“The Sweet Old Etcetera” is an interactive poetic landscape featuring E. E. Cummings’ work. Initially, it contains only a pair of brackets on a white background, a “seed” that turns, by successive clicks, into a swaying verse-tree. Further interaction with the clickable areas allows the reader to fold and unfold one by one the poems packed in the tree. Every meaningful action is accompanied by melodic, string-like tones and changes in the scenery. The animated poems alternate with the swaying tree leitmotif projected on a gradually populated origami-like background: hills and moving clouds printed with verses, pink skies and flying birds, spinning pinwheel-asterisks.
Although folding and unfolding the poems suppose a motion and sound based scenario, the original printed layout is also part of it. Cummings’ peculiar typographical and syntactic arrangement of signs on the page, yielding visual and aural appeal, is echoed by the reaction of the interactive setting to the reader’s involvement: consonant tunes, leaping, blinking letters, words trembling like the wings of a butterfly, floating as coloured balloons or dancing down the screen like falling leaves. Clifford’s work seems to reiterate Manovich’s (2001:74) assumption about the “externalization” of the reflection process by means of interactive computer media, as well as Angel and Gibbs’ (2010:128) suggestion that modes of electronic writing may externalize the “animism” associated with “systems of symbolic perception that remain interiorized and muted [...] in typographic reading and writing”. By her interpretation of Cummings’ poetry transposed to the digital medium, Clifford proposes to the reader an animated “mind landscape” which, similarly to Cummings’ etcetera, relies on the reader’s imagination and participation to be completed.
Angel, M., Gibbs, A., ‘Memory and Motion. The Body in Electronic Writing’ in “Beyond the Screen. Transformations of Literary Structures, Interfaces and Genres”, Schäfer, J., Gendolla, P. (Eds.), Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2010, pp. 123 - 135.
Manovich, L., "The Language of New Media", MIT Press, 2001,
http://www.manovich.net/LNM/Manovich.pdf (accessed on July 5, 2011).