A video to commemorate the anniversary of "I, This Thinking Thing"

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Summary: For the roughly one year anniversary of "I, This Thinking Thing," I made a short video of a strange reading, full of tiny in-jokes.

BLOT: (15 Aug 2016 - 08:37:22 PM)

A video to commemorate the anniversary of "I, This Thinking Thing"

On July 29, 2015, I wrote a poem: "I, This Thinking Thing". It was the first poem I had written in years. There were many reasons for me writing it, then. I had started talking about poetry with a friend. I had decided to try writing again. I had...feelings...I had to process. Since then, this past year, I have written a few dozen strong poems, meaning poems I readily claim as my own, and rewritten a number of my older poems into stronger versions. In something like an honor of that, I wanted to commemorate the poem that began the trend with a video.

Before I get to the video and that process, let's take a moment to look at something I wrote when I first posted the poem:

This new poem grew out of three things...[one of which was the first of] two conversations I had with a friend. [It] was about the use of the word "I" in a number of her poems, and how I used to use the word "I" too much, and how "I" is dangerous in poetry. Not only does it take all of your existence and compress down into a single word, but it disrupts the reader: they have to either decide the poem is about them, and accept all inside, or read it as merely about the poet, which has its place but must be used carefully. Which means, of course, I wrote a poem in which "I" is essential to the structure because, you know, I am petulant about rules.
I feel understanding your own infinity is a lot harder than realizing you are a complex space-time-event. It is easy to label yourself with multiple labels - nerd, librarian, friend, lover, mediocre dancer, smoker, poet, reader, swamp-rat born, etc - but kind of hard to realize that none of those labels mean anything except as the shallowest of starting conditions. We project ourselves unto the world, but often only in broad strokes, and therefore reduce the world to a pitiful cognitive dissonance... In such, the poem became a love-letter, but the "eventually, someone says I love you" unvoiced love moment is the poet getting comfortable with what "I" might mean, again. Along the way...[the "I"] starts seeing itself as a relationship between others.

And now the video...

When I decided to make the video, it took me a couple of weeks to realize what I wanted to do for it. The first idea was simply to sit outside and record myself reading it as is. The second idea was to take an image of the poem as a whole, and then to pan-and-zoom along the image as I read it out, possibly faded out with my reading of it visible behind. That eventually lead to the idea of a Prezi where I would make the poem into a complex shape being navigated as I read it. That proved more complicated, and more "gimmicky" than I wanted, so I decided instead to make "I, This Thinking Thing" in Google Sheets, which I could then record in a way similar to the Prezi version, but with different sorts of tricks.

Along the way, certain ideas presented themselves, ways to add a visual layer to the poetry. I won't spoil all of the tricks, both those in the poem itself and in the video of it, but here are eight to get you started.

  1. In morse code, the letter "i" is represented by two dots, note the profusion of colons, ":," in the poem.
  2. In the video, the letter's "i" and "u", as well as words representing "i" and "you" (in various ways) are represented by different fonts and colors. This is used in weird ways in places. I'll leave you to find all of them.
  3. The poem combines my undergraduate majors - astrophysics and philosophy - by referencing cogito ergo sum and including a imagery about stars and space.
  4. "between hello and goodbye" are formatted in the stylings of The House of Leaves. In that book, words meaning house are in blue, while words meaning the minotaur and struck out words are in red. Note, there is another trick on that slide.
  5. The word "color" in "a mandala without color" is not only an irony, but a mild tribute to my friend Kelsey, matching the sort of colors she used while working with me at the Salmon Library. She is not the only person to get a shout-out in the poem.
  6. As fitting for a poem inspired in part by I and Thou, there are bits of biblical and mythical imagery, such as "a dreaming clay". The strangest is a reference to the line et in arcadia ego [meaning in paradise, death existed]. Except I have replaced arcadia with imago, both a reference to a stage in an insect's life and to the image (or phenomenon) of things. It also allowed me to make a reference to both Wallace Stevens - "Imago, Imago, Imago" - and Laird Barron - "The Imago Sequence".
  7. The strange vocals of the reading was accomplished by speaking loudly but calmly into a mike capable of recording directional sound held closely to my mouth, so my voice was recorded multiple times in a single take, and then I normalized it and processed it through noise reduction to create a strange warble where the voices were processed into a single voice.
  8. The poem ends with the opening line, a reference to Finnegan's Wake, but also ends with an ampersand, implying that the poem goes on indefinitely and you are only witnessing a small part of it.

There are a number of glitches with the poem and its reading. One of letters i is in the wrong font. Due to Google's attempt to turn three periods into an ellipses, you get weird font twitches in the series of four-on-four periods. You can hear the clicking of the slides in several places. I also intended one of the letters i to be the square-root of negative one. But, all in all, the flaws are part of the whole. And, in the slideshow glitches, I have corrected them in the version shared above.

So, enjoy my strange reading of my strange poem, "I, This Thinking Thing," (which I might note has been rewritten slightly for this version, and I consider the corrections to make this the definitive version.


Written by Doug Bolden

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