An Introduction to "Lexical Lattice"

The open form of hypertext poses new challenges to poetry, a genre in which meter, stanzaic length, and rhyme scheme have traditionally confined form. The villanelle, pantoum, and sestina, for example, conform not only to stanzaic length and rhyme scheme, but also to the dictates of line sequence and recurrence. As an experiment, I've written "Lexical Lattice" (tentatively called an "infinistina") based on these poetic forms. Like the villanelle and sestina, end-rhymes recur, but without a fixed pattern or scheme. Like the villanelle and pantoum, lines recur, but they recur without a fixed pattern. The overall effect of the infinistina is that the reader has a sense of the regularity and cyclicity of a villanelle, sestina, or pantoum, without a fixed line sequence. The infinistina opens up these forms. As a matter of fact, one could say that, as a hypertext, it has infinite length. However, I've added some possible closure cues to save the reader from the fate of reading it forever. These cues occur at points of grammatical closure (such as the end of a long sentence). The poem also lends itself to imagistic closure (the return to an image, hence the sense of completion by finishing a cycle of images).

Secondly, I compared the general forms of "Lexical Lattice,"an infinistina, and Ikai's "Electronic Zen," which can be read as a free-form poem like an infinistina. I've decided that "Electronic Zen" is not as formally structured than an infinistina, which is confined to some end-rhymes. In both, however, line repetition helps create a sense of cyclicity and closure.

"Lexical Lattice" is based on words derived from a common root, "lex," listed in Samuel Beckett's "Dante... Bruno. Vico.. Joyce." Beckett uses the list to exemplify the processes of evolution and transformation that occur in language. I've also added Barthes' term "lexia" to continue the list of evolving terms. I take the imagistic similarities of the words (images of water and the act of gathering many small objects), and metaphorically link them to other images (rooms, twilight, computer screens), thereby multiplying the images to "affirm the plural existence of the text, its return (Barthes, S/Z, 58)," producing a series of images that multiply infinitely as a result of the sequence and contexts in which they are read.

The evolution and connectedness of meanings between words relates to hypertext, which is a "text composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multiple paths, chains, or trails (Landow, Hypertext, p. 3) These words or blocks of words are linked in a "perpetually unfinished textuality (Landow, Hypertext, 3)." Indeed, Barthes characterizes a text as a braid or pattern of different voices or codes, a textile. In "Lexical Lattice," I consciously use a variety of sources: Beckett's essay, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge's "Duration of Water," and imagery in Barthes's critical theory. In addition, I write under the unconscious influence of many works, so the intertextuality is not limited to three texts.

I'd also like to share dilemma I had -- whether to create a multilinear or nonlineal. Having read Dorothy Lee's "Lineal and Nonlineal Codifications of Reality," which describes the nonlineal systems of thought exhibited by certain ethnic tribes, I wondered whether the infinistina is more nonlineal than multilinear. For example, the images in an infinistina can seem like a series of unconnected points, a form of conceptualization exhibited by the nonlineal-thinking Trobriand tribe. "Lexical Lattice" is a series of interrelated images that do not necessarily transform from one to another. Instead, they are related by imagistic similarity. As Dorothy Lee puts it, "There is a series of beings, but no becoming. There is no temporal connection between objects (155)." Instead, the reader will begin to see that "[the] events and objects are self-contained points (155)," although they can be grouped by imagistic similarities. A Trobriand poem, for example, might relate events without developmental arrangement such as plot, climax, denouement, or even the tensions of emotional tone.

I've decided that "Lexical Lattice" is multilinear because the points of grammatical closure point to a transformation rather than an unconnected series of images. In addition, the links have been named according to a transformation or contrast between images. As a matter of fact, the lexias themselves provide an impetus to linearity linking certain images within a sentence, selectively comparing images, thereby connecting imagistic "points" to form a line within the lexia itself. Technically, reader could choose paths in a nonlineal or lineal fashion. However, the points of closure still would subliminally suggest points of tension and resolution, creating a progressive transformation of images that are grouped, re-grouped, named, and re-named. Furthermore, not all the lexias are inter-linked with each other. I was overzealous at first, and tried linking every lexia to all eighteen others, but the configuration of links quickly resembled a dense hairball and the names of links overlapped each other like a collage of newsprint (nevertheless, suggesting a Derridiean collage and montage. The lattice of links with names caught in it suggests, indeed, a lexical lattice ). As a result, "Lexical Lattice" is read more like a multilinear metatext like "Electronic Zen," in that it is a series of images that flow across the screen, branch apart, and come back together in a confluent image.

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