The noise of a distorted power chord greeted me once I entered Jason Nelson’s “Birds Still Warm from Flying,” a sound that gave way to rhythmic tambourine accompanied by an occasional frog-like croak. Through this project, I experienced work that demonstrates Jason Nelson’s reputation for producing bizarre, unsettling pieces of digital literature, works that I’ve found to be original and wholly intriguing.
Unlike the more “game-based” media of his I’ve seen in the past, “Birds Still Warm from Flying” is a work of experimental poetry from Nelson. The basic structure and mechanics of the poem resembles a Rubix Cube, with six color-coded sides given to be manipulated. Numbered phrases run vertical and horizontal across the cube’s three-dimensional shape, 42 color-coded lines of poetry in all. Nelson’s cube departs from the Rubix design in regards to color, with yellow, black, red, dark blue, and green making up its sides (there are two red sides, a feature I found a bit ominous.)
The three dimensional cube can be rotated and turned. Each row and column may be manipulated, exhibiting the zany, hyper-creative nature of the piece. Grainy clips of video are embedded on the cube’s surface, probably the most haunting component of “Birds Still Warm…” Many of the clips look like they were filmed out of a car window, while other show crowds of people, an aspect which aids the anonymous nature of the poetry.
I would have felt overwhelmed if Nelson had not given me the “solved” cube from the beginning. Nelson’s choice to provide the complete cube made its destruction the best part of this piece, with countless combinations of phrases possible through manipulating the different rows and columns.
This is a work of poetry that yields nearly endless line combinations. The motifs and narratives are faceless, but contain a strong sense of geography, nature, and history placed alongside tangible human relationships. Nelson’s use of language is exceptionally beautiful, lines of poetry that would remain effective in the absence of his cube. “Birds Still Warm from Flying” is a piece that utilizes the limitless nature of technology, a flourishing work of poetry that breaks all of the rules.
Experience “Birds Still Warm from Flying” here