Letter to Linus

The digital poem Letter to Linus, by William Gillespie, takes the form of a hypercube, which has six individual pages (or faces) of poems which link to four other poems on the cube. With this interactivity, the reader decides which poem to read next. The reader clicks on a phrase, which leads to a poem related to the phrase.  When the reader has finished reading a poem, he or she chooses a phrase related to a verb at the end of the last stanza, and moves onto the next poem.  


- The Hypercube / The first “page” of the poem prompts you where to begin.

The poems take place in the future where language is regulated, patented, and encrypted. Words become a form of currency as companies sell their own monetized languages. People in this future can no longer exercise their freedom of speech. The writer of the letter is asking Linus to return to this city to restore the ruined communication and educational systems.

When first opening this poem, it is up to the reader to decide where he or she starts reading the letter, and without any restraints, can choose how he or she will interpret. For me, this is too open of an approach, and I would rather read the poem how it was meant to by the author or else I will be too caught up analyzing the connections I made and why I made them.


- A Face / Each face of the cube is a different poem.

When first interacting with this hypercube, I used two approaches to figure out what the correct order of the poems would be, if there was one. There are six words and six phrases that connect all the poems together.







out the public

down resistance

up the revolution

in your feelings

off language

away the sun

In the first approach, I thought it would make sense that each word was married to a phrase. So I put the phrases together in combinations which made sense to me, and see if the poems read fluidly from page to page.

Blowaway the sun

Shutoff language

Cutout the public

Breakdown resistance

Cutup the revolution

Lockin your feelings

I realized there was a problem with these combinations, because the poems did not all link together. Two poems would be left out of the letter with this logic.

Using trial and error, I figured out how to link to each page in the correct order, and have it loop.

Take in your feelings

Cutaway the sun

Shut up the revolution

Blowoff language

Lockout the public

Breakdown resistance

With this, I read all the poems in this order. Interestingly, the interpretation of the letter changes depending on how one chooses to read it. In the order I read, the letter to Linus ends with a note to keep on the fight for poetic justice. “If you promise to do this, the food and medicine will fall from the sky.”

One could also interpret the poem in the order of the phrases themselves. I played with ordering them into a sentence.

Take in your feelings, cutaway the sun, shutup the revolution, blowoff language, lockout the public, and breakdown resistance.

According to the Electronic Literature Organization, Letter to Linus was written and performed for the “Night at the Cybertexts” performance at the Digital Arts and Culture conference on April 27, 2001 at Brown University. It was posted to the web in June 2001, appearing in HTML and VRML formats. I believe that William Gillespie did a successful introducing the web experience to poetry, using the hypercube to explore multiple perspectives and interpretations in the life of a poem.

- A