By Innessa Roosen
In the Flash-animated work “The Dreamlife of Letters”, Brian Kim Stefans, author in the Electronic Literature Collection, recreates the structure of conventional poetry by bringing language to life on the screen. This particular work is an innovative response to a more traditional print text by poet and feminist literary theorist Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Adapted from Duplessis’ text, both gender and sexuality are two recurring themes featured in Stefan’s work.
“The Dreamlife of Letters” is a digital poem that also acts as a short film. The work displays the letters “A” to “Z, while each letter is followed by single words or word combinations in a simple black and white font, set against a vibrant orange background. The contrast of colour offers immense visual appeal due to the distinctness between text and setting. The animation of some specific words stylishly coincide with connotation, for example, the word “chimney” gracefully takes the shape of a whirlpool, as smoke would exit from a chimney. The word “endless” is repeated constantly in a straight, patterned line alluding to the concept of endlessness or infinity.
Many of the words shown are visually and kinetically affective, while also implying the de-construction of linguistics as words are removed from familiar context. Stefans reveals that “words take on obscene meaning when they are left to linger on their own”.
“The Dreamlife of Letters” is a non-interactive poem that allows the reader to experience its ambient and concrete form. By rendering significance and playing with words, the volatility of language and its experimental potential are unmasked within the arrangement of the work. While, the traditional use of poetic language is questioned as Stefans compels the reader to interpret their own meaning, creating their own signifiers. Using Flash as a mode of intent, Stefans animates the alphabet, producing a trancelike fantasy on language by allowing words to take on new meaning.
“The Dreamlife of Letters” stands out of electronic-literature with a certain acclamation in avant-garde, digital poetics. Stefans states that “the letters have too many dreams”, uncovering the limitlessness to language and highlighting the considerable possibility of digitized literature. With the computer as a medium and as an artistic tool, the reconstruction of familiar poetics can be translated onto the screen, giving linguistics a less constraint artistic outlet, no longer chained by accustomed meaning.