“The Renewable Sonnets of William Shakespeare” is an electronic interactive poem created by Curt Rode, a Professor at Texas Christian University, and Associate Director of the TCU Centre for Digital Expression. This piece was published on The New River site in March of 2020, a website dedicated to collecting electronic digital art and literature. Rode’s interactive digital poetry consists of two separate ways for users to engage with his work, in which the user can manipulate the 14-line sonnet by “stirring” each line to any possible line from 154 of Shakespeare’s completed sonnets in Volume 1 or capturing the rapidly changing sonnet for a surprise combination in a screenshot in Volume 2. Rode’s other work also typically explores the “Stir Fry” technique originally created by Jim Andrews and has a page dedicated to their creation and history, their forms and characters, as well as how to make them. More of Rode’s pieces can be found under his full name on Jim Andrew’s Stir Fry Texts website.
In Volume 2, the user is restricted in their interaction as the poem structure fades in and out of visibility and each of the lines also “bubble” or twitch to different lines on their own accord to which the reader must instead select the only button available labeled “Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die”, and the Stir Fry arrangement is made for them and caught in a screenshot. Both Volumes, though more so in Volume 2, do not overuse hypertext in its structure and is thus easier to navigate the digital poem without being overly stimulating. The focus is to maintain a relatively similar traditional structure of a Shakespearean sonnet – without maintaining the ABAB rhyme scheme - with enough digitization and generative abilities that allow newcomers to explore old favourites in a new and not overly stimulating way. Curtis Rode includes the screenshotting factor as an option for the reader to save their person renditions and share with others, while also satisfied with the rendered screenshots being blurrier to emphasize being a “degraded duplicate” that is “not as crisp as the ephemeral original”.
Rode’s digital literature enables the user to reconnect with their favourite Shakespeare sonnets/lines or even explore new concepts that they can create for themselves unlike most printed forms. The reader is forced to pay attention to the context of each line and/or how they can flow to one another when stirred. In Volume 1 the user has the freedom to create one larger theme - whether that be a more serious, romantic, dramatic, or humorous tone – depending on how playful the user intends to be or if they want a theme at all. Users can use Volume 2 for surprise combinations of Shakespeare’s poems and witness its attempts to create a legible and moderately understandable Shakespearean poem.
Curt Rode’s digital project can be easily accessible through a browser by The New River site and is compatible with mobile devices. Though the most interactive and pleasing way to experience the “twitch” and “stirring” of Rode’s version of electronic poetry is by accessing the website on a desktop or PC to use a cursor for the experience of hovering. The mobile device allows for tapping the lines to change but do not share the same sensitive or rapid “twitch” response as through desktop browser. Otherwise, this site is easily accessible to interested readers if they have a mobile or desktop device and does not have any age-limit or account requirements to interact.