Taroko Gorge/Along the Briny Beach!

“Stone articulates the bay. Salt waters carve. Waters mist. Sandstone writes the sea foam. Shuffle along the storied wing long…Shore outlines the channels. Deserted islands erode. Sand dune deposits the maelstroms. Beach comb along the salt-glittering uncharted umnamed…” -J.R. Carpenter, Along the Briny Beach

As a learning student and writer, if a person asked me to think of what literature and poetry are, a few words come to mind. Beautiful, musical, captivating, alluring, and unique. After reading Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort (http://collection.eliterature.org/3/work.html?work=taroko-gorge), I never realized how the pace of reading poetry and literature plays a part in how we intake what we are reading. Montfort wrote and programmed Taroko Gorge in 2009, which is a piece of generative poetry that gives the reader the feeling of “walking through nature.” It flows down the page with descriptions of nature. The pace of reading poetry has always been slow to me. Even when I go to poetry readings and learning how to recite my poems, I was told to speak slow almost as if I were a robot. However, Taroko Gorge flows fast where it doesn’t seem like poetry sometimes. It reads as a form of art.

Some would probably not enjoy the fact that reading this piece of electronic literature is a fast-paced read. The standard way to read would be to read slowly so the reader could enjoy and appreciate the words. I do agree that reading poetry slow is an excellent way to take in what you’re reading. However, there is nothing wrong with a little change. The flow of the poem allows the reader to have something exciting and unexpected come on the screen. I would describe it a “never-ending song,” but instead of the melody, the lyrics are never-ending and always changing. There is a certain beauty that I noticed and began to appreciate after reading the poem.

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I have been on walks through the park, the woods and other places that involve a nature scenery. There is an overwhelming amount of creativity that comes with these nature walks. The great thing about Taroko Gorge is that the walk does not have to end, unlike in real life where at some point, you must finish your walk and come back home. The lines from the poem attract the reader by its calming words and soothing flow on the screen. By doing some research, I found out that these lines are inspired by Taiwan’s Taroko National Park. From the comfort of my home, I was able to enjoy a nature walk through electronic literature, which is something I have never experienced before as a student. I think the key to really grasping Taroko Gorge is by merely reading it more than once. I read it several times, and each time it was something new and excited. Each time the poem began to unfold before my eyes, and I sat back with a cup of coffee and basked in this newly found poetry.

Now, not to turn my back on Taroko Gorge, but one of the remixes that I will be discussing next is Along the Briny Beach (http://collection.eliterature.org/3/work.html?work=along-the-briny-beach) by J.R. Carpenter, which made me even more curious and captivated by this poem generator that was originally formatted by Montfort. One of the reasons why I wanted to carefully read this piece is because my favorite place is the beach. I am at peace and always in a meditative place when I go there. So immediately this piece caught my attention. One of the differences between Taroko Gorge and Along the Briny Beach is what the reader relies on. The remix has more motion and images that are in sync with the text shown on the screen.

The images that are shown on the screen while the poem is being generated makes made me feel like I was on the beach from my home. With the use of color, images, and text, the poem was able to truly align with what the generator was pouring out. What I thought was fun was how I could move my mouse over the images and the image would sometimes stop, show letters, go fast, or go slower. It also helped that the pictures were of sand, shells, the water, and even things such as rope that would wash up on the shore at a beach. The words and lines that were generated were just as beautiful as the words. Words such as, “salt-glittering” and lines such as, “Islands daydream the coral orchards”; allows me as the reader to “dive in” this piece and become one with it. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Taroko Gorge and Along the Briny Beach as a new way of looking at what poetry really means and what it can be in the literature world.


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