The Mandrake Vehicles challenges our notions of the normal economy of a poetic text by providing numerous different readings of the same set of letters, in the process concretely moving the graphemical (if not psychological) "subtext" of a poem to the foreground in clever, surprising ways. Transitional animations, in which letters fall, expand and disappear, transport the reader between texts like through a time (or other) sort of warp, a pictorial revelry that brings this seemingly stable, stylistically intricate text to the frontier of linguistic meaninglessness and back.


Author description: The Mandrake Vehicles consists of three "vehicles," each one surfaced with a large text block concerning the biological development, folklore, occult ritual, magical association, and homeopathic usages of the mandrake plant. The surface text blocks can be read linearly from one to the next. However, each surface text also conceals a depth of two additional poems (as well as liquid layers, when the letters are in a transitional state). In each vehicle, both of these inner poems have technically been visible all along in the top layer, but remain undetected because of the presence of the other letters and characters. The inner poems of each vehicle are unearthed as letters drift off the surface of the poem and the remaining letters solidify into new poems. In addition to the relationships created between the contents of the three poems of each vehicle, relationships are also forged between words of the different layers that share the same letter(s). In the liquid layers, letters cast off scales of themselves which fall down the screen, colliding with other cast-off scales to form the detritus words, the trash cast off by the process.

Additional Credit: Animation by Betsy Stone Mazzoleni.

Instructions: Adobe Flash player or plugin required.

Previous publication: The Mandrake Vehicles was first published online for the literary journal Conduit in 2006. It was then published by the University of Illinois Press in 2008 as part of the poetry book Spring, which includes an auto-run CD of the Flash animation.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

The Electronic Literature Lab could not preserve this Flash work with Ruffle in February 2021. We do plan to preserve it with Conifer at a later date.