Stéphane Mallarmé's treatment of syntax, sound, the absence of language, and intertextuality that allow for multiple non-linear readings of his poems, can be understood as an early precursor to hypertext.
Hypertext, as defined by Ted Nelson in a 1965 article published by Literary Machines, "means nonsequential writing - text that branches and allows choice to the reader, best read at an interactive screen."
By this definition, Mallarmé's poems, specifically Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard illustrate the hypertextual property of "nonsequential writing - text that branches and allows choice to the reader."
While Nelson's definition denotes a text that is best read at a screen, Mallarmé was working with the tools available to him: the printed word (or absence thereof). These materials did prove problematic for Mallarmé, which is evidenced in the multiple editions and interpretations of his detailed notes for presentation of the poem.
“I have seen the frost that coats the human body. Its texture is smooth and changes in the light. Over time, the frost develops cracks and falls to the earth, in the process revealing the inhumanity of the body we grow inadvertently attached to. In a letter, I once read how the body can decompose and yet remain present, leaving the residue of a ghost in its wake: ‘I am now depersonalized; I am no longer Mallarmé, but simply a means whereby the spiritual universe can become visible and can develop through what was once me."
The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.
Louise Gluck, in which she unveils some of our finite games: Parable First divesting ourselves of worldly goods, as St. Francis teaches, in order that our souls not be distracted by gain and loss, and in order also that our bodies be free to move easily at the mountain passes, we had then to discuss whither or where we might travel, with the second question being should we have a purpose, against which many of us argued fiercely that such purpose corresponded to worldly goods, meaning a limitation or constriction, whereas others said it was by this word we were consecrated pilgrims rather than wanderers: in our minds, the word translated as a dream, a something-sought, so that by concentrating we might see it glimmering among the stones, and not pass blindly by; each further issue we debated equally fully, the arguments going back and forth, so that we grew, some said, less flexible and more resigned, like soldiers in a useless war. And snow fell upon us, and wind blew, which in time abated — where the snow had been, many flowers appeared, and where the stars had shone, the sun rose over the tree line so that we had shadows again; many times this happened. Also rain, also flooding sometimes, also avalanches, in which some of us were lost, and periodically we would seem to have achieved an agreement; our canteens hoisted upon our shoulders, but always that moment passed, so (after many years) we were still at that first stage, still preparing to begin a journey, but we were changed nevertheless; we could see this in one another; we had changed although we never moved, and one said, ah, behold how we have aged, traveling from day to night only, neither forward nor sideward, and this seemed in a strange way miraculous. And those who believed we should have a purpose believed this was the purpose, and those who felt we must remain free in order to encounter truth, felt it had been revealed.
“We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.”
Louise Glück, from “Nostos” in Meadowlands.
likes to dress up like this:
shoulders, and all the rest
in the black branches,
in the morning
in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather
plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body’s world,
and the dark hug of time,
to be understood,
to be more than pure light
where no one is—
so it enters us—
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;
and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.