Tuesday, March 24, 2009

4-D reading

Gretchen asked me to clarify what I meant by "depth" and the "4-dimensional reading" which I mentioned in my poast on the List.

I am talking, literally, about visual-kinetic reading-space.

I essentially said that, whereas the reading of prose happens in just one dimension, the reading of a list often happens in four. (print poetry happens in two, for the most part).

Prose moves along from left to right and then down to repeat, so you could say that it happens two dimensionally. And you wouldn't be wrong, but in a way, we're not "supposed" to notice the second dimension. We're supposed to move on to the next line as if it seamlessly connected to the last. Prose is not composed in lines that stack up on each other; it is composed as one continuous line, and the margins force it into lines.

Poetry is composed in lines which stack, so poetry happens in two dimensions.

--First dimension: The left to right reading of most Western literary forms.

--Second dimension: Upward and downward reading. Poetry tends to only happen downward in this dimension, and sequentially. Lists on the other hand, are read upward and downward, both sequentially and non-sequentially.

--Third dimension: This dimension is also what I meant by "depth". The first, second, and fourth dimensions are literal reading dimensions, the third is more of a stretch. More of a simulated third dimension. Any item on a list (particularly on the Internet) can lead to another list. A list of tags leads to a list of content. An item on a list of blogs leads to a list of posts. This is depth. The reader moves further into the list, rather than around on the same plane of reading. Also the reader is often aware that items could be arranged in different orders (different perspectives).

--Fourth dimension: Since I am talking about literal reading space, this is the time dimension. Many lists have changing time-specific content. We don't tend to think of prose or poetry as objects in flux, whereas we do with many forms of lists. Lists are always changing, items taken away or added to them. The list of arriving flights at an airport, the Top 40, lists of sports stats, Craigslist. We check up on these lists for time-sensitive updates.

When I say "poetry", "prose", or "the list" I don't mean to suggest that I believe in these as absolute divisions. I'm just trying to identify the reading mechanics that are associated with these forms as we've constructed them.

In fact, I'm mostly arguing that we should expand how we think of reading poetry to include the vast array of mechanics usually associated with lists. Some say certain forms of poetry are too "difficult" for "average" readers. Only, the average Internet user must be employ diverse language navigation techniques, and multi-spacial reading in order to just use the Internet. I'd argue that if you can use the Internet, you can probably approach most Language poetry.

And there are certainly numerous examples where the mechanics normally associated with the list are utilized in poetry:

Rachel Blau-DuPlessis' project Drafts is one example of a work that occupies, at times, the 3rd and 4th dimensions. Occupying the 4th in that the pieces are called Drafts, telling us that we are not to approach these poems as stationary objects. And with Draft, Unnumbered: Précis we are taken "deeper" (3rd dimension) as the various titles of the previous Drafts are expanded into more sections.

Walt Whitman continuously updated Leaves of Grass, publishing the same book over and over, taking out some poems, and adding many others throughout his entire life. Some people have preferances as to which edition is the best. I think it is necessary to view the book as the entire life process of its various publications.

Ted Berrigan's work certainly occupies all four dimensions, as he too, changed the content of his books throughout his career. Also, many times, certain lines from other poems are brought back, and "expanded" into their own poems.

Tao Lin's book "you are a little bit happier than i am" begins with the table of contents, only it appears to be its own poem holding the title of the book. Each poem in the book functions as an expansion of each line in the opening poem.

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