In Browser Poems, burrough has reinterpreted three classic works of literature from the 20th Century (“O Captain, My Captain”, “On the Road”, and “Waiting for You at the Mystery Spot”) using just two languages (HTML and CSS) in the browser as the primary agent of transformation. In the works, burrough is not interested in writing the foundational text for the poetic experience. Instead, her aim was to design a web user’s experience for the works. The works adhere to the confining graphic formatting rules of current web standards, and include text, hypertext, images, videos, and audio. In the language-image-browser redesign process, the meaning of the poems are affected as follows:
Captain, My Captain
O BROWSER, MY BROWSER is a browser translation of Walt Whitman’s 1900 poem, “O Captain, My Captain” from Leaves of Grass. In the original poem, the death of a ship’s captain is an allegorical reference to the death of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. In this reinterpretation, the allegory shifts to the impending death of the web. Here, short clips of YouTube videos (all 24 found by a search on the site using keywords from each line of the poem) provide a background noise, or a context, to interfere with or aid the reading of the poem.
In 2007 burrough created hand-made bags for City Lights Bookstore as a public art intervention to celebrate the 50th anniversary year of the publication of On The Road. The original manuscript was notoriously produced on a single scroll of paper (or, many papers taped to each another) before Viking Press published the manuscript in 1957. The complete text is rendered as a continuous page in the browser. However all instances of the word “road” have been replaced with the word “browser.”
Waiting For You at the
Adrienne Rich’s “Waiting For You at the Mystery Spot” (2000) is part of her 1998-2000 collection, Fox, which earned Rich the 2003 Yale Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. The judges acknowledged her “continuous poetic exploration and awareness of multiple selves.” In this language-image-browser redesign, the “Mystery Spot” (a California alternative tourist destination for gravitational anomaly lovers of all ages) takes on new meaning, or multiple selves, as the location of virtual Easter eggs relating to Rich’s text.