“Dawn”: Why I Think It Worked

I decided to check out this short piece by Alan Sondheim and Reiner Strasser called “Dawn”.  It made me feel like I was living out a William Wordsworth poem.  It was a very thought provoking piece despite the fact that it only lasted for a few minutes, if that.  One of my class mates actually already looked at this piece but I disagreed with what she thought.  She said that she understood what the correlation was between the scrolling pictures and sound but that it took away from the words.  However, if the audio, the pictures, and the words are all put together, I think this piece brings out meaning.

“Dawn” is an interesting piece of electronic literature because the only interaction that the reader has is clicking on the title to start the piece.  After that, the reader is free to just watch.  There are five pictures that scroll through the screen, along with the verses of a poem.  The audio of the piece is the same continuous sound.  In all honesty, it sounded like a rain pounding on something hard with the wind blowing in the back ground or the crackling of a fire.  The audio added an effect that I didn’t quite understand at first.  When contemplating a fire, it dawned on me that fire was often used in burial as well as in giving life and heat.  The author refers to nature as both beauty and death just like fire.

These three elements of the piece point to the fact that this piece is about nature and the beauty and the death that come along with that.  The poem that scrolls along with the background of the beautiful scenes of fields and rivers is about the author dealing with a dying parent.  He laments the fact that his parent can no longer visit the beauty of nature which is rolling behind the words.  He, then, curses that death has to be in something so beautiful.  I had a feeling of reverence toward nature; of a mentality that nature was the “force that rolls through all things” (for all of you who have taken a class with Lorentzen).

The unpredictable changing of the screen and the word makes the reader very conscious of the fact that nature has its own way with many things.  Death, being the one that the author focuses on, is something that no one can control and is entirely up to God or nature.  The pictures often have fog or mist in them.  This compares life to mist or fog.  It can be there one minute and then gone the next, like the author describes in his poem by saying, “the world calmed, death another day.”  Some of the pictures were chosen specifically for a stanza in the poem.  One picture of the deer in the river shows up when the stanza about the blue deer occurs.  Another interesting part of the piece is the loop like effect.  The audio, pictures, and words are in one continuous loop or circle.  I had the feeling that the author was trying to get across the circular feeling of life.  His father was getting old and in a while he would also be getting old while someone else would be taking his place.

The poem ended with the typical Wordsworthian awe of the nature around him.  The author even talks about trying to find out everything he can about “the beginnings and endings of the world” before he is gone.  For all that it attempted to do, I think this piece was a success.  It captured the essence of nature being “god-like,” cruel, and beautiful.  Even though it was short and there was no interaction required, it was amazing for what it was trying to convey.  I also think that without the pictures and audio I would not have come to the conclusions about this piece that I did.  It just all tied together so nicely.

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