The e-poem, video, and painting in this study were inspired by William Carlos Williams’ celebrated poem “The Great Figure.” It is fascinating to see how each artist (including Williams) used the materials of his/her medium to capture a vivid moment of human experience.
This poem is inspired by the phone conversations made by telemarketing representatives whose peak calling hours were in the early evening, when people are having dinner and perhaps unwinding with a glass of wine after a long day’s work. Written and published in 2001, this poem captures some of the frustration and unexpected human connections that occurred in these contexts before the National Do Not Call Registry was implemented in the U.S. in 2004, effectively ending that kind of telemarketing strategy. Clicking on each pictorial icon triggers a sequence of animated, scheduled text, with accompanying images and music, told from the perspective of each of the two women who seem to find unexpected pleasure in their weekly phone conversations. At least during this time in the history of telemarketing, the phone technology allowed for human interactions, sometimes cordial, sometimes providing opportunities for cathartic venting of pent up frustrations, and occasionally, very rarely, genuine connections and empathy.
This video poem is a celebration of Summer lived well as a child who spent most of her time outdoors, sampling and savoring what nature had to offer. The poem has a headlong energy that comes from short lines full of imagery, occasional enjambment, and a of stream-of-consciousness catalog of summer activities. The animated images reinforce the verbal imagery, creating graphical associations and occasional morphs to reinforce the sense that activities are blending seamlessly from one to the next. In the still image above, for example, we are transitioning from an image of a pencil (used to write novels up on a tree) to “chewing wheat straws” in a field— and you can see the wheat fading in while the pencil morphs/fades out. The visual and narrative parallel from beginning to end create a sense of circularity for the experiences described. And why not? Days like that are worth reliving.
Like the advice given by the speaker’s father, this kinetic and aural poem is all about “presentation and perfect arrangement.” It is about knowing where to cut visual and aural language, images and sound clips, arranging them on the poem’s space to make an impression. Yet while the speaker seems to be learning what her father has to say, one can sense the tension in her as she conforms to a vision of how one presents oneself and in what contexts. The masculinity of the images juxtaposed with the words “a firm handshake, after church” contrast with the more feminine figure we see leaning by the stove or hunched in silhouette. Listen to this poem and you’ll realize that it hovers in that space between tradition and innovation, expressive orality and through new media, conformity and rebellion, and different types of distance and proximity.
This is a short poem in two parts that feel quite different from one another. Upon opening the poem for the first time, readers are greeted by a kind of magnetic poetry interface: a collection of words they can drag and drop to write a poem from the words and letters made available. This serves two purposes: to prepare the reader for a different kind of conceptual poetry space which allows interactivity entertaining the reader while the main poem loads in the background at which point they can click on “watch.”
This is a work of translation from Russian into English and transmediation from paper-based to screen-based written expression. This four line poem poses an age old question: how does someone receive a written message from a would-be lover. The letter, as a direct address to a person, is quite possibly as direct an expression of the speaker’s emotions, and is therefore not as well received as the poem. Poetry encodes sentiment, delivering the same sentiments in formal and inventive ways, perhaps the reason for its long association with love.
To translate such a culturally and materially codified material to digital media is to change it fundamentally, yet Sapnar manages to evoke those contexts in several ways. From the outset, she presents readers with an introductory page that contains linguistic and graphical objects the readers can move around with the pointer, evoking the conceptual frame of the original poem through a very digital interface. The opening cinematic sequence and the textual animation over an image of the most famous buildings in Moscow provide a sense of place, without romanticizing it. Most importantly, the interface uses a rectangle that the readers can move over the Russian text to allow them to hear the poem read out loud while they can see the English translation in the rectangle, suggesting that we can only experience the past through present cultural and technological contexts.
The simple yet unexplained interface for this sexy Flash poem is a metaphor for the subject of the poem—kids who barely know how to drive (or interact romantically) cruising in a small town in Wisconsin— because the reader is also a novice on how to read and navigate this poem.
The guitar music and clear voice delivering the aural version of the poem, presented simultaneously with the visual text the reader must learn to traverse in order to read, and the pictures of cars, streets, and neon signs combine well to deliver an immersive, and very hip, experience.