Sooth By: David Jhave Johnston

The Beauty of e-poetry

“Sooth” David Jhave Johnston

 

Since childhood, my favorite type of writing has always been poetry. I always looked at it as a chance to put into words a certain feeling or emotion that you want someone else to read and feel. Being raised in a house full of boys, I always found it hard to express myself in a way that others would understand. Technology is and has always been a big part of my life. Having the privilege to read electronic literature and electronic poetry has opened up a whole new world and way of reading that I greatly enjoy. Discovering e-poetry is something that I find great for readers that already enjoy reading and writing poetry.

Electronic poetry is a good tool to help convey the emotion behind the written piece in clever ways that cannot be done on tangible pieces. The piece “Sooth” by Johnston is the piece I will be reviewing. This specific piece draws upon series of love poems recreated into a piece of electronic poetry. The basis behind this piece is the tone and how it’s portrayed within the realm of technology. Instead of flipping through a book, you are forced to electronically travel through several love poems. Sooth is a set of love poems interactively triggered by clicks on each video in tune to display words of a poem. Sounds associated with each phrase are mapped to audio which pans and volume shifts in space as the saying flies through each picture. These phrases are intended to display a certain emotion and/ or behavior within each poem. Interestingly the title “Sooth” means truth. Each poem is derived back to these title theme, presenting words of truth and thoughtful emotional themes.

Upon opening Johnston’s work, the reader is introduced to a dark screen with grey text, forcing the reader to select a poem from the left menu hypertexts. The first of these poems is the piece named “Sooth”. Clicking on the title links starts a video, in this case wind moving ferns. Each new click of the screen introduces new phrases of the poem. The words glide smoothly on to the screen and seem to rustle in the wind with the ferns. The poem and video are combined with sounds of birds, water, and music. With each click and introduction of new words to the screen, the video pans to a different aspect of the landscape and the tone and quality of the color of the video screen changes. As you click on the video and the phrases load, you can see that as the poem continues to pop up on your screen the emotion of the video gets stronger, the music becomes louder, and the colors become more darker.

The second poem, “Weeds” which shows a close up panning of a woman laying down, resting. Their eyes open and close intermittently. There appears to be a strong focus on appearance and texture, of the skin, clothes, and even words. The word choices and movement of each line delivery are both eradicating and interesting. Various words are brought on to the screen and float around. Flashing and fading in and out the same way that the first poem does. The color tone of the screen changes constantly, altering the mood of the poem in front of you as a written piece could never portray.

The third poem, “Body” follows the same format. The video is an image of a color changing scenery of what could be the curves of a body or the outline of a landscape. The words come on the screen in clicks in the same way as the previous poems, overlapping and creating alternating stanzas of compelling language and beautiful words. What stood out to me most in this one was how fast the words would fade out, I thought there was a deeper meaning behind that, but I wasn’t too sure.

 

“Root” is set to a flowing water in a calming background image that features the poems lines swirling and flowing back and forth as soon as they appear on screen, moving with the flowing water. Once I thought the last one was fast paced, this one went even faster, I could barely make out the words at this point. I had to play it a few time to get the words again and again. Each new line seems to be a complete thought, each which flows together nicely with the next. So if the author intended it to be face paced and unreadable, than they succeeded.

“Soul” is a poem in which the background is dark with a fish breathing through its gill very deeply. Each new word comes up twice above the fish. Once in large letters that fades out in the background and is replaced with each click and introduction of a new word, plus a smaller pairing that is always in motion alternating in size and brightness with each other word. The words of this poem are about sex and love, an interesting pairing against such a non-sexual or romantic background setting. At first the language is set in French until you realize there is a button on the bottom that lets you change the language in English. After that sigh of relief that you can actually understand the poem, you than read and realize that this poem had deep sex meanings that came out of nowhere. I guess it was fitting with the whole “love” topic.

The final poem in the series is “Snow.” This still video features and extreme close-up of clean, perfect, snow with a small strip of blue at the top of what looks like the sky. Each phrase appears in white, an interesting choice against a white background that can make them almost unreadable, but each set of words floats up to the blue sky above it, making each phrase legible. The poem features lines about being together and alone at the same time. As the sounds becomes deeper, and the background becomes more of a blur, the words get stronger and begin to shake showing some type of reaction towards that certain part of the piece. The author really made the music match the effect of every word and meaning towards the poems.

The word “Sooth” has the same root as the word “truth”. By the end of the series of love poems, it is evident that these poems are meant to be a quest for truth: The truth about the self and the other, for instance, or the fact that both are indistinguishable (“i sooth i with u / u sooth u with i”). Overall, the author did a great job utilizing the music, moving dramatic images, deep words giving them its meaning, and the way the words faded jumping at you in each poem. I enjoyed reading the e-lit series of love poems as it reminds me of my favorite kind of work as a kid, and that was writing poetry. Hopefully I am inspired enough to go back to what inspires me most to write, poetry is a dead art that I must reach back into.

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