Hi everyone, thanks for your excellent questions. And thank you Aurelea for selecting our work and for inviting me to virtually participate in your class. This blog is a great idea, and I truly enjoyed sharing some of the background on Cruising with the class and hearing your questions. I hope my responses answer your questions sufficiently!
1. How would you classify “Cruising” ? As a whole what categories do you feel exist in E-Poetry at present?
This is a tough question to answer because there are so many overlapping terms and different ways artists and poets talk about their work. I once interviewed the late Argentine visual poet Ana Maria Uribe who referred to her work as “anipoems.” And I’ve heard categories like “codework,” “generative writing,” “combinatory forms,” “kinetic poetry,” “flash poetry,” and the list goes on. Many of these are keywords used in ELC1. Cruising is difficult to classify because our concept in creating the work was to blur categories, for example mixing nonlinear interactivity (the text/images) with linear/time based components (the voice recording). Maybe it’s a reactive/nonlinear/time-based/spoken word/interactive/new media poem. I saw that the key words ELC1 uses to describe Cruising include audio, collaboration, flash, place, poetry, visual poetry or narrative, and women authors. While I wouldn’t disagree with any of these terms, I wouldn’t say that any of them best characterize Cruising either. I think the usefulness of the keywords comes from the different ways that works get clustered; it offers different windows into the range of, say, audio pieces, or work made in Flash.
Usually my work has been classified as “Flash poetry,” but I don’t think that the software program used to create the work says the most about the poet’s intentions, or the concepts being explored in the work. Maybe we need a combination of key words and reader folksonomies; that way multiple overlapping categories would come from both top-down and bottom-up systems.
2. Why did you decide to change your style from having less reader interaction to full user interaction? Did you find it to be more visually appealing? What was the motivation behind it?
It’s not that we changed our style, we were just interested in exploring different questions in Cruising. This wasn’t an attempt to be more visually appealing, but rather to explore the ways that linear and nonlinear components can exist and conflict and support one another in a single work.
3. Back in 2000 open-source programs were not as capable as they are now. Do you see yourself using an open-source option in the future rather than Flash?
I always used Flash because I came to know it well; and once I had a grasp on the program, it was easier to do the things I wanted to do without re-learning how to do simple things. I would be interested in mastering other production software, including open source solutions, because I think that new applications (and the accompanying code, interface, and production ideologies) would inspire new ways of thinking about the possibilities of new media for literature and art. That said, even software like Flash has changed significantly since 2000. OSFlash is a thriving Open Source Flash community.
4. Why did you decide to change the piece from a love poem to a poem about adolescence?
This is a really good question. Ingrid and I were talking about it this morning as we realized that it’s sometimes hard to remember exactly why we made the decisions that we did. Ultimately, it’s not that we changed it from a love poem as much as we wanted the poem to have a more open-ended conclusion, one that supported the endless, repetitive act of cruising. The ending to the original poem moved from cruising small-town Wisconsin as a teenager to driving silently with someone that you love, windows down, the night air rolling by, and being utterly sure of yourself. This ending was very “complete” in a way that we didn’t want our reactive/nonlinear/time-based/spoken word/interactive/new media poem to be. Instead, we wanted to play with the metaphor of the night rolling by like movie credits. We visually arranged the images like they existed on a piece of film; but instead of the linear animated techniques that demanded stasis from the viewer (as a movie does), we instead wanted the poem to demand activity from the reader. It is through the activity of driving the interface that words and themes become connected.
5. How does the theme of struggle relate to your poem?
This is another really good question. I mentioned in my original post that the audio recording and the nonlinear interactive aspect represented a struggle between the speaker and the reader. But perhaps the greater struggle exists in the relationship between the themes and the forms of interactivity. On one hand, adolescence is a struggle; learning to drive is a struggle; learning to read is a struggle; trying to figure out what a poem means, what life means, etc.—it’s all a struggle! By making it difficult to control the speed, size, and flow of text and images, we wanted to highlight the work a reader must do to make a poem meaningful. Of course, there is more than one way to read a poem and different readers will create different meanings. Perhaps the goal is to find the lines of text being spoken at that moment and have them coincide with the audio. Or maybe, for a different reader, the goal is to go as fast as you possibly can until the blur of images are tiny, unrecognizable patterns.
6. Are you worried about losing the poem/words/text within the other multimedia elements that are central to “Cruising”?
No. In fact “losing” the poem/words/text (if you’re referring to the reactive component that the reader manipulates) is what is central to Cruising. True, there is a lot going on here: moving the mouse to the top of the screen pulls the text closer, which makes it easier to read. Moving the mouse to the bottom pushes the text away, making it too small to read. Moving to the left or right controls the direction and speed. Learning to navigate these multiple elements, in coordination with the voice track, takes some work. But illuminating this work is one of the major goals of the poem.