Saturday, January 26, 2008

winter midwinter midlife life (a multimedia haibun)

Cold light over snow. Through bare trees, through tall windows, the neighbor's Christmas tree a constellation of white stars, a conical firmanent, a universe of light-cones. The camera fits onto the tripod as though eager to be hinged and loaded. Boots climb over ankles hungrily. The long wool coat, the hat and scarf, the finger-gloves: every instinct is to be outside, in the enveloping night. 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the fields, not a creature was stirring, except chickadees and mad photographers.

full moon rising
over bright-lit Christmas homes—
silence of solstice

A frozen land, a cold world, a small island of humanity; their winter festival, a time of fasting and of feasting; the traditional meal, two seed-cakes, like small tan potato pancakes, each with three ovoid seeds cooked in, placed equidistantly around the center; the young man leader offers them to me, a traveler, on a beautiful black ceramic plate. I start awake from my nap as logs crack in the fireplace.

vivid blue pencils
limn night-blue tree branches—
emergent moon

That night, that day, the Sacred Heart, long my burden of compassion and passion, once lodged in my breast those long months in the desert, those nights by the waters, awakened in me all unwilling, all unprepared and unexpected, covered with thorns, blood-red and scourged. The Sacred Heart came clearly to my mind’s eye, that afternoon, that evening, complete with thorns and wounds and blessing. Do I need to still be bleeding? I made the thorns go away three times, but they kept coming back. So I turned them into green, living ivy. And then the wounds closed and scarred over, and the bleeding ceased. The result was a green-man Sacred Heart, with green aqua light everywhere, quiesecent, calm, at rest. I left it as a closed wound in my chest, no longer an open one, blue, green, like growing plants, the color of water reflecting twilight through cedars.

under fresh snow
white flowers bloom anyway—
the days passing

even the Buddha once asked,
what is a natural death?

This is an experiment in pulling more avenues of bandwidth into poetry. Short of making an actual video, this was an experiment to pull in all the aspects of audio/video while still working within the constraints of the static medium that is HTML. (It's often worthwhile to work within limits to see what you can do, given those limits.)

Elsewhere, I have been experimenting with moving lines of text, recited poetry, sound design, and music combined into DVD and HD videos that use both my still photography and videography into overall combined media. I like multi-channel, multi-window presentation. I can track multiple windows of content, and I like the effects on the self that have multiple centers of focus in a video presentation can do for the viewer/reader. (Hence my appreciation for "experimental" filmmakers such as Peter Greenaway, in such films as The Pillow Book.)

I have long had a vision of performing my music and poetry live in a meditative chapel-like space while behind and around the musicians both still and moving imagery was projected larger than life—like stained glass windows—with never less than two images up at any one time. An illumination space. Certainly using my Spiral Dance series as some of hte projected images.

This exploded or expanded haibun, if you will, uses the limits imposed by hypertext links as a strength instead of a weakness, I hope. The links create new windows, rather than making you go back and forth between. So you get a supplemental and parallel media window opening without losing, hopefully, the thread of the poem. Of course, one can also read it as just a poem, too, and ignore the links.

So far, I like the results. However, per usual I have also already received brickbats from more purist poets who either don't get what it's intended to do, or reject it out of hand, or simply don't know what to do with it. "That other stuff distracts me from the poem, and therefore takes away from the poem rather than adding to it!" That sort of comment.

I have never been a purist. I've never even been a purist about artforms. I've always been a huge fan of Laurie Anderson and her individual style(s) of performance art, which incorporated several channels of presentation—music, spoken word, physical movement, film, ambient micing techniques, stage lighting effects, recorded playback accompanying live performance, etc.—into an overall artistic, aesthetic experience. Seeing her perform live has always been inspirational; at the same time, her videos and other cross-media experiments have also always given me ideas, and opened up new possibilities.


The most curtly dismissive comment by a purist poet received so far has been: I'm unconvinced that good writing needs auditory support. Well of course good writing doesn't need "auditory support," but if it's good writing then it doesn't matter if the audio is there or not, or the visuals. So if they are, so what?

One wonders if this is one of those same poets who claim that Bob Dylan is a great poet, period, rather than a great singer-songwriter. Poets tends to divorce the words from the music in most cases; and wrongly so. A great well-crafted song uses both words and music, and synergizes into an indivisible whole. You can't really separate them out.

One can only marvel at such tunnel vision. Of course, most of these opinionated poets have never heard of Derek Jarman's last film, Blue, either.

Ultimately, this criticism misses the point entirely, which is: It's not a poem, it's a multi-channel multimedia poem, or text-sound poetry, multi-sensory artwork, or hypertext. The whole point is to expand, or explode, the notion that poetry must only ever be just words. To explode the notion of what a poem is. To play outside the boxes of form and genre and medium, and to demolish the expectations of stereotype.

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