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Interpoesia: Poesia Hipermídia Interativa (CD-ROM)

Author: Philadelpho Menezes, Wilton Azevedo
Publisher: São Paulo, Brazil: Presbyterian University Mackenzie, 1997/1998
Review Published: June 2001

 REVIEW 1: Jorge Luiz Antonio

Interpoesia: An interpoetry cd-rom, instead of a poetry book, which is elaborated by many authors. The prefix inter that works as Shklowsky's strangeness. A cultural and technological product that intends to replace the book. A need of another machine, beyond imagination, to get into poetry. Opening pages by means of a mouse, menus, and keys. The sound, verbal, visual, and digital poetry brought together in a innovative project, as reflected in the title. Hyper - inter - textuality. A new media poetry.

That is the way we can introduce Interpoesia: Poesia Hipermídia Interativa (Interpoetry: interactive hypermedia poetry), by Philadelpho Menezes and Wilton Azevedo, a work of art/poetry created by professors within academe and featured within a number of electronic art exhibitions.

But knowing it is not enough to understand the innovative nature of the cd-rom. Indeed, it is necessary to emphasize that Philadelpho Menezes and Wilton Azevedo have created a new term and concept for a special type of digital poetry: interpoetry, or interactive hypermedia poetry, which they describe as "poems in which sounds, images and words coalesce, in a complex intersemiotic process, in a technological environment which precisely facilitated the simultaneous presence of verbal, visual and acoustic signs: hypermedia programs"; that is, "an intersign exercise which makes clear the significance of the sign traffic of digital media, bringing about what could be called a new era of reading" (Azevedo in Menezes and Azevedo, 1997/1998). The poetic synthesis proposed by the authors intends to bring together the verbal, sound, and visual poetry in a context in which the interactivity overreaches the concept of intertextuality, once the dialogue with other works of art and authors realized in the electronic and digital environment, totally suitable to it, neither transposed, nor adapted. It is a work of digital interpoetry that makes a dialogue with other types of texts, for the "fusion of genre is, furthermore, natural to interpoetry: visual poetry, sound poetry, theoretical text, encyclopedic information, fiction, lies, games, all are possible paths within the interpoem, including the possibility of entering into commerce (or dialogue) with non-technological media" (Menezes in Azevedo and Menezes, 1997/1998).

The group of artists participating in the project deserves a special reference. They represent some of the best professors from top-ranked Brazilian universities and, also, are artists recognized by specialized critics: Philadelpho Menezes Neto (1960-2000), who died recently in a car accident, was professor of Post Graduation Program in Communication and Semiotics at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, a very brilliant and dedicated searcher, sound poet, and coordinator of the Studio of Experimental Poetry; Wilton Luís de Azevedo, professor of the Postgraduate Program in Education, Arts and Culture History at the Mackenzie Presbyterian University, is a designer and a painter; David Scott is professor and chief of the French Department at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland, and president of International Association of the Studies on Word and Image (IASWI); and Sérgio Bairon, also professor at Pontifical Catholic University and Mackenzie Presbyterian University, is an expert on the intersections between educational tools, cultural material, and hypermedia.

Interpoetry is the result of a project integrated with digital supports, and realized by Estúdio de Poesia Experimental (Experimental Poetry Studio) of the Post-Graduation Program in Communication and Semiotics at Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo and by Post-Graduation Program in Education, Art and Culture History of the Mackenzie Presbyterian University (São Paulo). The cd-rom was exhibited in the Cultural Space João Calvino, at the Mackenzie Presbyterian University, from May 29th to June 9th, 2000, and it was also a part of the special exhibition "Art and Technology" (a section of Cyberart: Zones of Interactions, Hypermedia: CD-ROMs) in II Biennial of Visual Arts of Mercosur in 1999/2000, in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and in the 13th Brazilian Symposium on Computer Graphics and Image Processing, in October 2000, in Gramado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

The first access [1] to the work gives us a sound poem by three voices (two male voices and a female one) which repeats the title of the cd-rom: Interpoesia (Interpoetry), while images of the cover and first "pages" appear slowly. The sound is related to the image of the cover. To get in touch with the authors' introductions/manifestos -- that is, Interpoetry: a digital manifesto (Wilton Azevedo) and Interactive poems: intersign perspective for experimental poetry (Philadelpho Menezes) -- in Portuguese or in English (translation into English by David Scott), also brings the reader/user to the authors' former individual works: Idensidade [2] and Clic [3], by Azevedo, and Clichetes [4] and Poema não Música [5], by Menezes. Saying "former individual works" means a kind of bricolage effect, a combination of many of the authors' work created during certain time of their lives. It is what we can call intertextuality or hypertextuality, which, according to Pierre Lévy (1997), is one of the most important characteristics of works of cyberculture art.

The cd-rom is divided in two parts: one is called "i" and the other is "p." Clicking on "i" or "p" takes the reader-operator to a group of poems which are written in Portuguese, but also translated into English:

    "i" -- O Lance Secreto (The Secret Move), Reviver (Re-live), O Inimigo (The Enemy), Máquina (Machine); and

    "p" -- Missa (Mass), Lábios (Lips), Atol (The Atoll), Somatória (The Sum), O Tigre (The Tiger), Vírus (Virus).

In "i," words, images, and sounds share references with and from another texts from different times and countries, like the ideogramatic scripture of Lewis Carroll, Pound's ideogram, Baudelaire's poetry revisited, re-written, and re-declaimed, and a re-reading of Menezes's own visual poetry Machine, all conditioned in a electronic-digital context. It is a perfect fusion between poetic word, digital image, and electronic sound, which creates an hyper-inter-textuality. In the cd-rom it is possible to explore (or "contact") authors earlier poems (verbal, sound and visual ones), because they re-read their own works. For example, when one accesses the credits and the introduction, it is possible to hear a sound poem by three voices.

Each interpoetry has its own characteristic which must be explained because of the special way of using each language, despite the excellent translation into English made by David Scott.

In Re-live, for example, it is important to understand that the word reviver is the principal ideogram which is made of the composition of sound and Chinese ideogram of the same word. The enemy is based on a non-linear lecture of Les fleurs du Mal (The Evil Flowers) by Charles Baudelaire.

The same goes for part "p": with different predominance, the word (or the image), with static or dynamic elements, with or without the direct authors' interference or of the other indirect participants (parts of a music, sound techniques, digital reproduction of paintings, book illustrations, magazines and newspapers, and so on), the final result is the presence of the intersign that establishes syntactic and semantic interconnections related only with digital language (hypertextuality, interactivity).

In order to introduce readers/users unfamiliar with Menezes and Azevedo's interpoetry, it is necessary to explain some poetic effects used in Portuguese. In Mass, for example, we need to understand the sounds whispered by a female voice: assim assino (what David Scott brilliantly translates into "So I assign," which translates the meaning, the sound, and the rhythm). Preceding these words, we have me sinto (I feel myself), which moves the reader-operator to low summit (abaixo) or sign upwards (acima), and, in both cases, the music plays with interruption.

Lips attempts to transgress popular Brazilian proverbs that follow each image: fica a crença dos pálidos lábios (faith in pale lips endure), a procura de uma cor de salitre (searching for a nitrate color), água dura em corpo mole (hard water in a soft body), and tanto bate até que beija (beats so much until it kisses).

Atoll is a tribute to the victims of the atomic bomb in Mururoa, French Polynesia. The sequence of words is Atol (Atoll), Ato (Act), Bomba (Bomb), por trás (behind), Mururoa (Mururoa), and Bomba (Bomb), which are translated into: Hiding, Behind, The Atoll, Mururoa, Bomb, Lies. A sound poem follows the images and the reader-operator's interactivity. Further, The Tiger uses two English words with the effect of including/excluding two letters -- trigger/tiger -- producing the suitable visual and sound effects. Moreover, Sum is a type of concrete poem with resources resembling software: a sound poem, colors of the letters (black and red) and of background (black, brown, etc.), and brightening make the different meaning of the words by the combination of letters:

    SOMATÓRIA (the act of summing, a group of sums);

    SIGNO (Sign);

    INSIGNI (almost the word insigne, which means noble, but also part of the word insignificant; it is also possible to be in sign i);

    INFICANTE (the suffix of insignificant);

    SOMA (sum).

Virus uses the same effect of combining letters and producing different meanings by the similar sound of the words: vírus (virus), versus or versos (versus or verses), zero (zero), and asilos (asylums).

Besides the dialogue between various arts, the use of several resources from many vanguard movements in the 20th Century leads us to observe in this cd-rom a new poetic language, one that results in the fusion of verbal, sound, and visual poetries in the electronic-digital environment, or what makes the work a cd-rom of digital interpoetry.

As it is not possible to read the project via paper, the reader-operator needs to access the cd-rom several times and, by this way, she/he makes a different reading based on visualization cues and by clicking the mouse to get different meanings each time, because her/his memory makes different associations. The bricolage effect of the each interpoem leads the reader-operator to do the same in her/his mind.

The notion "interactive hypermedia poetry" corresponds to a group of concepts with which the digital interpoetry is composed: it is poetry, art of words and sounds, in the oral and written context that leads to visual; it is also visual poetry, that is, spatial forms of the word, the geometric form given to it, or the ideogramatic, pictorial and visual signs; it is hypermedia, or technological poetics as multimedia, that is, the immense variety of ways of communication in interconnection; and it is interactive as a communication system between computer and human, in their various interfaces.

Revisiting for a moment Pierre Lévy, we can affirm that Interpoesia: Poesia Hipermídia Interativa contains the characteristics of cyberculture art: individual users experience, interpret, explore, and read it, revealing the typical organization of a collective creation, the continuos creation (Lévy 1997: 94-95), the interactivity between reader-operator and poet-operator-technician, the interface between human-reader-operator, between the microcomputer and the mouse, an inter-hyper-textuality that takes us to other texts and arts, in a complex intersign tissue, which characterizes postmodern culture.

Along with other works from authors and artists dedicated to digital poetry, Interpoesia: poesia hipermídia interativa assures its presence as an unique and special example of Brazilian digital poetry, justifying also the title and concept of interpoetry, for it reveals new ways of poetic experimentation and research in the new technological media.

1. The freedom to access is an important factor in a digital work of art. Thus, the access "guide" (first, second, third, and so on) is unecessary, for, almost always, the free choice is the most important and differential thing. So, saying first, second, third, etc. was the way the author found to introduce the cd-rom, but it doesn't represent the only possible alternative of accessing the cd-rom.

2. Idensidade is based on a Portuguese word composed by identidade (identity) and densidade (density), which can be translated into the density of identity.

3. Click is a re-reading of Philadelpho's Clichetes, produced by highlighting the three first words (Clic) of Menezes's visual poem.

4. Clichetes is a parodic poem of the chewing gum called Chicletes. Menezes transforms the word Chicletes into Clichetes, and the slogan chewing gum into gum to mask; that is, the words in Portuguese goma de mascar (chewing gum) transforms into goma de mascarar (masking gum).

5. Poema não Música (Poem not Music) is a sound poetry created by Philadelpho Menezes that joins a classical music with an African canto and produces a different meaning but without intelligible words and/or sounds.

Book's Full Citation:

Philadelpho Menezes and Wilton Azevedo, Interpoesia: poesia hipermídia interativa (CD-ROM). São Paulo, Brazil, edited by Presbyterian University Mackenzie, Experimental Poetry Studio of Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, and FAPESP (The State of São Paulo Research Foundation): 1997/1998. Poems by Philadelpho Menezes and Wilton Azevedo; Art direction by Wilton Azevedo. Translation into English by David Scott. Poem by Philadelpho Menezes by means of Ana Aly's final art. Sound edition by Alessandra Vilela and Sérgio Bairon. Programming/animation by Alessandra Vilela. Produced in Industrial Pole of Manaus by Sonopress-Rimo da Amazônia Ind. Com. Fonográfica Ltda. Compact Disc 065.462.

BAIRON, S. (1995). Multimídia. SP, Global. (Contato imediato).

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Jorge Luiz Antonio:
Jorge Luiz Antonio is a Postgraduate Student (doctorate) in the Communication and Semiotics Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil.  <jlantonio@uol.com.br>

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