Basho's Frogger and Jabber

Basho's Frogger and Jabber

Basho's Frogger, like the haiku upon which it is based, is a modestly-sized piece, consisting of a title and three words, and in the best tradition of Toronto-style concrete poetry, it is predicated on the elaboration of a simple visual pun. However, its simplicity is highly suggestive, as each play-through produces an infinitesimal change in the outcome of the text, which never itself changes. One wonders what this poem has to say about paranoiac reading styles by the bleary-eyed addict in the salad days of the arcades (video game, not Paris). JABBER enters from the opposite direction—rather than three words, there are numberless combinations based on a few etymological roots—but, once again, Hennessy invokes the paranoiac style, as this "engine," depending on the mental state of the reader, appears to be the tidal pool into which future lexicographers will wish they could have peered.


Author description: Matsuo Basho, the inventor of Haiku, penned the following poem (translation R. H. Blyth): "The old pond / A frog jumps in / The sound of water." A few hundred years later, the concrete poet dom silvester houédard offered his rendition: "pond / frog / plop." Fifty years after that, a Zen video game appearerd celebrating one of the most famous haiku. Basho's Frogger was produced as a response to derek beaulieu and Gary Barwin's Frogments from the Frag Pool, a book of Basho translations. JABBER produces nonsense words that sound like English words, in the way that the portmanteau words from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" sound like English words. When a letter comes into contact with another letter or group of letters, a calculation occurs to determine whether they bond according to the likelihood that they would appear contiguously in the English lexicon. Clusters of letters accumulate to form words, which results in a dynamic nonsense word sound poem floating around on the screen with each iteration of the generator. JABBER realises a linguistic chemistry with letters as atoms and words as molecules.

Instructions: Click on the BEGIN button to select work.

Previous publication: 2000.

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