1.17.2004

Draft Preface for some poems to be published in a Feminist Journal

Here's a draft preface, which doubtless needs editing:

"In Medias Res" is a poem which finds its sources in Marguerite Porete's writings, Boolean algebra of the kind used to design computer chips, and other embedding computer artifact "objects." The poem relates to the idea of a woman's epic in the media age. I finished writing it in 2000, just before I learned of Anne Carson's DECREATION, an opera based on Porete's writings. Marjorie Leusebrink, MD Coverley, curated an online project using the Porete writings in 2001.

I wrote "In Medias Res" using and for an MS PowerPoint slide show. Other artists and literary critics who have written using and about MS PowerPoint include David Byrne, in his recent book, _Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information_ and Edward R. Tufte, _The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint_. The poem lives in three formats: paper, transparencies made from PowerPoint slides without slide transitions but with concrete poetry mimicking the transition effects, and an animated PowerPoint slide show with transitions. It is deliberately a very lo tech slide show, since I believe that many web artists rapidly embrace expensive, new, commercial technologies without querying their commercialism, and without exploiting the common software tools people use every day. The transitions "fade to white" or appear to erase, since I wanted to emphasize the idea of erasure regarding the woman's epic in general and Marguerite Porete's writings and person in particular.

The transitions are "written." Many transitions between displays or screens, in Macromedia Flash-animated poetry (which offers similar transitions to MS PowerPoint) in particular, use a single transition, or use a randomized, automatic selection. Of the many fabulous animated poems which do not include written transitions, my favorite is easily Stephanie Strickland's online version of _V: Vniverse_. Brian Kim Stephans' animation of part of Christian Bok's _Eunoia_ is almost all transition. I chose particular slide transitions based on the content of each section, then rewrote the section to employ the transition in the content, the same type of iterative process of negotiating form and content that software development and poetry writing share. Each version -- paper, slides without transitions, and slide show, uses some transitions available in that medium which are not available in the others (Flash transitions can be coded, but I was not using Flash -- some of the transitions I used in the paper version could have been coded in Flash).

In the paper version, and in the version without transitions, but with concrete poetry mimicking the transitions, it was necessary for me to repeat the text to show it disappearing! I still don't know precisely what this says about the nature of repetition in poetry. I suspect it says something about an appeal to memory. Like repetition in plays (such as Porete wrote), screenplays, and advertising, as well as in commonly-held notions of meter and rhyme in poetry, repetition in poetry goads the memory of the audience. It also says something more about reader response or acceptance -- something about distribution and about reproduction -- because Porete was so good at distributing her writings (one of the reasons she was considered a heretic was her teaching and travel), they could not be erased.

Stephanie Strickland, V: Vniverse
http://vniverse.com/

Brian Kim Stephans, animation of Christian Bok's Eunoia, Chapter e
http://www.ubu.com/contemp/bok/eunoia_final.html
MD Coverley, editor, The Mirror of Annihilated Simple Souls http://currents.cwrl.utexas.edu/archives/fall01/fall01/luesebrink/wone.htm

David Byrne, _Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information_ Steidl and Pace/MacGill Gallery, 2003

Edward R. Tufte, _The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint_
Graphics Press, 2003

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