(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)
My personal way to deal with the world is often to write. All I have to offer in the wake of the tragedy of Christchurch, New Zealand, is a poem. It doesn’t seem nearly enough.
What madness writes
seventy-four pages of
nonsense, a diatribe
to destroy others,
in a bid to be recognized
by the world, splintered
as it is, already, by hate?
And what madness watches
the world splinter
even further on the
small screen, as if the knowing is not
enough, that the
seeing is required for truth?
What I know in this mourning
only is sadness, and grief,
and compassion, and no one ever seems
to stream the kindness of
the world, only the madness
I took that piece by Wendy and added a few more layers, writing a second poem (video at the top of this post) and then using a few different media apps to create what was fast becoming what Wendy called an onion. Only hints of the first layers are visible.
I had to look that word up: palimpsest — “… text (that) has been scraped or washed off so that the page can be reused for another document …” from Wikipedia. Sort of both, then, I guess, and layered. Neat. #netnarr#Modigiwri
Most documents prior to the widespread use of wood pulp to make paper were either on parchment (lambskin) or fibre such as hemp, cotton or linen. 1832 Library of Congress newspapers feel like old handkerchiefs. #easytoreuse#netnarr
I took a video haiku by Terry — he calls ’em vaikus — and worked a little reverso magic on it for a remix.
First, his (made in Lumen5):
and then my remix:
I remixed Terry’s vaiku in iMovie, using filters, text and image layers, and video playback functions. I was hoping to see the poem still make sense in reverse, given its form and function as haiku, and it sort of does.
Terry did a fine job of laying out the process for making a small bit of media art, using words and image and gif and video, and then adding another layer by pulling it all into Popcorn Maker (now hosted at the Internet Archives) for a soundtrack.
I wondered how I might take what Terry created, and using his idea of adjacent thinking, remix his piece with Popcorn Maker into something slightly bent, with a poem and new music.
Remixing is easy with Popcorn, even if the platform gets funky and wonky at times. Just click on the remix button (two buttons to the right of the volume knob on the lower corner of the project page).
That button re-opens the entire project in a new space, with all of the original media intact. Now you can remix with new media or re-arrange the existing pieces, or add text and images on top. You don’t need to be logged in to remix but you do need to have an account with Internet Archives to save it and share the remix (and supporting the Internet Archives is good idea, anyway, I think).
Again, Popcorn Maker is a bit wonky at times. A little laggy. You need to wrestle with it. Sometimes it does funny things. But it works, and so I spent some time adding a new poem outside of his project, changing the soundtrack and adding bits of this and that. The idea was to be inspired by Terry’s work and bend it a bit through interpretation.
And you know what? You can remix my piece, too, adding another layer up or down or maybe sideways .. use that little remix button. It’s there for a reason. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a series of these remixes, all riffing off another? What would that look like? Sound like? Would there be common echoes across the pieces?
Let me help you get started (I think this will work and you won’t even need a login to play with the remix — does not really work on mobile devices because it is still flash-based, which is why Mozilla abandoned Popcorn Maker):
A poem, then, that emerges from a blog post of a friend. This is where this poem began … consider these words as my process notes, my thinking out loud about my compositional intentions, a trail through the act of composing, as best as I can recall it.
Anna inadvertently, perhaps, starts the kernel of this poem off with a blog post — Nothing to Write Home About — as part of her effort to write every day, noting that ‘writing’ is different than ‘blogging’ and she has been busy, with a newborn baby. She’s been writing but not necessarily for the world. For herself. Maybe for her baby. Her musings strike a chord.
New found appreciation of warped time…..yes I know that one! Thanks for the fragments #Modigiwri Thinking @katevideo might like this post.
Like a tweet comment from Wendy after she read Anna’s post, I am thinking of how Anna re-frames time in her piece, and I suddenly remember those nights with a newborn in my arms, snuggled in the deep hours of the morning. The weary mind but the full heart of the connection. A memory of me, new dad in the night, with my firstborn son in my arms, looking through the window at a deer slowly walking down the street, so quiet, so peaceful, and the magic of that moment comes to mind.
One line of Anna’s piece resonates with me, and as I turn it over in my mind, a poem emerges. So, I write it for her, on the spot and in the moment, as a comment to her blog post, and I leave the poem there for her, another trail of words in an ongoing conversation around digital writing. She’ll find it when she wakes and has a moment to look, I think.
This is what I write, with her own words leading the poem:
“I’ve never realized how long the night is …”
There is a quiet, a humming
of the hours, the slow unfolding
of stars, places in the mind where
one goes to remember how every
minute moves at its own pace, the
clicking of the clock an illusion
constructed out of some madman’s
desire to untangle time, knowledge
we know now to be irrelevant, when
now we know the only way
to measure the night is
through the slow breathing
of a baby in our arms
Then I realize, there might yet be more done with this poem for Anna. Our discussions as a group around writing digitally often have us considering media and mediums for expression, and poetry opens up all sorts of corridors, does it not?
I pull the words of the poem forward, from the screen and into Lumen5, which is an online digital storytelling tool, and I begin the harder work of representing the words of the poem in visual and with music.
While Lumen5 auto-fills pages with images, I find they don’t work for me, they are not deep-sky-night-sky-slow-time enough for my purposes, so I dig down, deeper, searching for how to represent the poem’s pieces, bit by bit, phrase by phrase, idea by idea. The poem’s visuals should represent the night, but also, the coming dawn. The images should tell the story of time, not clock-time but parent/baby-time.
I haggle with myself endlessly as I do this — does this work? Does it not? Why? Why not? Where does one line of a phrase end and another begin? What am I trying to say here? Does this image complement or contradict that meaning?
I conduct this internal argument — the writer of me engaged with the audience of me — rather automatically now. I wonder if experience with digital tools makes this compositional work easier or harder? Am I more of a critic of my choices or is my experience allowing to narrow decisions? I am only now, later, here in the writing of this that you read, pausing, to think about what I was thinking. I’m writing it down to remember it.
My search for the poem’s underlying music beneath the chosen images and text seems even more difficult. I want an open musical piece, something to represent the big sky wondering of a parent and baby in the quiet night, the near-sleep dreaming and wonder of it all. I try out more than a dozen songs — auditioning them for the poem, asking the music to bring its best bits forward — and finally find one song that has both intimacy and grandeur. Or enough of both for me to live with.
Side note of thinking: what if I had chosen the music first and images, second? Would that have made the poem’s digital presence different? Would the music have guided my decisions in visual choices in ways different than doing it in silence, knowing music would be the last piece? How did the decisions I made about visuals impact the decision I made about music? Interesting.
I choose the music, create the file in Lumen5, then download it and then upload the new version of the poem, sharing the video poem via Twitter in the morning through the #MoDigiWri hashtag, and I wonder if Anna will see it. I hope she sees it. Others make nice comments but Anna is my audience, and when she makes mention of the poem later in the day, I smile and feel satisfaction and joy at the gift of poetry.
This week’s call for Creativity via E-Learning 3.0, coming on the heels of considerations of distributed communities, had me thinking of heading back into the words of others, and maybe finding a poem. What the poem would say, and how it would look, I couldn’t say. But I hoped a deeper and closer reading, with poetic eyes, might bring to the surface some connections and themes.
This is the poem:
And, in an ongoing effort to unpack the making of things in different learning spaces, I want to share the process of how I did it (if only for my own memory sometime in the future).
I went back to the handful of blog posts from fellow El3.0 participants and read their reflections a few times. As words, phrases and sentences resonated with me, I pulled those pieces into a Google Doc as working space. It’s sort of a messy place, with words scattered in the document. Maybe I should have noted where the words came from there, but I didn’t, and now I don’t quite remember. One could make the case that it doesn’t matter, since the found poem is supposed to be taken from words across distributed spaces anyway.
Once I had the Google Doc littered with words, I began to read through what I had there — through the lens of disparate parts in search of a whole. I opened up another document on Board.net, and began to create stanzas from phrases in the Google Doc. (Board is collaborative document platform). I resisted adding too many of own words — only those connector words between phrases. I was trying to avoid my own voice, for now, in order to surface the collective voice of us. I didn’t even use anything from my own reflective blog post.
Once I had a flow of a poem going along the seams of our discussions — community and consensus, distributed web effects on learning, technology as a problem in search of a solution, and more — I circled back around, and began adding my own thoughts here and there — minimally, at best — in order to find some consistent voice across the stanzas and theme. Interestingly, the process flowed rather naturally, and the Found Poem emerged rather intact (a testament to the strength of the writing of my EL30 blogging friends more than my own curation).
Thanks to the Time Slider tool in Board, you can even watch the construction of the poem unfold. I took a screencast of it in motion because this always fascinates me. It’s better when more people are involved, yet you can see some of the ways I was unfolding the poem top to bottom, and then dancing in the corners of the stanzas towards the end.
So, now I had the poem. What to do with it? Well, it seemed to me that this kind of found poem, networked as it was, deserved visuals, so I turned to Lumen5, a digital story tool, and worked to create a visual found poem that I think quite nicely captures the voice, the spirit, the reflection, the wondering and wandering of us, as a whole. I created a few comics as visual openers for the videos, too.
Yesterday, my friend Terry shared a poem on Mastodon. His poem, enriched by the video he added, started a rich conversation that leaped across platforms through the day. He later wrote a blog post that tracks the flow over the day of wandering and wondering.
Later, I created the treasure map above as a sort of additional visual connection, and then I started to think about how else to think through this kind of platform adventure that began with a poem. I know he and I are sort of geeky like this, pushing our thinking back and forth and exploring the terrain.
As I read his post a few times, and thought about the unwinding of our words, I had this inspiration for a picture book story. So I made one in Storybird — using a keyword art search for “map” — and entitled it A Poem is a Map.
What’s interesting about Storybird is that the art collection and choices come first in the making of stories, guiding the writing through the visuals. Except here, I had a story in mind – about how poems are maps, which forms one of my points in our discussion and which sparks a question from Terry — and I needed art. You can only access collections of art in Storybird (that is part of its interesting design), not keep searching its entire collection as you build a book. The keyword “map” brought up some interesting art but it was limited in scope.
In making this picture book, I had to dance between Terry’s ideas, our conversations, my story concept and the available artwork. The tension between the freewheeling concepts we were exploring and the limited nature of Storybird made for an interesting writing experience. I simultaneously wrote what I knew I would write and let the art push me in different directions.
In the picture book, you can notice me weaving in the conversation and some of Terry’s reflection points from his blog. It’s a story that could stand on its own, perhaps, but also be read as yet another threshold, as Terry called it, of the conversation.
I’ve been on Mastodon (federated social networking space) long enough now to have a simple grasp of how federated networks work — a system of servers (incidents) that overlap and move data, with no one fixed home. I had been hearing about PeerTube as a federated alternative to YouTube. A federated place where videos could be shared.
The embedded poem above (hosted in PeerTube) was one I wrote with Bud Hunt a few month ago, as he shared images for inspiration. I took my small poem and used Lumen5 to make a visual interpretation, and then used PeerTube to host it.
Here’s another poem made visual with Lumen5. This one is about writing haiku, or teaching the writing of haiku poetry by freezing the world into a moment of time.
I’m curious to see how well it embeds, and plays. It seems like there is periodic lag time. I chose to join a PeerTube instance (an instance is a hosting system, often set up around themes of interest) that has some connection to Mastodon, but the two spaces are not one and the same. (The name of the instance is the connector).
The benefits to such video hosting alternatives to YouTube include the important aspects of no-advertising, no-tracking, no-corporate-ownership of your creative materials. What you lose with this is a potentially wider audience (if eyeballs are your thing) and maybe some technical stability (which I suspect will be ironed out). I’m OK with that trade-off for these kinds of digital poetry projects.