After browsing Vol. 2 of the Electronic Literature Collection for a bit, I stumbled across these nifty things:
They are Jörg Piringer’s Soundpoems, titled “gravity and reflection,” “predator vs. prey,” and “food chain.” Unlike most poetry, there’s not much to actually read. Also, what is there to read (letters) are moving around on the screen. Also, they make noises, sometimes their phonetic sound, sometimes not. Also, the reader has to interact with the soundpoem for it to function. So. They’re really… different. And a lot of fun. In each poem, the letters act, and interact differently. In the first one, “gravity and reflection” the letters appear when you click, then fall and bounce around a little bit. When they hit the sides or the bottom of the square, they’ll make noises. This is the only one where the letters don’t make their phonetic sounds. Compared to the other two, I thought this was the least interesting. In “predator vs. prey” you click on one of the letters at the top, causing that letter to appear and start roaming about. It makes its own noise as it moves, for example, E will be all like “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” When you release a lot of letters, the sound is primal and overwhelming. And, when two letters run into each other, their sounds momentarily get louder, as one devours the other. In the second image above, the “S” and “M” just ran into each other and are starting to fade. It’s incredibly interesting to watch the letters move around. They remind me of animals or insects, which is appropriate considering the title. Finally, the last one, “food chain,” was my favorite. Essentially, you feed various consonants with accented vowels (which appear where you click). As the consonants run into the vowels, they’ll eat them, and grow a little bigger. They’ll also make a sound: the consonant + the vowel (ie. T + ō = to). Eventually, the consonants get as big as they can, then they’ll start to fade and soon disappear. And since you can’t make more of them appear, their disappearance serves as an ending for this soundpoem, which is something that the other two did not have. And as weird as it sounds, it’s surprisingly devastating to watch them slowly fade. It made me feel a little helpless, since I couldn’t do anything to stop it. And once they were gone, I felt a little lonely (so weird), and a little useless, since the only thing I could do, place vowels on the screen, no longer served a purpose.
At first, I was thinking about only writing about one poem, but after interacting with all three, it’s obvious that they play off of each other. I think the order that I viewed and interacted with them made a huge difference. Going from having control over what appears on the screen to not really made an impact. I also think it’s interesting that the titles all allude to things in the natural world that we, as humans, don’t have control over: gravity and the food chain. Seeing something man made (letters/ language/ and literally the noises in the poems) mimicking wildlife made for a thought provoking contrast. It makes you question ideas about control and our place in the world. In each poem the reader has a different amount of control. In the first, you dictate where the letter falls from. In the second, when the letter appears. And in the third, when and where letters appear, but they don’t move, making them feel less important. Gradually, the reader loses control. This suggests that control is just an illusion. Something we think we have over other things, but ultimately don’t. Even though humans are more capable? intelligent? creative? than other creatures in the world, we’re still subject to gravity and even the food chain, just like everything else.