I like to first say what a unique experience of poetry this is. I never heard of this style before but I am glad I did. I loved how the music played as the reader basically reads the poetry. I assume just like its stated in the statement that the music is paired for the poetry. I feel just like they do in movies/shows it is important to find the right tone that fits the scene, in this instance, it would be a perfect song that suited the poem.
When I first clicked over the poem I had no idea what was happening. The music does not play for long and if it stops as you are reading you have the option to play it again. After the second time I had muted my computer not because I hated the music but for a second there was a lot happening on screen that I felt I didn’t want to miss anything. Kind of like when you are driving and you turn down the music to find a street or place; same thing. The poems are in Chinese but if you hover over certain letters you get the English translation. The screen has little black dots that align with the poem itself. They jump around, at first I wasn’t sure that when the dots move that was what I had to read and follow those dots but maybe they are just there and moving around to signify that there is translation.
Anyways, after reading and regenerating a few times I came across a few different poems, well a lot actually. I’m not sure how I was suppose to read them to be completely transparent and maybe that’s because they are suppose to be read in the original language? Or maybe I am just simply reading them wrong. But I look forward to the presentation to get a better feel and see what I was doing wrong. Overall, I found this interesting and I would like to learn it.
What allows Ren Yang’s 醉詠詩 Zui Yong Shi to be quite the engaging little piece of E-lit. comes through in how simple it is, and how this simplicity influences the themes observed within the artwork that it provided. Admittedly, I did read the statement that is provided from Yang prior to engaging with the text. I am usually one not to read it at all or only after typing one of my blogs because I like the purity of my uninitiated perception and understanding of the pieces that we engage with within this course.
The artwork that the musical poetry lines accompany superbly captures a glimpse into a cast of characters that all seem so close-knit to one another. Even the characters that seem to be off in their own tasks, and not necessarily interacting with the grand majority of the rest, seem to have a functionality here. There is a functionality to all of us, we all coexist within the same environment, we, for a lexiconical purpose, are all in the same. There may be clumps of cliques here, where some duos and trios are closer to the rest of the populus, but the world and living space is contained, close- knit, and well-worn.
The music is simple but tasteful in how comfortable it is, as are the phrases that blink to accompany each note played. Specified seasonal changes, simplistic everyday tasks, and homely paraphernalia are considerably present within the text. They are all communal in relevance as you can picture the characters picnicking outside retrieving the same vibes/environment in cold times, harsh times, and fitting times. One character is appreciating a sight up high off to the distance, with a stern focus … simple matters made important, though they do not seem trivial. They seem lively. To do with living and living an individual life.
Some characters are drinking, there is mention of being drunk within the text, yet none of the characters seem displeased or in-conflict with one another. They are all individual, but do not seem to be impeding on another’s own personality within the collective. The distance outside of their living space seems to be a great land of water, “vast and obscure” indeed. It is almost as if the environment lived in here is of its own world, and logic – lacking human conflicts that seem to impact our modern day, digital lexicon of desperate news and problematic flooze, a scattering of intrigue, not interests. A portal into a world more real, more tangible, more here as ourselves, and with others.
First, I want to say I love that both the pieces were Chinese. Not only did it give a sense of cohesion, but it also is beautiful that Melanie and Xinyu will present these. I’d like to believe these people will resonate differently with that, which made this experience even more charming.
Starting with Zui Yong Shi, I thought the concept was incredibly creative. I’ve never experienced something like that, which made it interesting. As someone who’s a big music lover, that definitely hooked me from the beginning. However, the language barrier was frustrating. Though translations were provided, it didn’t help much. Personally, it didn’t offer much clarity. I wish I could understand since I really loved the idea of merging poetry and melody.
With Peaceful Dreams, I was faced with some of the same roadblocks. I couldn’t truly interact with the piece since I couldn’t understand it. However, it was very visually engaging, and that kept me interested. The images and audio were peaceful, befitting of the name. I also thought it was interesting that it was in a video format. When I think of electronic literature, I think of a certain aspect of engagement, but I couldn’t get that in this format. I still enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Peaceful Dream by Ottar Ormstad is a visual and auditory poetry experience. It is a Chinese version of Ormstad’s first book, and because of the idea behind the film (a poetic experience creating the feeling of a peaceful dream by making the eyes move to read words/characters in combination with images and audio) it cannot be translated directly. Ormstad feels that a translation via sound would be impossible, as this is a visual work, and likewise feels that subtitles would ruin the experience. As a viewer who does not know Mandarin, I simply followed Ormstad’s instructions to “just enjoy the beauty of the signs in combination with the visual effects and the sound.”
The video indeed made me feel quiet peaceful and sleepy, like a waking dream. I found myself wondering if the movement of my eyes as I looked at the changing characters in the corners of the screen had anything to do with that; are eye movements alone able to influence mood or feeling? I have not looked into that, but I have a hunch they can do something to that effect (perhaps that is the real science behind pseudoscience like hypnotism.) The images and sounds were also very calming, for the most part. Occasionally, the distortions of images and the use of bright yellow were jarring, taking me out of a peaceful state.
While watching the video, I found myself thinking about poetry and what it actually entailed. As we know it, poetry involves words and meaning, but there’s no doubt that it also involves feelings and the imagination of images. Could we make poetry without words? Poetry that only uses images (and maybe sounds) to evoke feelings? For someone who does not read any Mandarin, that was the effect of Peaceful Dream.
Zui Yong Shi by Ren Yang is another poetic piece. It generates Chinese WuYan JueJu poetry and a melody to pair with said poetry. This poetic form is “the poetry of singing intoxicatingly” or “to intoxicatingly sing poetry,” and is inspired by Tang Dynasty poet Li Po. As such, this poetry (which is set against a painting also inspired by Li Po and his friends gathering), is meant to be sung aloud. I had a lot of fun generating new poems and trying to sing them aloud in time with the generated musical tones. As I was singing them in English, I assume there were more syllables in my attempts than in the original Chinese, meaning it was a challenge to try and sync my words with the musical tones. However, despite this challenge, it was still quite fun trying! The poems themselves, being randomly generated, were also interesting to try and make meaning out of. Like our earlier exploration of the Blackout Poetry tool, I think that we are still very capable of finding meaning in computer-generated poetry that at first may seem nonsensical.
Overall, this piece was very aesthetically satisfying, not to mention genuinely fun to play around with. Without me trying to sing, the tones that accompany the poetry are beautiful and, combined with the background and the poetry, this work also makes me feel quite peaceful and relaxed.
After watching Chimanada Ngoni Adichie speak I immediately thought about how limiting having a single story lens can be. I thought about how common this actually is and how maybe if we all took a little time to get to know each other more the world would be so different.
I think this is why representation and exposure is important especially with young children. Like Adichie mentioned, when she was younger she did not connect with the people she wrote about. Simply because she did not read about people that looked like her. Being represented, especially to children allows a sense of belonging and although being introduced to people who are on common ground is important so is being exposed to people who may not live a similar life.
What stuck out to me was when Adichie mentioned that her mother would always tell her how their house boy was poor and because she heard that so much she just was surprised when she found that one of his family members created a beautiful piece. He was made up of many stories. That got me to thinking about my own life and how I may be perceived one way because of one aspect of my self that I choose to show, but I have so many other experiences that make up who I am. Now that I think about it not many people get all my “stories”. It forced me to think about all the things I didn’t see in others and maybe what they didn’t see in me.
I just had this not-so-peaceful dream the other night– not a nightmare, but definitely something that’s left me thinking a lot about what my priorities really are in my life, practically and spiritually. And I think that’s what first drew me to go through Peaceful Dream first– it’s quite the opposite of what’s been on my mind since Friday morning.
To sum up the dream, I was sobbing in the kitchen at church because I had paid so much attention to other things that I hadn’t prepared for my own wedding (though I am very much single at the moment, but it is also a really big day that I look forward to, God willing). The dream still had a nice ending since everyone that attended from my church brought something to decorate and my best friend, already in his suit and all, was directing everyone where to put the decorations and gifts they’d all brought. It ended up beautifully eclectic, and such an accurate reflection of the community I’ve seen at work there. But I guess what the whole thing reminded me of is this:
So I found myself feeling almost as unprepared as I was in that stressful dream to interpret this Peaceful Dream, written in a language I know next to nothing about. I want to know what these Mandarin words mean, and it stresses me out that I don’t know what is actually being said, so I read the author and editorial statements instead before getting too far into the piece wondering if there was anything I would really miss bout the piece if I didn’t know translations. Turns out, I was only experiencing the opposite of what the piece was intended to make the reader experience.
And now that I’m thinking about it, I probably should have put that together by the lack of interaction but encouragement of movement (particularly of the eyes) in the piece. Yes, as a reader you’re still and kind of just going along for the ride, but I also realized that there still is a subtle movement to the piece. And perhaps because it’s a much calmer place than my own anxiety-ridden dreams, I thought of experiencing this piece and its design much like water.
When water stays too still for too long– when it’s stagnant– it becomes a breeding ground for algae and mosquitos and other larvae of the like. This is something I’ve always learned to live by from my mom, but also as of recently with my faith. I mean think about it, when you’re too still and your mind is blank is usually when the darkest thoughts pop in your head. Proverbs 26:13-16 talks about this exact phenomenon, much like what I had experienced the other night:
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
Proverbs 26:13-16, ESV
On the other hand, when water moves too much, too powerfully, or too fast, it can be destructive. We can build the biggest house we want, but the truth is, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and that’s especially true of a house built on sand rather than rock (think end of Matthew 7). But what this idea of rushing water (thinking of if this piece incorporated more input and interaction from readers), your thoughts might eventually overcome themselves. I think a lot about Ecclesiastes 4 when it comes to that, but Psalm 127:1-2 also puts together a good picture of how relying on your own work too much can be destructive:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:1-2, ESV
But then there are peacefully moving waters, which I found this piece reflects much of that environment in the sounds and images of Peaceful Dream. Sure, water wasn’t the only image shown, but there was still movement to the leaves in the trees, and I could imagine the feeling of wind gently tossing grains of sand across the desert image used. This is the ideal– where work and rest coincide. It’s a bit paradoxical I know, but some things are simply meant to be known and not necessarily understood. How does work become restful? How do we learn to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) while simultaneously and intentionally “walk[ing] through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4)?
So maybe I started out experiencing this piece a bit stressed about interpreting it and forgetting that sometimes art isn’t that complicated, even when it’s in languages we know next-to-nothing about. I do look forward to digging into it a bit more in class, but for now I think I’m good just experiencing the piece as it’s meant to be: reminiscent of a peaceful dream– a pleasant but active rest. I mean that’s all a dream really is anyway. In your entire sleep cycle, not only is REM deep sleep the most important part for your mind’s recovery, but it’s also the stage of sleep where your brain waves are most similar to when you’re fully awake and alert.
So again, how do we be still and keep moving at the same time? Sleep would be one answer, but my answer is just to know the balance and to know yourself as you were created– pay attention to when you become dependent on your will over His. I’ve always found (even looking back to before faith became such a big part of my life) that there’s no safer place than where God calls you to be. That’s rest: safety. And as Ormstad carries readers through this piece much like God carried Israel out of Egypt, we are left with only that choice whether or not to trust these creators with these works of art, one with this dream, and One with our life and testimony.
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2022 Electronic Literature course.