With a small working note:
These poems were written using procedural methods. As part of my research, I have been interested in how the kinetic and generative qualities of certain digital media can be used as both presentational and compositional tools, creating fragments and variations of source materials. For me, Beth Ames Swartz’s use of mixed media in her paintings encourages a mixture of concrete reading and abstract viewing in which the visual qualities of the text (spatial placement and implied movement, opacity, noise) inform how the semantics of those fragments is interpreted within the wider context of the painting as a whole. The physicality of the text produces a synaesthesia and unique multi-directional readings through such attention to text in these works. For my response to Swartz’s work, I wanted to work with these ideas as a basis. I used Flash to break apart and visually reconstruct the language of the translated Du Fu poems found in the 300 Tang Poems anthology. This provided me with fragments of language as a starting point from which I could construct new poems which often distorted yet echoed remnants of the originals. It also allowed me to situate my writing in relation to those ‘problems’ encountered by translators of Chinese poetry, in terms of concision of language but also in terms of the problems of understanding when translating:
[E]ducated Chinese can read these poems fairly readily, but they are often at a loss to explain exactly what they mean. Worse still, Chinese characters link up nicely in compounds that have no literal equivalents in English.
Rather than viewing this as a problem, placing myself in such a position provided me with a creative starting point through which to write and edit the fragmented work. Choice through chance, happenstance compounds. Writing through the new fragments produced a partly improvised, reactionary compositional method which created frequently unexpected themes, tensions, ambiguities, repetitions and variations. I wanted to maintain the synesthetic approach and sense of multiple readings and perspectives I feel are possible when reading/viewing Swartz’s paintings, and so I produced a digital setting for my work, randomly generative visual texts, as another way of approaching the text in relation to these paintings. As with Swartz’s paintings, each reading sequence is a different, multi-linear experience, with multiple entry points and readings produced through motion and space.
These poems will be published in a book responding to the work of Du Fu and Beth Ames Swartz, in November, published by Arizona State University. I’m working on a couple of online settings for the work, which will follow in a couple of weeks.
Rivers to Colour the Snow
a piece of sky
and the fierceness of angels
the talk of power this word has a new disciple –
lady, waiting for sun
the girth of glimmer
memorial girl, a dignified thunder
come back now because I am snow
charm the cold – dance like
lustre to their ten thousand unheards
mountain fruit to restore the flesh
drifting by like Emperors‘ rules
we bury the clouds
the sky had banished
their very valour is in not knowing
wealth and fame
in spite of
changes that have come
yesterday, I found smiles, and lips and offices
the marvel of bad luck
how hard it is to be God!
but now I see the distinction
ladies in the duckweed
and here you are
angels before thunderbolt
the fierceness of waters