Brian Kim Stefans. If I’m being honest, I didn’t really understand this one either. I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, especially poetry that is made to be confusing on purpose. I do understand the importance of poetry and interactive poetry, it’s just not really anything I think I will ever be interested in. I did try really hard on this assignment to find one of them that I did like. I went through each one but either I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to do them, or they didn’t really make sense to me.

*EDIT* I’ve just now realized that I never got past the introduction part of “The Dreamlife of Letters”. I’m not sure how I didn’t get past it before, since I looked at it for a good 5-10 minutes. Now that I’ve explored this piece deeper, I actually really enjoyed it. I love how it flows through without anyone having to interact with it at all. Out of all of them, I think this one ended up being my favorite piece to explore through.

Like I said before, I understand that they are an important piece of history in literature, and interactive poetry is very important in electronic literature. But this is a type of electronic literature that really challenged me. I did like that there were some in video form such as “Rain on the Sea” that I found myself understanding a little more. It goes by really fast, complete with music to match the speed of the switching letters and numbers on the screen.

“Rain on the Sea” and “Cruising”

“Rain on the Sea” by YHCI and “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar  show how motion through text and the utilization of audio can be as an effective form of communication.

“Rain on the Sea” is poem about a man who became a stick. When I was reading it, it reminds of a scene in a film that I unfortunately can’t remember the title to, where it opens with a bullet being created and traveling through the world, eventually being put into a gun and fired into a person. The speed at which it moves is incredibly rapid, as is custom with most YHCI productions. The rapid pace and the jazz soundtrack which is used, creates a sense of urgency, and forces you to be fully engaged. It was actually quite a challenge trying to follow the piece but after a few runs, it became much easier. I was reminded of the section Moving letters in film in Rettberg’s book. YHCI doesn’t use filtering effects or collaged imagery like Len Lye, but YHCI does utilize motion, sound and words extensively. (Rettberg 130)

“Cruising” is an interactive work which engages the reader by giving them control over the speed at which the text moves. It is meant to represent driving a vehicle as explained in the author’s description. When reading this, I was reminded of what Dick Higgins said in 1980, “Dick Higgins (1980) writes that sound poetry is “inherently concerned with communication and its means, linguistic and/or phatic.” (Rettberg 129) The use of motion, sound, as well as visuals also remind me of work by Len Lye, the difference of course being that “Cruising” is not a film.

For Those Frustrated With Electronic Literature, Here is Your “Bone”

Farinsky Blog 6: Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

Image result for throw me a bone
Not all of us have felt as suave as Austin Powers navigating electronic art.

I will be the first to admit a sort of “hypertext fatigue” which has built over the previous weeks and has deeply challenged me.

Most have been massive works that are told in a deeply unsatisfying, non-linear fashion unless one spends hours pouring over the hundreds of linked pages to try and piece together some sense of story. And with a long list of works to look at each week the frustration is compounded as I fail to understand work after work enough to feel comfortable writing an intelligent blog post about them.

This week was refreshing because the majority of works were in video form. I was able to see the entirety of the piece in under 15 minutes which was more conducive to re-watching, and interpreting.

Here is my “like” list:

Knowing the narrative is a first, critical step, of understanding a literary piece before further analysis, and becoming able to appreciate it stylistically. Two works do this particularly well, “Shy Boy” and “Rain on the Sea”.

“Shy Boy” is a poem that has been produced through a program to bring a kinetic feeling to the work. This work is a strong argument for why Electronic Literature deserves to exist as a genre because it takes the form of traditional poetry, but uses programming to enhance the delivery. The strong literary influence makes this work more than digital art.

Similarly, “Rain on the Sea” has a lot of reasons to like it. The work uses text to tell a distinct story using language, sound, and speed to explore past the constraints of print. The soundtrack accompanying this work is an upbeat jazz mix which signals to the reader this work is going to move fast. It is almost incomprehensible it speeds by so quick. However, since this work is a video browser extensions such as Chrome’s Video Speed Controller can be used to slow the video playback speed so a second viewing can focus on reading each word building on the first viewing’s understanding. This makes the work accessible to more people who would otherwise give up on engaging.

Special mention goes to A is for Apple, by David Clark because it is hypertext, and it is easily navigable. The page title is clearly visible as well as a link to restart or find the map which makes this work so much more readable. 

The time I spent with these works was so much more enjoyable than previous weeks because most of my time was not devoted to figuring out the narrative. I was able to understand the text and then dive deeper into the stylistic features and layers of meaning compared to feeling lost and angry at link-based fiction.

Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

Although all of the works of kinetic and interactive poetry presented to us for this week’s discussion are interesting and engaging in their own right, the two works that stand out the most to me are Rain on the Sea and Sound Poems.

Jörg Piringer’s Sound Poems are a selection of six different poems that allow the reader to actively engage with his webpage by allowing the reader to click and/or drag letters and boxes that in turn create various sounds. As mentioned by Rettburg, sound poetry has roots in both Futurist and Dadaist movements. While engaging in Piringer’s work, the influence from these movements, especially Dada, are quite apparent. From an outside perspective, this work holds almost no similarities to the traditional poetry that most people are used to. Jörg Piringer’s Sound Poems have a quality of defiance to traditional poetry due to the work’s avante garde nature.

Rain on the Sea by Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES on the other hand deals with the genre of film poetry, as it is comprised of a poem that progresses with fast cuts from one line to the next accompanied by a cinematic backing track reminiscent of music found in early 20th century silent films. The first works of film poetry actually emerged in the early 20th century, with works such as Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema (1926) and Len Lye’s Trade Tattoo (1937), where analog techniques were used to create kinetic poetry similar to what we are seeing today (Rettburg 130). I myself am quite comfortable with the medium that is film so therefore, despite the fact that the text on the screen came and went rather quickly, enjoyed how the poem was presented to me in Rain on the Sea.


Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

This week, I chose to focus on Rain on The Sea by YoUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES and SOFTIEs by David Jhave Johnson. I found that with SOFTIEs, although film poetry is more often considered to be films with subjects performing spoken word poetry while different imagery passes by, SOFTIEs works almost as its own form of film poetry. There is still imagery passing by, but the teext is incorporated into different parts of the “scenes” that Jhave has created. I think the imagery he chooses to show in the film portion of his works (water dripping, etc.) serves as a sort of symbolism that connects to his poetry. For example, in “” it shows dripping water on a dark surface and reads “the cold lines, blind meanings, reap is war” “the cold lines” could refer to the water dripping, which could be symbolic for something much darker (blood, etc.). When I looked at Rain on The Sea, I found that is blatantly portrayed futurism, with its stark white background and plain black text flashing intermittently. I really enjoyed this piece and found that it was very successful in provoking emotion. I think this was partially due to the text flashing by so quickly it almost didn’t give my brain any chance to process it other than the immediate meaning of the word that was flashed. The work has a very dark undertone, accusing the user of murder, etc. and the fact that these accusations were flashing by so quickly helped cause a sense of urgency and desire to know what the user supposedly did in this work.

Dylan Niehaus – Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

The first poem or poems to catch my attention were the sound poems by Jorg Piringer. I enjoyed messing around with the different interactive sound poems, trying to create my own unique and interesting sound bites. Although fun and interesting to interact with, I failed to notice any deeper meaning within the poems. This may be because I have a difficult time finding meaning within things in general, but with these sound poems, I just fail to see how they could allude to anything of deeper meaning.

“Concrete poetry is based on an awareness of and interest in the material nature of language, its shapes and forms, and the aesthetic and semantic effects made possible by manipulating language as a material.” – Scott Rettberg

The sound poems by Jorg Piringer follow the definition set out by Scott Rettberg in that they allow the reader to manipulate sounds created by language in unusual ways. Many of the sound poems contain letters that can be manipulated freely by the user. As the letters are manipulated, a sound is made based around that letter. The only deeper meaning I can pull from these poems is that at its roots, the English language can be incredibly nonsensical and off-putting. But, this poem appears to be a form of Lettrism, so being devoid of meaning may be its intention. Lettrism focuses on deconstructing poetry to be devoid of semantic content. The sound poems created by Jorg Piringer succeed at this by focusing only on letters, their movements, and the sounds they make.

The second poem that caught my attention was Cruising by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar. This is a poem that utilizes sound, images, text, and animations to tell a short story. This is similar to the sound poems by Jorg Piringer only in that Cruising utilizes sound, but in Cruising, the sound is used to tell a story through a voiceover. This kinetic poem is much more traditional in that it has a clear story and meaning. The poem is also interactive, the user can move their mouse and make the images and text on the screen scroll at different speeds. The description of the poem states that this was done in order to create an experience in which the user needs to learn to control and “drive” the poem.

Kinetic and Interactive Poetry: Shyboy and Rain on the Sea

“Shyboy”, unlike the works we have read thus far, is linear. In addition to being displayed in a linear format, it is very much visual poetry in that the lines and text itself will appear, disappear, and shift based on what is being said in the poem at any given point. All in all, it is a short piece. The way it was designed visually is simplistic and effective, in no way detracting from the poem itself and instead adding to it. One of the best examples of this, in my opinion, is right at the beginning when the text appears line by line going down the page and then when it gets to the bottom, it says,

he can’t help it. And he can’t help that

he’s easy to read, even from this end of the hall.


You know what he wants to do?



Then that word ‘vanish’ actually does, it slowly fades away.

“Rain on the Sea” is also a very visual piece but compared to “Shyboy” with its ease, fading and guiding the lines and text, “Rain on the Sea” is very flashy and in your face. Additionally, rather than being that of a flash work, “Rain on the Sea” is in fact a video which creates a linear path so that there is only one way to read through the work. Granted that is dependent on whether you can keep up with it. Sometimes the words flash by too quickly that I found myself clicking back or pausing the video just to read it.

It is interesting to note how there are multiple parts to the work. Additionally, the premise of the poem itself is rather unfortunate for you as the individual becoming the person in the piece. Within the first minute alone you are tossed into a situation where you are dying on the bathroom floor and yet suddenly ‘given another chance,’ in a sense, by an almighty power:

Too late for that, you said–your last mistake, for it turns out there is indeed a God, quite powerful, quite knowing, not amused. He pardoned the last stages of your tortured marriage. He granted you it was perversely entertaining, mere child’s play in your world of murderers.

The words themselves are quite intense when given a chance to read them, though the format they are displayed in with the quick flashes as they fly by on the screen do also provide that sense of severity.

The video itself feels almost as if one is trying to download the data off of the screen, processing it as it goes. It is stiff and mechanical and the only way to really read it is to pause and slow down and take the time to go through each and every word within the different parts.

“Shyboy” by Tom Swiss