"Night, Water, Night" is an early hypertext of mine that was accepted for inclusion in an anthology of hypertext poetry several years ago. That anthology never did come out, or at least hasn’t yet come out, and thus the poem has resided quietly on my hard drive lo these several years while the software and hardware of the digital revolution has gone on changing and mutating at a breathtaking pace. When I accepted Deena Larsen’s "Intruder" for this current number of the New River, it occurred to me that "Night, Water, Night," might provide an interesting contrast to her poem.

"Intruder" takes advantage of some of our most current technology in order to create a piece that uses sound, image, and movement to create a distinctly literary effect. When I wrote "Night, Water, Night," the technology to create such effects wasn’t available (that is, it wasn’t available to me–an individual working on a personal computer with popular and affordable software). I wrote it on Storyspace, the only hypertext authoring system readily available at that time. In many ways, "Night, Water, Night" seems downright old-fashioned compared to "Intruder." The principal difference between it and a print-based work is that it was written to be read on a computer screen and constructed so that the reader controls the order in which the various sections of the poem are read. As a consequence of that design, the experience of the poem changes with every reading, as parts of the poem are inevitably read in differing sequences, while some sections that are missed in one reading are found in the next. Compare that to "Intruder," where words emerge in a context of sound and image, changing shape and color, fluttering across the screen as if falling like snow or flying like sparrows through our line of sight. And because this is still hypertext and not yet television, the author invites us to alter the experience of the piece by pointing and clicking in the appropriate places.

Whatever one thinks of the merits of these two poems, it’s hard not to be impressed by how rapidly digital writing has changed in the handful of years since writers have been trying to adapt computer technology to the purposes of literary writing. More than ever these days I’m convinced that hypertext will play a part of the future of serious writing. But at the rate things keep changing and evolving, I don’t think anyone can yet say what that part will be.

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