In The Sweet Old Etcetera, Alison Clifford has taken the very visual poetry of E. E. Cummings, and has painted a picture with it. The cool thing about this painting, though is you get to see her paint it, and you even get to help. While there are no actual paintbrushes, there are hypertexts that you get to click that lead you down the path to the beautiful picture she has created.
Clifford created this work as a kind of love letter to the poets work. She sees Cummings’ poetry as highly visual, playful and experimental, maybe even childlike. She also believes that his poetry resembles computer code due to its unstructured nature. she states “his poetry must be read on a visual level.”
When you begin this digital poem, you begin with ().
While this seems like a strange place to start, it begins to make more since once you hover your mouse over it, watch it turn red, and click. Out pops your first bit of poetry, in a straight, vertical line. When this is clicked, the line sprouts branches, turning into a tree. Each branch then sprout its own branches, and one sprouts a seed. all of these branches, when clicked, will send you somewhere different.
While all of these images are made up of lines from E. E. Cummings, this “poem” isn’t meant to be read. I guess you could try, but you wouldn’t get very far.
After clicking around for a little while you get to what I am calling “the scene”. the tree comes back and with it comes a hill side dotted with blooming flowers. The key to this digital poem is the the more branches on the tree you click, each leading you to an almost puzzle-like level, the more detail this scene will have. The first branch you click will just give you a hillside, the next will give you the color of the sky, next is a mountain, then comes a cloud.
This poem rewards you for all the exploration that you do, which coincides with how poetry should be read. While reading works by someone like Cummings’, one shouldn’t read the poem once and be done. It needs to be explored. Just like in this work, you have to “click around” until you hit something that helps you understand the poem, or to see its big image clearer and with more detail.
Experience The Sweet Old Etcetera here.