Blackout Poetry Tool and Everything’s Going to Be Ok

For this week’s readings, I began by playing around with Blackout Poetry Tool by Jazer Chand. Unlike the other pieces we’ve looked at thus far, Blackout Poetry Tool is not a narrative but, as it says in the title, a tool. With it, you can create blackout poetry from given excerpts, collaborate with a bot to make said poetry, let the bot generate poetry all on its own, or have the bot draw a “wave” through the text. My favorite mode is “synthesis,” in which the user selects a word, the bot selects the next, and so forth. This is a piece I made from an excerpt of The Great Gatsby using synthesis (so, actually, it’s a piece we made, the bot and I.)

“People that descended in War in season that found at breakfast over lonely on pathfinder on freedom of neighborhood”

I know, it sounds a little…incoherent, but I think that if the reader chooses to put some punctuation in some places, imagines filling in some “missing” words in others, one could find meaning in it. As it is, I still think it’s quite pretty and thought provoking.

Here’s a poem made in “antithesis” mode (picked only by the bot.)

From the Civil hardware until a original freedom

This one feels like a reflection on government (Civil hardware?) and freedom.

Finally, here’s a poem made in the “symbiosis” mode, where you select words and the bot makes suggestions for what to pick next.

Great generations are here in a country eighty firm wisdom over day until some guide conferred the freedom.

I really enjoy this e-lit tool. I already liked blackout poetry prior to this discovery, but working with the bot (or just seeing what the bot creates on its own) adds a new layer to this poetic technique. It’s also an exercise in making meaning out of words and poetry, out of trying to figure out some message and some coherence behind something that on its surface may not make a whole lot of sense. It’s also an understandable, easy-to-use entry point into the idea of human/technology collaboration for making art.

Our second piece for this week was Everything is Going to Be Ok by Nathalie Lawhead. This work was very complex, with a lot of things to explore, interact with, and absorb. I played around with it for over an hour and still hadn’t completed everything, but by then I was beginning to develop a bit of a headache from all the noise and flashing visuals and so I had to stop. This is a piece that you would probably need more than one sitting to really complete and fully digest.

I first noticed that it was very computer-centric in its appearance. By this I mean that the font, the visuals, the program boxes, the way it was set up a like a desktop, the sounds, all made it very clear it was a computer program and that it was really leaning into that. It had a strong sense of its aesthetic and how to really utilize it.

The piece does a great job of exploring depression, the recovery from trauma, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health topics. One bit that really resonated with me was the discussion about fearing how little control we have over everything. I have a lot of personal experience with this fear. Back in March, I had a major panic attack (or rather, a series of them) after a lot of build up of stressors. I was worried about catching covid and giving it to others, having a heart attack, having something medically wrong with me that I didn’t know about, having people hate my writing…ultimately, I was afraid of dying and I was afraid of people hating me. I tried to take control in whatever ways I could: I limited my eating, trying only to consume “healthy” foods to keep my cholesterol low; I frequently checked my heart rate and blood pressure; I took at-home covid tests constantly, usually at least once a week, sometimes more frequently; if I had even a tiny sniffle or the hint of a sore throat, I would panic and test; I often missed class and work because I feared I had covid; I stopped wanting to go out and do things for the same reason; I told myself I would alter my writing to make it more acceptable, more appealing, less objectionable; after my most major panic attack, I told myself maybe I’d just stop writing at all.

None of this was my first bout with anxiety. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It was, however, my most severe struggle with it in a few years. I went on medication again and started with more frequent therapy and self care, and I started to improve, but it was a fight. This franticness of this piece, the way there is so much happening at once, so much noise, reminds me of how my thoughts get when I’m anxious. The spiraling, often nonsensical worries that flood my brain and stop me from focusing on anything else. The struggle, the tedium, the way it tires you out.

A few months after all of that came to a head and I started to recover, my dog Cody got seriously hurt and required a pretty major surgery. Since then, he’s continued to have health problems, some related to that injury and some not. He’s twelve years old. There’s barely a day that passes where I don’t worry about him dying. Every time something happens that requires another vet visit, I break down. It all comes back to that terrible lack of control. There is nothing I can do. Anything can happen. It’s out of my control. All I can do is be there for him and do my best to help him through what I can’t prevent. All I can do is love him. Like Everything is Going to Be Ok says, all I can do is live one day at a time.

Did I enjoy Everything is Going to Be Ok? I don’t think enjoy is the right word to use. I don’t think it’s something you’re supposed to enjoy. But it made me think, and feel things, and relate. It resonated, struck a cord. Some of it was almost fun. Other parts were draining. A lot of the time, I just wanted to be finished with it. So…it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be easy, just like life.

Everything Is Going To Be OK & Blackout Poetry Tool

I started with Everything Is Going To Be Okay, and I loved the aesthetic. Visually it is incredibly eye-catching and made me feel nostalgic, from the titles to the graphics. When I read the introduction, it mentioned how it has dark humor, which honestly was off-putting. I am not a fan of dark humor, so automatically, I was weary of this piece. However, when I entered the games, it said I had to download everything. This makes this piece not the most accessible because not everyone has the space to download multiple files. I also thought the asking for donations was interesting, but I understand everyone has to eat. Since I had to download all the pieces, I decided not to read them. I simply did not have the capacity for all the downloads, but I am excited to learn more about it. After seeing the site, I cannot wait to delve into it today.

Before experiencing the Blackout Poem Tool, I was familiar with a blackout poem. I remember in middle or high school doing them for class, so I went in with a good understanding of what would happen. I liked that it had poem mode options, so you decide if you wanted to create something or let the bot do all the work. I like that blackout poems have endless possibilities, but they are also one-sided. Though you can create countless poems, at the end of the day, it is only one poem. I feel eventually, it can get repetitive and not as engaging.

Though I was not able to be captivated by these pieces, I am looking forwards to hearing more about these pieces and how others interacted with them. Once I hear other perspectives, I will probably gain a different outlook on them and be able to appreciate them more.

Blog Three

I found the readings in, “Blackout Poetry Tool” to be interesting. At first, I just went through the readings as so. Read the stories of what it seemed to be mainly centered around family history or the story of the writers immediate family, more specifically his dad and himself. Once I got through the readings, I was confused. Where was the electronic literature component of it? Usually other readings were more interactive. Well I was wrong. You can kind of almost miss it if you’re not paying enough attention.

On the sides of the text where it’s labeled “thesis” and so forth, in subtle text there is instructions of the electronic literary part of it. You where either selecting, or the “bot” is selecting the words for you. When I was selecting, I kind of just played around with the system and selected random words to feel what was electronic about this. But I didn’t notice much or maybe I wasn’t aware of what was actually happening.

When the bot was able to chose the words from the reading for me, I noticed not a pattern but maybe a poem was being created? For instance, In the last reading, Visual I noticed when looking at all the blackout words that the bot chose for me came out to read;

For of to thing man beaten alone cooked man helplessly had

Not sure if this is meant to be coded or if this is in some way a poem in itself. Regardless I found it interesting but I didn’t want to spend too much time thinking of it and making it into something it’s not. But I would like to know what was the purpose and meaning of this?

My Thoughts on Blackout Poetry

I have heard of Blackout Poetry before and this was a fun way to interact with it. I played around with the antithesis function. I liked the poems that came out of this.

Blackout Poetry is interesting. I let the bot choose a couple and I did a couple and the outcomes were cute. I enjoyed this one and it was cool to see what came from it.

The following are four poems that were done that I liked.

Writing Comments on Students’ Papers

This reading was by far the most interesting and useful to me. Not only did I relate from a student standpoint but also as a teacher. Reading this reminded me of how I use to think of my writing in middle and high school. I vividly remember being so anxious waiting for the teacher to return my piece with corrections. My insecurity with my writing developed at this stage in my life and evolved into me wiring what I thought my teacher wanted to hear and not what I wanted to actually write. Even now I have more of a “cookie cutter” writing style and still struggle writing pieces that do not have many boundaries. I also often remember not really understanding the comments that were left on my essays. They always seemed so negative to me that I would not ask for clarification. I would go home and try my best to switch a couple words around and then submit my final draft. I could have learned so much more if I actually experienced a proper revision process.

From a teaching standpoint I see a lot that I can improve on with my own students. I completely agree with the claim that sometimes comments can be cryptic and/or vague. Bean`s also makes a point of mentioning how comments can be worded differently to sound more inviting and how mentioning the positive is useful. He also mentions something that really stuck with me. In the text he says, “Revising doesn’t mean just editing; it means “re-visioning”-rethinking, re-conceptualizing, “seeing again” (Beans 321). This is a significant way to explain and revise to students. It is them taking in the information they are trying to convey and making sure this is the best way to convey those thoughts. This made me think about how conferencing with my students would be beneficial. This way I can really see what they are thinking and they can feel like I am coming from a helpful space instead of one derived from criticism. He also mentions the difference between stylistic problems and grammar errors. That is something I have not thought about. A lot of students need assistance with stylistic issues and not necessarily grammar problems.

Overall, I found this reading helpful and an easy yet interesting read. I like readings where I can walk away and feel like I can use what I have read in my everyday life and this was definitely one of them.

Warming up with a “walkthrough”

What a wonderful read through all of your blogs this past week. I must say that I had a clear feeling that many of you “turned a corner” in terms of your “warming up” to electronic literature. While the field continues to push categories/boundaries, it has become for many of you a more immersive and emotional experience. And despite the formal innovation in terms of storytelling, you also expressed a newfound relatability and accessibility in your experience of elit work.

Our agenda slides:

High Muck A Muck

Wespent our class with the beautiful hypertext poem entitled High Muck a Muck, – a stunning collaborative work.  High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, consisting of a website and eight videos which explore the narratives and tensions of historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to Canada. High Muck a Muck is most intriguing especially because it was formed through an interdisciplinary collaboration of nine Canadian artists and programmers including Fred Wah, poet, Jin Zhang, composer; Nicola Harwood, project director and designer; Thomas Loh and Bessie Wapp, video artists and performers:, Hiromoto Ida, dancer; Patrice Leung, filmmaker; Tomoyo Ihaya, visual artist and Phillip Djwa, creative technologist.  The convergence of so many gifted practitioners has produced an exceptionally rich and complex piece, which definitely pushes beyond the traditional confines of “text”.  

We walked through many of the most significant images/tropes of the piece while sharing a sense of the diverse options for navigation.  The piece explores the multi-lenses of diaspora and globalism while provoking us to think further about the impact of dreams steeped in the challenges of exile or migration.  We could all see the way in which embodiment (the body) is wrapped up in conflicted pasts and presents, and how the myths of immigration are often a gamble with many different resulting outcomes.  The final tone of the work is ambiguous and dispersed, with a haunting lack of resolve.  In other words, there will always be loss despite gains in this journey to a new world.

Your to-do list for 9/29/22

Kathryn’s selection: Everythings Going to Be OK

Bianca’s selection: Blackout Poetry Tool

-Your next blog post is due by 9/29.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of and/or Everythings Going to Be OK or  Blackout Poetry Tool.

What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

See you soon!

Let’s call it what it is, it’s a masterpiece

I think sailing is a word that falls short of this experience, not only did I navigate, but I entered, felt, heard, and saw the wonder of Chinese culture.

The first thing that caught my attention was the music and the blue that prevailed in all the options, the sound, and visual experience were extremely important to be able to feel what I was reading and understand what was being said. However, in High Muck a Muck I tried to feel free and comfortable, let myself go, and try to fly.

The second thing I was impressed with was when the human body was presented and the options were located at strategic points, like the cardinal points on compasses and maps, I saw the body as a compass rose, I saw that the human body is a vessel that allows us to connect with the elements and that they make it possible to be in sync with the world.

The third thing that most caught my attention was the first option that Everywhere and Nowhere took, located on the top of the back, when clicking on it, 2 people appeared and the yin yang in the middle, when clicking on it, it connected to a video where an older gentleman, but with the development of this it was fading and a baby appeared, the first thing I thought was in the movie of the Strange Case of Benjamin Button, but then I considered the importance of older adults for their wisdom and how they are capable pass it on to new generations.

The way in which you are able to move around the site is simple, public-friendly and interactive. Something I hadn’t noticed was the little ear on the lower left side of the screen. When you click on it, you can listen to stories, experiences, and knowledge of the culture.

Here are some phrases that caught my attention:

  • The valley is not empty, it is full of ancestors.
  • There’s no escape.
  • Some people are different, you can see it, or hear it. That’s how I grew up.
  • Just another hungry ghost.

Gero Roots

Is anyone ever the main character in our story?

I really liked this piece of e-lit, High Muck a Muck had my mind a little stuck. The art style going throughout was super swell, and it really rung my bell. Can you tell, that while experiencing it, this whole electronic platform really seemed to gel?

While easy to navigate (thanks to the inclusion of arrow guidance, book/boat emoji-style buttons, etc.) I still found this work to be quite an investigation. I’m not sure what it is about, but I’m pretty sure if I showed it to one of my history buff friends they’d really question how little fanfare I have for such a thing. But still, I am very curious about space, environments, and sensory experiences. A lot of the droning music was pleasant, but lulled me into the work in a way that is foreign to me, comfortably patient.

Usually I am one to sprint through a task, or an interest, and move on to the next, but this one held me. I particularly appreciated that one video that simply zoomed in on some elder’s face. I was honestly expecting some sort of payoff, some revelatory bit of knowledge, to pop up at the end, but nope. The video simply transported me into a state of mind, and an internal state of environment, and that is a notable compliment coming this way.

A bit of a complaint here, some of the texts fade away far too soon. I tend to hang onto words when I read poetry, so for me to reread a pairing that I was really enticed by, or that served of some musical quality, only for it to be erased was a bit of a negative rub. Still, I find something thematic going on here at points, like when it happens over a painting of water (the Pacific Ocean). Like a ship sinking from battle or the natural horrific beauty of Mama Nature. The words fade away just like all of the wondrous and notable journeys, the memories, that those who are not experiencing them will never imagine, never fathom.

And I get that I likely could have gone back to the emoji and whatnot, but once that little thematic nugget hit me, I didn’t dare want to interfere with it. It felt special. There’s also a lot of stuff that sounds like Nine Inch Nails’ more ambient stuff, I think during the video with what looked like a shoulder bag. Like, woah, pretty rad sounding stuff, with a tinge of creepy. There was also some chaotic noise bits with sampled voices scattered throughout which is very much my kinda thang. It’s a shame that there isn’t a link (that I noticed) to where this stuff comes from artist-wise, but in a way it adds to the mysterious aura that surrounds the work.

I wonder if a lot of this has to do with agriculture or industrialism, or the beginning stages of consumerism, in a very primitive sense. 

While it never went fully into that direction, the characters painted throughout kind of reminded me of the storytelling of Tom Waits, where they’re vague but you get the feeling like everyone around each other is so at an arm’s distance. They are all distinct, and perhaps they know every observational detail about one another, but there is something seedy present. The environment you are in is almost never really there. Fleeting. Eternal, but inverted. Not as seedy as in Waits’ work, where everyone feels greasy and grimy, but seedy in the sense that I feel like, even if I were one of these kinds of caricatures painted, I wouldn’t truly know the whole story.

As a matter of truth, none of us never will.

From nowhere to everywhere

When I first looked at this piece of Elit, I was very excited to see the familiar Chinese character! It feels like meeting an old friend in another country, and I am so glad Dr. Mia Zamora chose this piece!

In this blog, I am going to share with you guys some fun facts I found from my personal experience! Get ready with me!

This map cleverly combines the topographical map of Canada with the Chinese cultural map of human acupuncture points.

This picture has a solid Chinese color, such as the signboard in Chinese and the traditional Chinese architecture—the archway. Still, it also reflects how Chinese culture collides and blends with Western culture in British Columbia’s Chinatown, where many foreigners in Western dress trade or live here, reflecting the harmony between the Chinese and the locals.

When I clicked on the little man sitting in front of the store in the upper left corner, an ear icon appeared on the screen. I clicked on it to play music played by traditional Chinese instruments, which sounded like a kind of sorrow and sadness of being uprooted from one’s homeland.

This image contains many Chinese elements of culture, such as YingYang (阴阳). Yin and Yang is an abstraction of the two opposite and complementary properties of the ancients in the universe. Also, it is the philosophical category of the unity of opposites and the law of thinking in the universe.

Chinese sages have coined the word “Yin and Yang” to represent the unity of opposites in which two things correspond and complement each other. Lao Zi says that “all things bear Yin and embrace Yang,” and in Yi Zhuan, “one Yin and one Yang is called Tao.” The Book of Changes is a mathematical and philosophical theory about the change of Yin and Yang.

At the bottom, “everywhere and nowhere,” you will see a yin and yang gossip map between two people. Click here for a video. This video has no words, only background music, and shows an older man with a face full of furrows. The camera slowly draws closer to focus on his eyes, full of vicissitudes, until the eyes fill the entire screen. The street slowly pulls away, and the older man becomes a newborn baby.

In my understanding, everywhere may refer to the tree of life’s sprouting roots and branches growing wildly until they wither, just like people entering their twilight years. Nowhere refers to the seeds that have not yet

Huck Muck a Muck

This week’s reading was interesting in the same way “Twelve Blue” was, but there were immense differences between my experiences. Still, going into this reading it felt just as blind and I still felt that sense of disorientation. It made me think, Do all of E-lit works utilize this disorientation of the format itself to add another layer to their works? My guess is yes. I mean we haven’t studied any linear narratives, so that may change. Whether or not they do this, these authors have a way of keeping it fresh & utilizing it in ways we would’ve never expected.

Going into Huck Muck a Muck, I immediately noted that there was a common theme of displacement, which is why I opened this post with the idea of disorientation. Maybe the author was trying to mimic the feeling of displacement that immigrants often feel on their journeys to new countries.

Like I said previously, these authors have their ways of keeping their work intriguing. Huck Muck a Muck offers multiple perspectives on the non-linear concept of immigration, which is refreshing. They reiterate the idea of lottery & gamble when talking about the journey, but they never explain what journey. It’s implied that they mean the journey through the e-lit work, but also the journey taken when we click on something and put ourselves in the speaker’s place.

I must say, I did enjoy this walk though more than “Twelve Blue” and I think it just has to do with the fact that this was poetry. Poetry invites and even encourages the unknown, unspoken, and uncertainty. So, I wasn’t going around in circles trying to connect characters to other characters. I wasn’t expecting a linear narrative to show itself at the end of my browsing. Huck Muck a Muck’s poetic focus allowed me to enjoy the bits & pieces handed to me, rather than worry about the outcome.