Links and Stretchtext in That Night

That Night I Saw on My Homeward Way is an example of poetry that uses hyperlinks in two ways. The first type of link moves the reader through the poem’s parts. The second reveals hidden pieces of the poem’s stanzaic patterning. This link typology is trivial to some degree. Of course hyperlinks move the reader to each section of the poem. If the poet has hidden some moment of the poem from view, a link might act as a target for revealing that text. Of course.

As hypertext, That Night is read as an intrinsically linked work, meaning that the poem can’t be read beyond more than one node without recourse to its links. It’s physically coded, materially mathematical, a computed artifact. Links are also, beyond their structural code, a poetic devise. This non-trivial characteristic is a persistent potentiality in digital expression. The following brief analysis illustrates my meaning.

There are two stanzas in the following image of That Night. Each quatrain has a different subject and spatial orientation. There are two links in the first and third lines.


One can read the lines with typical interpretive gestures. But the reader can also read the links in any number of ways. Clicking on the link “rubbed” will reveal sections of hidden or invisible text, as in the following image.


The revealed text has a different stanzaic pattern and should, in some way, relate to and change existing substance materially, formally, grammatically, imagistically. As JR Carpenter teaches us in How I loved the Broken Things of Rome (db8), there are many aesthetic and meaning surfaces to digital poetry. Learning to read them: This is the fun of it all.

The devise of the link is used throughout That Night. But the stretchtext technique is not, as I saw no need for other nodes to incorporate it, but the technique remains a potential force nonetheless. Hence, it could be said that That Night uses minimal animation, minimal stretchtext because it required no more than is necessary. Additionally, the poem has a traditional surface and avoids decorative or substantial media strata. It also makes for good reading on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Further Reading on digital poetry: Born Digital by Stephanie Strickland