The Web as a many-to-many media has exponentially expanded the potential for literature's traditional associative communication. Indeed, electronic literature almost demands communities--it is nearly impossible to be an excellent writer, graphic artist, sound producer, animator, and producer at the same time--let alone mastering all of the multimedia tools needed to create a work. Thus, many electronic works are collaboration.
Many works invite collaboration and weave contributions into the fabric of the work. While most of these sites are still based on the idea of a single poet contributing to a larger body of work, we can see the potential for working together.
trAce's N _o_o_n Q_u_i_l_t demonstrates. This work describes itself as an "assemblage of patches submitted by writers from around the world." The quilt itself is a series of images interspersed with squares showing the 1's and 0's of binary code. As we mouse around the quilt, we can click on the individual poems stitched into the whole.
Group poems are nothing new. Centuries-old renga, a parlor game of connecting haiku through words and images which has its roots in the Heian era of Japan, has now been adapted to an international parlor, the Internet. Paul Conneally's Charnwood Arts project, Haikumania, linked rens (connected haiku) and declared that "By connecting we can change the world." The site, unfortunately, "has now returned underground." Another site, New Sun Planet, is a themed ren which uses hyperlinks to link writing and images about night visions by both children and adults worldwide. Other sites also invite interactive commentary through haiku. Sites like Photo Haiku connect text and images together. The site provides photos, and writers can contribute their haikus based on the photos and the haikus already there. Dreamworks shows fantastic images and invites haikus on dreams. These sites and many more allow writers to talk to each other in haiku and connect new haiku and rens to the existing bodies of work.
The interactive poetry site displays poems in progress and invites readers to add a line or close a poem they feel is finished. This site expands the traditional ren discussion into categories: "general poems," "gothic lyrics," "rhymes," and "song lyrics." As more and more writers add their voices, these sites slowly build into multifaceted and living coral-like structures of connecting poems and images. And even modern forms of community poetry are being transported to the e-environment. For instance, you can create your own magnetic poetry a la a refrigerator door and then submit your piece to the gallery.
Exercise: On Your Own
We'd love to show your work--either send it or send a URL for your work here to be a part of this site.