Separation & Sooth

Separation

I liked this poem a lot.. I felt it was e-literature in the sense that it had a message, even a moral for the reader. Unfortunately, much of what I didn’t like about it was contained on the very first page. I felt that making it clear that this was a work based on clinical exercises for a physical condition actually sapped some of the meaning from this work. I understand that it was meant as a commentary on how people have become so involved with their computers that is almost like a relationship, a form of slavish love, that has to be broken, in some cases by an outside force (like a physical injury). But knowing that the unknown entity being related to by the author is a computer and not another person neuters the opportunity for a rich metaphorical experience. And I was particularly surprised and irked by the fact that the author wrote this: The text seems to be about a separation between human beings, only the last two phrases reveal that it’s about a separation between a human being and a computer. Why would the author give that away?

Now for the walkthru: I found it interesting that “lonely” is the first word. The screen is stark like a blank page. The font is tiny and unremarkable. This looks like someone trying to write their story (or rewrite it) from scratch. The first imagery of a woman with her mouth open was jarring. It reminded me of a horror movie or someone being attacked or killed…. I read the text but did not do the exercise (I was tempted to but was in a populated place).  The line with red looked like a thermometer and as it dropped, I felt like it was depicting a reduction in high temperature. To me, this could have been an “exercise” about reducing stress or anger or anxiety,…. the visual aspects spoke more to that than to RSI in my opinion.

The second image of the woman in the silhouette again felt more like a relaxation technique – seemed to be more about resolving mental or emotional strain than physical strain… I did the exercise this time and it felt good (moving your shoulders)… Not sure why the box covered the text and not sure why the imagery popped up at the moment it did, although the last word was “demanding” which infers a strain on the body or mind. (I think for the first image the word preceding it was “pain” which would make sense).  I notice that the language in the poem is very active – lots of -ing endings, meaning things are happening!!

When it comes to the image of “rest”, the figure itself looks beaten down – this appears to match the copy when it talks about the body being overused and abused.  I wanted to stop the red line so i could study the image and the text in the yellow box a little more, but I couldn’t figure out any way to do it.  Maybe that’s the point – you have only a finite amount of time to yourself or to rest or recuperate and then its back to work (or to the task at hand).

The poetry is always about finding a connection with this other entity but it goes from finding the other entity interesting to eventually hating the entity for causing pain. This poem could very well be about love or relationships; how a person gets absorbed in another person to the point of resenting them (and perhaps even taking their own body and their own needs for granted.)

Interesting that when the poem (and the writer) gets to the point about complaining that the other entity doesn’t caress them, there is instruction of how to caress yourself (this red line goes down slower than others). It’s like patting yourself on the back!!

Again, I don’t like knowing that this is about the separation between a person and a computer.  It would have been so much more effective as a metaphor instead of reading it literally (about “repairs” and “receiving input” for example)…

A fascinating twist in this poem – when it told me i didn’t have the right attitude in front of the computer!  I immediately sat up straight and read carefully. I felt like the author was talking to me specifically! (complaining about the way i click, etc).  I actually felt a little embarassed, like I didn’t play the game the right away.  Could it be that the author was forcing me to go through the same kind of mental trial that she goes through when feeling that the computer has gotten the better of her?  That it is no longer she who is dictating the actions, but the computer? I certainly was forced to do things the computer’s way from that point on, being careful to click slowly (even though I was impatient and a tiny bit bored by doing it).  I had to look up the french word “desintoxication” to learn it essentially means rehab.. The “courage” panel seems like an encouragement to relax but also includes instructions about sticking your chest out – a physical depiction of being brave and toughening up under dire circumstances…

Looking back at the poem as a whole, I feel it is along the lines of “the serenity prayer” – give me the grace to accept the things that cannot be changed…..

Ah!  I hate the last two lines!!  “How to relax or massage a computer?” First of all, I think that it does a disservice to the rest of the poem and brings it to a more base level and abandons the higher purpose metaphor…  It’s not a surprise since the author told you ahead of time to watch out for the last two lines!  Also, I think it’s poorly worded, particularly in comparison to the rest of it. The imagery was effective in connecting the body’s needs and the soul’s needs – and the imagery of the people involved in the exercises seemed to represent both a troubled body and a troubled soul.  The starkness of the empty page is, I think, a possible representation of a person trying to start over in their lives or in their relationship – wiping the slate clean.  Overall, I though it was effective – and certainly the part about forcing me to change my actions to get to the end of the poem was noteworthy (I could have clicked off of it entirely, but instead opted to play by the “computer’s” rules.. But I think that all of the messaging could have been done through the language of the poem and the imagery contained therein, as opposed to essentially revealing the “hidden” meaning or twist before we even began.

scream (update my password again?)

Sooth

This is an interesting juxtaposition of imagery and text.  It is certainly e-literature, in that the text carries the bulk of the meaning.  The juxtaposition of sound, color and the motion of text carried the theme of water or being underwater or drowning in water throughout the work. As I point out in the walkthru below, I felt there was a much darker message to this work than the presentation (calling it a “suite of love poems”) let on.

I started from the top and went down – I don’t know what the object is – it all strikes me as being underwater, both the way the grass or the filaments move and the way the words are unanchored in space… Also we get to a water sound about halfway through and the colors of green and blue are like an underwater feeling.  Could all this be a metaphor for drowning in another person? As the lines move around, I get the sense they can arrange themselves in any order and it stills makes sense (there is also no clear ending to the poems, they just repeat in a loop)  Lots and lots of motion here – everything is moving all the time and the sound (of water) denotes motion as well…  The tones are ear splitting at times, like a hearing test – kind of haunting…

The words “immersed complete and immaculate” sounds more like death than love.  of course the next line is about “rich tenuous resilient joy” – the “rich” part I get, but why does he talk about being resilient?  That feels like the part of coming up from the water perhaps… i still don’t know what these images are.  The piece that looks man-made reminds me of something electrical. Of course, electricity underwater is… a bad thing.

“Weeds” also feels like the reflections of someone out of control about something out of control – the sounds like a radio flipping channels and the image of a person seemingly beaten down to the point of being prone on the ground or a bed… The terminology used about “relentless” weeds sprouting “everywhere”, the idea that he has to “contain them before he becomes them” – all of it speaks (to me) to a fear of being out of control like them.  Each of these poems seems darker than some of the language lets on.  I don’t quite buy the idea that this person is shining and laughing – that he has joy.  It seems a bit like he’s trying to put a brave face on a bad situation. Perhaps we can read these as love poems written by someone looking back?  Seeing a relationship through the filter of having seen both highs and lows?

“Body”‘s background looks like the inside of a body, like blood or muscle or innards of some type. Besides the fact that rhythm is spelled incorrectly, the idea that all of these tissues and ligaments combine into a form of reticulation, which means intersecting like a net, leads to the notion of being caught. The idea that the torrents are “inelectuable” , meaning they can’t be escaped supports the same idea.  Why make them really long, difficult words? Again, i think the poem is saying something that it appears to on its face. The last line is “lusting” which is the body out of control.  And again, while the words talk about feeling “wonder” and “blooms” inside (which seem to denote positivity), i read something darker.

In “Root”, the author has lost his own sense of self.  The music is just a single tone. The rain is sad and the coloring is a kind of depressing, sick yellow-green. There is an indication that the author is losing self-identity, arguing that his own limbs remind him of someone else’s. The second part of the poem ddoes feel more like an ode to love and positive feelings, although the feeling is positioned outside of the author and his lover – pointing out that what’s positive “hovers between us” – and is again, out of either of their control – all the action is attributed to “it”. “It” convinces solids to melt”. However, in the end, the author does seem to reference a love between them as “a flame that loves us”…

In “soul”, it starts with the word “baiser” or “kiss” but the fish image gives it an inhuman quality to the idea of a kiss.  The one way to depict a kiss with no love, no passion is to depict it as a fish opening and closing its mouth.  (I realize at this point that I had flipped the button for French, but in English it is translated as “sex”.  I wonder if the original French makes more sense here.  The poem is fine – not particularly groundbreaking or interesting, but again, I think the image of the fish is the most important thing.  The fish isn’t moving, seems to just be staying alive.  It is the opposite of the sexiness you would think would match up to this clip and in fact looks ugly and could be dying.  It’s also underwater – another reference to water that runs throughout this whole piece and seems to put the author and the reader in a situation where they are always out of their natural element.

The final poem, “snow”, is a great metaphor for a person, particularly one that is in love, to distinguish themselves apart from the other person. This author seems to argue that this is the individuals natural state – that one “cannot be alone”.  As such, the snow melts together and one flake, once fallen, can never be separated from its fellows. If I had not read the opening paragraph, I wouldn’t be sure if the author is arguing that it’s a good thing that “uniqueness dissolves”. The fact that Johnston argues says they are a series of love poems indicates that he thinks it is good, but to me, that lack of self-consciousness and handing your self over to another is a bit horrifying. I notice also that Johnston purports to address the “subterranean linkages” of solitudes in present-day Canada, but outside of the French language, I see nothing that distinguishes this as a Canadian work.

wetsock What in God’s name is this?

 

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