the dreamlife of letters

To read (aka watch) “the dreamlife of letters,” click here.

I’m not sure I can classify “the dreamlife of letters” as a poem.  It is not an interactive piece, but rather plays out almost like a short film, moving and changing in every frame.  The concept is the most valuable part of the piece, whereas the letters and words seem interchangeable.  In fact, it is nearly impossible to read every word that came up on the screen and, other than the fact that they are grouped in (sort of) alphabetical order and according to letter composition, the words that appear simultaneously on screen don’t possess greater meaning.

I’m not saying this work isn’t meaningful.  Arguably, the lack of connectivity behind groups of words exemplifies the random purposefulness of letters.  They’re puzzle pieces that comprise language; sentences are connected by words, and words by letters, and thus the sum of its parts always comes back to this basic unit.  It’s a compelling idea and the author portrays it really successfully.  Large letters drop onto the screen and then other letters surround it, making up several different words at a time, showing how dynamic letters are.

One of the most powerful images for me was when “you” and the registered trademark “R” appears next to it.  I thought this was an awesome use of letters because these 4 letters on their own are rather arbitrary, but together invoke a powerful feeling.  “You” as a registered trademark implies complete ownership of who you are, your individuality.

In the prologue for this piece, the author states, “I don’t think I reveal the dreamlife of letters in this piece; the letters have too many dreams” and I agree.  The author does a commendable job, but it’s impossible to evoke every meaning of such infinite possibility in just 11 minutes.

Just as a side note, I was listening to classical music the first time I watched the poem play out, and it was much better than the second time when my room was silent.  The letters and words were dancing to the music and the concept/development felt more purposeful.

  3 comments for “the dreamlife of letters

  1. January 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    (Check your link in the first paragraph.)

  2. ebrennan
    January 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Fixed the link! Sorry about that – it was from when I copied my blog entry into canvas. Oops!

  3. January 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Your discussion here is probably correctly focused on this “poem” as concept, image, or performance, because I think that’s what it is. You say

    I’m not saying this work isn’t meaningful.

    But I think you might actually be correct, that “meaning” isn’t necessarily the framework through which to assess something like this. I think he mentions it in the prologue — didn’t the poet produce this work as a commissioned “response” to an original poem by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, where Stefans initially wrote out a poem of his own, but then decided to just put the original poem’s words in alphabetical order? Something like that.

    To me, it seems that that sort of gestures is meant almost as a parody of meaning, where the concreteness of the poem is so much in its foreground that there’s little else to be perceived.

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