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Interactive Poetry, January 19, 2010
Like Michael R. Bacon’s Arid and pale, Figueres in My Basement is actually a hypertext collection of lyrical poetry making use of Bacon’s Interactive Poetry Extension for Inform 7.
The reader is presented with the first lines of an as yet unfinished poem, chooses (i.e. types) one of the words from the last line, and the next line of the poem appears—a different next line depending on what word the reader chose to focus on—and so on till the last line.
Mishima’s works have lyrical qualities even in prose, and he has taken care for each of these poems to work as a poem in its own right—which of course is a challenge, given the formal constraint demanding that any two poems in the collection differ only from a given line down.
This is not to say, however, that this is a bunch of grave or overly serious poems—on the contrary, they are fairly playful.
That Figueres works better (for me, at least) than Arid and Pale is, I think, largely due to the fact that there is a discernible connection between the word the reader chooses to focus upon and the line produced as the result of that choice. In Arid and Pale that connection too often felt lacking or just haphazard, whereas in Figueres you feel there is a reason why the poem continues the way it does given that you focus on the words you do.
Something I believe that most any serious future work of this kind of interactive poetry will need is a good reason for the reader to read such a lot of poems that all begin the same. I.e. there should be some meaning to or unity of the collection of poems as a whole over and above the meaning that each particular poem might have and apart from the mere identical lines. (Aisle, e.g., is much the better for the common theme that unites the short stories in that work.)