Five talented emerging writers were offered professional guidance and support in developing their work for publication in Westerly, both in print and online. We are now delighted to be able to showcase their work here at the Editor’s Desk, and look forward to their inclusion in our upcoming print issue.
Viewpoint and Viewport — writing “compression artefact”
My method of presentation interferes with perception, and I wanted my content to match. ‘compression artefact’ is concerned with perceptions of place and the way that memory interferes with those perceptions. It was written in response to a chapter in Digital Poetics in which Glazier discusses the idea of the home page. In this case, ‘home’ follows UNIX convention: a home is an entry point to a tree or graph structure—the point of origin for browsing a set of hyperlinked pages that make up a website. Not content with discussing this definition, Glazier takes his reader through all interpretations of home, including that of a place of belonging. He concludes that a haunt is probably a better term, the page is a point to which the reader returns (61-77). Outside of electronic spaces, Glazier’s ideas of home and haunt make for interesting discussion. Home is an emotive term: it carries more weight than house. Our real estate and finance industries appear to be well aware of the difference—the phrases ‘house loan’ and ‘house open’ are rarely, if ever, used; they don’t appeal to our desire for comfort and belonging. The home as a place of origin and belonging is at odds with our use of the word: a home is a place to which the self belongs, not a place that belongs to its owner. Returning to a place fosters relationship with that place if the intent is not simply to exist. In this way a haunt can become more comfortable and welcoming, more homely than a house. I have unusual writing practices that have seen me establish a series of haunts around Perth, so the poem explores the ideas of home and haunt by considering relationships with place. Observations of memory and its effect on the experience of place are of particular concern: I began with an imagined site of reading the final poem—sat in the house, reading from a screen—and allowed memory to intrude on the domestic scene. I noticed that my imagined domestic scene was, in fact, constructed of memories of that place, so in the end, a memory of the house is invaded by other memories.
The photograph, sliced and interleaved with the text, is an experiment. I wondered what would happen if a photograph were read the same way as the poem: line by line and enjambed in space rather than time. I found the effect interesting. Where the scrollbar facilitates bidirectional reading and aids comprehension of the poem, it seems to do no good for the image—I don’t have the cognitive capacity to piece the image back together, despite the fact that nothing is repeated or skipped between slices of the image. There’s a nice technical contrast between the image and its screen rendering: I found a way to display the slices of the image without dividing the image file itself—the photograph may be viewed whole if its URL is deduced from the source HTML. The photograph was taken at one of my haunts, the site of a memory that intrudes on the domestic scene at the poem’s opening. Just as the writing informed the image, the image fed back into the writing: the leaves stripped of their context reminded me of a series of Wolfgang Voigt’s album covers and photography books, released under his Gas alias. I almost removed the reference to this in the poem for excessive obscurity, but the Gas albums make a good match for ‘compression artefact’: they’re impressionistic ‘sound art based on highly condensed classical sound sources’ (Kompakt).
Everything discussed in ‘compression artefact’ is peculiar to my experience. It doesn’t try, to paraphrase George Hartley, to transmit an experience from writer to reader (see: ‘Textual Politics and the Language Poets’). I tried instead to write my experience of memory. I suspect I have quite poor visual recall so only a few memories are certain, colours in particular, while most are simply asserted. Memory breeds memory in the poem and impressions are overlaid in semi-transparent layers. At the same time, I’ve attempted to construct the poem so that the reader has as many ways in as possible. For example, I’ve enjambed lines, where possible, so they support multiple readings, as self-contained thoughts with different meanings in the poem’s broader context. The poem’s fractured style is a relatively new development for me. I enjoy spending time with others’ writing in similar styles: looking at what has been said and developing a reading that not only fits, but has value independent of the poet’s intention or experience. Reading Corey Wakeling’s Goad Omen was one such experience for me; his explorations of place didn’t take me by the hand through Perth, Melbourne, and beyond. Rather, their demand for attentive listening opened new ways of seeing.
Glazier, Loss Pequeño. Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2002.
Hartley, George. “Textual Politics and the Language Poets.” 1989. The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. <http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/hartley.html>.
Kompakt. “Wolfgang Voigt.” Mayer Paape Voigt GbR. Kompakt.fm. <http://www.kompakt.fm/artists/wolfgang_voigt>.
Sakr, Omar J. “Definitions.” n.d. Telescopic Text. <http://www.telescopictext.org/text/HWbrX0qcpKGrx>.
Wakeling, Corey. Goad Omen. Artarmon: Giramondo Publishing, 2013.