Digital Representation of an Original Poem
Zach Cotter, Wake Forest University

Some forms of art are better appreciated when experienced together. For example, while I cannot stand the rock band Metallica, nor do I listen extensively to classical music, when the two are fused together I cannot help but marvel at the extraordinary complexity of the resulting piece. Metallica's music carries the audible sound of rock music, but with its sophistication accented by the orchestra, I can hear why they're considered great musicians as well as rock stars through the merging of the two genres. Likewise, the realm of digital art consists not of any new form of art, but rather of a new medium in which the old can be altered, rearranged, and converged with others to create something new. However, not all forms of art are capable of merging with others, as some will dominate the piece, and others will fall into the backdrop and go unnoticed.

My own poem, "Journey to a Moment," was written over a period of months as a form of reflection over a series of events in my life. It is a complete work in itself, entirely capable of being experienced on its own. While I wrote it for personal reasons, I do not consider it a personal poem. It can be interpreted a number of different ways. At times even I, the author, find myself reflecting upon its lines with different emotions. I attempted to leave the poem open to interpretation while still maintaining its integrity as an original work, and to create more than a collection of vaguely-stated platitudes. This, I hoped, would be the source of the poem's beauty, a beauty that I did not want to lose entirely in the poem's digital representation.

By associating music and photographs with the work, I am encouraging a preconceived interpretation. I am molding not only the words, but also a large part of the way they are read and heard. I control the images that the audience views with the lines, and I manipulate the sound, which creates the mood. I control the pace at which the work is experienced and get to say each line the way I say it to myself when I read the poem. No pauses are allowed except those of my choosing. Not the slightest aspect of the work is out of my control. The problem is that I do not want to control any of that. For in an attempt to expand its accessibility, I am, in fact, limiting its depth. I remove the relevancy of the poem from the reader, making it not a literary work to discover, but rather a slightly more sophisticated form of entertainment.

Although the music - a bass derived variation of U2's '40' - and the pictures are fitting without being overbearing, they divert attention away from the work itself. The problem is that the poem has a beauty of its own that does not need further explanation. It has its own imagery, partly constructed of physical descriptions like "a valley of wintered leaves," and partly formed by the internal rhythm and the interlocking rhyme of the lines. These elements are all still there in the digital version, but they take second stage to the entertainment of the graphics and music. The actual poem becomes like a song on the radio, which you know the sound of, but of which you cannot remember the lyrics. The memory of its sound stays present in the mind, but its meaning quickly fades away upon conclusion.

This is not to say that there is no value whatsoever in such a digital representation as this, for there certainly is. For some people, this might provide a gateway into poetry that would only broaden with time. It may be that thirty-seven lines are too many to hold the attention of some readers, and this presentation aids them in their understanding. However, let it be clear that the experience is different. The digital variation cannot take the reader where the poem goes itself, for all its added qualities simply become baggage when the reader dives into its depths.

About the author...

The author's digital rendition of his original poem "Journey to a Moment ." (~5.7 MB)
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