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The Poetics of Choice

Oh. Hi. So. I love what twine is doing for the IF community. I think that maybe it could do the same thing for poetry. I kind of want poetry to be relevant again. The interactive modality might be a way to engender that. I've been play testing my poems using Twine. Response is way better when interaction is available. Even using the same linear formula, the fact that the passages are digested in smaller portions, and seen as individual instances, seems to make them matter more to the viewer. Especially if the viewer is someone who does not regularly read poetry. It seems that, even if the game is just clicking, having that interaction is important to the consumer, who then perceives the poem more as a game. The point being: it keeps them engaged. Here is a simple poem, that honestly didn't garner much response when i just handed it to someone on a page, but was way more impactive as a thing experienced in Twine.
Feedback welcome. I think there is a lot of potential here, including choice in poetry (which this poem does not do very well) and I want to talk about it.
Michael C. Boyko


  • I've also got the original poem up at, as well as a first blog post. Come and see.
  • Hi, just a quick comment,

    I checked out your poem. I am not very into poetry as such, but I think you are right that the linking did make it more exciting and kept me going quite a bit.

    However, it also go to a point where there was no telling when the poem would end. Each click only ended up producing more text with another click and I finally caved into closing out (due to a lack of commitment to the poem).

    I am not sure how to remedy this. Perhaps some kind of counter telling the reader how many passages are left could be helpful. Or else shorter poems. Then again, perhaps those into poetry would continue reading till they finally get there.
  • Thanks, Feli, that is just the kind of feedback I'm looking for. Will create an edit of the poem specifically geared toward engagement and management of expectation. I think my first thought was that having shorter lines would be better, but if they lengthen the overall process... Point of diminishing returns, I guess. Again, thanks for checking it out.
  • edited June 2015
    having the shorter lines definitely helped. Without offending anyone, let me say that I am not that into poetry unless it is in lyrics to a song, and so I usually shy away from anything that has a poetry style. I guess this is because I have read a lot of poetry that doesn't seem to go anywhere, or the meaning is so hidden (and the time I want to invest in decyphering what the author wanted to say is limited).

    But the advantage of doing it the way you set it up was that it did keep me engaged, reading it and enjoying it...

    ...until I started asking myself "how long is this going to be?"... kept clicking, then kept clicking till I finally thought, "I don't have time right now for this, so I better leave it there".

    Whereas if the end was in sight, I probably would have stayed with it, knowing that it wouldn't be too long before it's finished.

    So in short, I definitely felt the shorter lines helped... until it was not clear when the end of the poem was going to arrive.

    Possible solution: break the poem into shorter poems/sections, giving a conclusion to one, and then instead of linking the final word of a line to the next passage, place a link below the final line of the first section with something like : "Next Section" or "Next Poem" or even "Part 2".

    Another possible solution: display how many passages remain in the poem to give the reader an idea of how much time they are investing in it.
  • Yeah. That sounds right. But I'm going to try to do it without the sort of cinematics that you describe. I'd like to make it so that the poem diminishes itself, and makes its own end known, without just telling the reader outright. To do that would take them out of the poem, and I don't want that. I want to find a way to proceed, with an end in sight, that keeps the reader within the poem, and doesn't have them constantly looking at the finish line. At the same time, I want them to know that an ending is coming. Hah. Not like I'm trying for anything super complex or anything. But, like the saying goes, if it isn't impossible, it isn't worth doing.
    Again, Feli, your input is major valuable. I appreciate your taking the time to enter into this discussion with me.
  • Check it. I tried to make it so the whole poem was represented by parts of itself that diminish as you click on links. Do you think this works better?
  • THIS, is significantly better.

    Now I want to go back and keep trying to figure out if I have missed anything. Now I no longer look for the ending, the same way feliwebwork did.

    In fact you get some overlap and replay value because I don't want to miss anything.

    Also, because death is involved, I find myself looking for a why? even though I have already played through it.

    Finally, and this is just me... I can't do the black/white for too long. Kills my eyes, for sure.
    I need the traditional color-scheme I think.

    Having said all of this, the new layout, again far superior. Great work.

    Ask @AteYourLembas about maybe putting this up at Sub-q. She does pay. If you are into that sort of thing.

  • Check it. I tried to make it so the whole poem was represented by parts of itself that diminish as you click on links. Do you think this works better?

    wow! You did it! I was engaged with the poem, thrilled at discovering new bits of information, and I actually really enjoyed it. It was also a lot easier to understand, having more than one line available to read at a time.

    In fact, I was so inspired by the poem that I went up to your first post on this thread to double check that it was actually the same poem. I couldn't believe it was. I remember the first time running through the poem (with your first format) I was continually confused trying to work out what was going on but without any satisfying answers. Eventually (as mentioned before) with the seemingly endless clicking, I gave up.

    But now, I was excited to unfold the mystery and it was very enjoyable.

    My conclusion: brilliant!

    I look forward to reading more of your works.

  • Alright. Thanks Feli and Sage for all the positive feedback. It feels really good not to be writing in a vacuum. And I'll check out Sub-q, since I am most certainly into getting paid. I'll hopefully have some more poems up soon, here and on my website.
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