I want to take a closer look at some aspects of the piece that I didn’t write about yesterday. To start, there is some ambiguity in the piece, which is intentional. I tried to use the form of the three-sided tornado to incorporate an air of mystery and urgency about what is going on. The two ways I look at it are
-the coffee is speeding up the soldier’s bloodflow to his locus of immediate thought, and this is being done through his internal trail of arteries. With an increase in bloodflow, his sense of awareness is heightened, and with the feeling of paranoia, the shadows he sees might be real, and they might not be. This is occurring at night, and the dark and his imagination might be playing tricks on him. The mention of “blood” in two of the six lines gives the piece (I hope, anyway) a feeling of urgency– that the threat of bloodshed may be near, but it may be far, as well. I also want “The jungle, the body” to carry an ambiguity, functioning as either a collective whole, or as two distinct units. If the latter is so, I hope the question is that of whose body?, to further heighten the urgency.
-the soldier is sipping coffee to stay awake and alert. The internal trail is the Ho Chi Minh trail, and someone is nearing him. Blood is approaching, whether that blood is the threat of violence, or the blood inside of the other person. The shadows may be imaginary, and they may not be. But the soldier’s paranoia and fear are increasing, and his reflexes may take over– the locus of immediate thought. The jungle and the body may still be a collective whole, or there may be a body within the jungle.
When I was writing this piece, I had an American soldier in mind, and I think that idea is furthered with the inclusion of the Tim O’Brien quotation(s?), as he was an American soldier. It seems to me, though, that that’s my ethnocentrism coming out. There’s nothing in the main text that even alludes to the soldier being American. He could be an ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam– aka South Vietnam) soldier. Or a North Vietnamese soldier camped out in South Vietnam. Or a Viet Cong guerilla hiding in the jungle, keeping watch. But I think my initial thought of the soldier being American has to do with expectations, since it seems most likely for me, an American, to have written this about an American soldier. I’ve been trying to embrace the idea of challenging reading practices, and I don’t think that’s limited to reading. If we’re challenging reading practices, why not challenge writing practices, as well? This piece did that for me– I’m not sure that I would have thought otherwise about who the soldier is without this challenge in mind.
One of the programs I used to make this piece was Windows Live Movie Maker, which, as I’ve mentioned, is a pretty simple program. One of the features of it is the ability to tint images. I had tinted some of the images with a cyan hue, and admittedly, I linked how they looked. However, the only image that survived into the third draft with tint was the transitory image between the poem and the works cited. While I like how the images looked with the cyan tint, when an image would appear without the tint, it looked off– the effect seemed cheesy and forced. I thought about tinting all the images, but the problem I encountered was that the red words didn’t appear to be red, and it was more important to me that the read remained visible than the tint. So alas, the tint had to go.
Regarding the works cited pages, they are there not because I’m a raging academic, but for two other reasons. One is to give credit to the sources I used, but I would have been comfortable doing so without MLA citations. The other reason, more pertinent to a concept of digital literature itself, is to further stimulate close reading. What’s hidden in each image is, I hope, hidden well. The reader, like the soldier, may have a sense that something is there, but doesn’t know what. The works cited pages are there to give the reader a better sense of what’s there, but doesn’t specify exactly what. The reader, like the soldier, may never know what was actually there. This is also something of a reference (though I’m not sure how strong of a reference) to citing digital literature with respect to code– we know it’s there, but we may not know how to access it or what to do with it if we do access it. The piece is procedural in the sense that it is constrained. It doesn’t go all over the place, the thread isn’t tangled– it has a form, and a pretty simple form when one looks at it in the right way. (Or maybe even in the wrong way. Or the almost right way. Etc.). And when this process is laid out, the procedure that the poem follows is stark– one can figure out which line will come next and what progression the poem will take.
As I was working on the project and uploading unfinished drafts to YouTube, a new challenge presented itself. In the video, there are two black bars on either side of the piece. This led me to think about paratext, although the bars are obviously not text. (Parabars?) Though they’re not a main part of the piece, they are there. Like aspects of “Dakota,” (the reference to Art Blakey, the album number, etc.) these are blatant parts of the work that the reader can’t ignore. So, what to make of the bars? I don’t know. They exist without any input from me. Does that make YouTube part contributor to the piece? It might. They add something to the aesthetics of the piece, whether I had intended them to be there or not. So with this in mind, what sort of aesthetics do the parabars add? For me, it looks like they block out the left and right side of the screen, and make the reader focus on the images of the piece, like horse blinders. That could be taken even further and attributed to a representation of tunnel vision, that the soldier is so focused on what’s right in front of him that he’s not paying attention to his peripheries. I could attribute one of these meanings to the parabars, or a reader/viewer could attach that meaning, or come up with his/her own meaning. So then, what happens when meaning is attached to a facet of the literature when it wasn’t part of the author’s intent? It gives us something to think about during revision– many of us have received feedback with an insight or new perspective about the piece that makes us think differently about it. And that’s a problem of criticism we need to face– intent vs. reception, and lack of intent vs. reception.