SHARKPACK Poetry Review

An imprint of FATHOMBOOKS.

Some Game-Poem Aesthetics

Recumbent, bent over my lower back, coffee of the weakest sort made with the last beans.

Sunday. And now, editing, Friday.

I set into Spece’s recent study of PREPARE TO DIE; flowed the piece itself; landed in its Acknowledgement, and linked, like these words do, to Duncan Harris’s beautiful site.

I feel so much merit is in the webwork, the content collection, and eye of Harris.

As Joel Hans says in his outro: ‘The art of this chapbook would not have been possible without his hard work and willingness to let others freely use the images he captured.’

My free-information, build-the-archives roommate would love this, I thinks to myself.

And? And he did not; maybe I was too emphatic in saying how cool I thought it was. All unimportant.

Return to the gold mine.

Harris has indexed high-res, free-to-use captures organized by game. Clicking ‘shuffle’ does what you’d suspect.

The margins are flawless; the pop-ups over individual images, data-driven, clean; massive features including (probably) his own illustration; a full-fact-found forum with rules and everything, and a WTF?/ About Me section tinged with polite and unhinged sincerity.

No seams to escape once you’ve arrived except one: to share.

Duncan’s website is (perhaps unintentionally) a version of what it celebrates: game culture, game as art, game as experience; the sublimed game-moment.

It got me thinking: isn’t a website a game?

A website a game?

I mean, it holds your attention; it’s not purposeful—your gracing it I mean, not purposeful in the way digging your neighbor’s driveway out and re-paving it so he’ll give you some tomatoes is ‘purposeful.’ Utility is often absent. These stumbling airs of ours! We’ll click through photos and websites at the rate we suspect select slot-machine gamblers pull at the crooked arm. ‘Click link,’ ‘Read a little,’ ‘Click link.’

A hundred times.

And sometimes you just land, man!

‘This is the spot. I’ve got to look through this guy’s stuff!’

And what do the best sites do?

Good question, Eric. I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll glance a stave in the mud so we might push through these obscurant cattails—I think Harris’ site does it; and I think PREPARE TO DIE should, but didn’t quite.

Spece and I discussed his reading P2D. He’d yet to post his essay/critique, but made similar points to those therein.

We want to craft one. It’ll be based off Metroid, which I’ve never played, but I have probed the community for an NES and heard squat.

I watched him, through our own vid-screen, return to that lonely world.

We are interested in knowing how we might further the twisting of genres; where we can grab on the cord to wring what we can in blending.

I’ll start trying to help. Here’s me, at scratch:

The two things that need to be mashed are game and poem.

A game is:


A poem is:


A word puzzle is a form of played poem.

A MUD is example of a read game.

The hybridization has been going on for awhile. So what am I looking for in Cartridge Lit’s PREPARE that I’m not gettin’?

I need to be stopped.

A game has obstacles that a book of poems doesn’t, and if the effort here is to hybridize the essential qualities of each, my efforts must be frustrated at times as I move through the work. Not just pausing on a tough turn of phrase. I mean physically grab my wrists and don’t let me get somewhere for a second. The endless scroll we do so well. How to hiccup it?

Hidden HTML objects? Textarea inputs? Riddles? Seems they might serve to invoke me as a player and a reader at the same time.

Then too, your ‘goem-er’ needs to want to overcome the obstacles—and the only way they’ll do that’s if they know there’s something worthwhile (or at least believe there’s something worthwhile) on the opposite shore.

Doesn’t that, then, beg the Q: How do we create a ‘goal’ for someone reading poetry? How does one learn there is value in poetry? In a game?

Curse you, cattails. Pole, Westerlind, pole.

To make someone fumble deliberately—everything about web design in a setting that demands profitability gears, if you will, code and development towards easy user flow, good white space, grids for quick accessibility. To make someone struggle on a website!? You is a salmon, playa! Rushing the wrong season!

Yet, we’re here to merge with game, and, well, a game is entirely predicated on the stymied heart.

I think the move that will help widen the concept of a game-poem hybrid is to make it hard.

Hard to get through can be different things. ‘Hard to get through’ a game means the difficulty is great. This can be true in poetry—purely tough syntax.

One reader assumes the poems are terrible in taste; this more ‘hard to get through’ in the way of a mushroom stroganoff. Even that! Usually I can’t finish my strog’ because I am too full.

Is this not as I am with poetry?

Some argue that accessibility is the good gig—help get people to the core of themselves through the language they already know.

Some lean opposite (or work opposite)—seek the eldritch and obscure or invent words three hundred years before they should be used; foilers of (or into) the unknown; missionaries.

But either way, if you sit down and you’re not of the ilk to read easy and it’s easy, then the work is hard to get through. In the opposite case, if you don’t do dictionaries then its all stroganoff. In the same bookstore, down the shelf, you might look up and give each other high fives in your mutual ‘can’t get through its’—if you’d only talk.

More rarely, poetry is hard to get through in the way telling a very sad story can be.

The end result though, of our poetry and our game, needs to be that you get through it. And then, once got through, you can do the whole, ‘It was good, ‘n’it was bad’ deal.

Alas, not even true. Nothing I say can be (Diablo on my back) for—I look at games, and the ones that hang me, that set me in my course—I haven’t really beat any of them.


There’s another generous word, but I’m through picking, and I want you to know I just mean I haven’t beat them. I haven’t. The best works of writing, they beat me. They beat me again and again. Sometimes I get better at reading them. I know more. I read them closer. I enjoy them more.

The gamer has to play the poem. She can’t just gloss.

That’s the first two artists. Harris & Hans. Now, I’ll have a look at the poetry, again.

Ms. Jenkins, please give me a moment. I’ve written on a few, but my eyes are broken, the coffee is gone. I’m going to stretch.

One response to “Some Game-Poem Aesthetics”

  1. ‘Sublimed game-moment.’ Harris’ site is really impressive, as you mention.

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