This is poem is Knoebel’s most powerful use of simultaneity because he layers two stanzas of poetry in a perfectly synchronized fashion. One stanza is an abstract meditation on the presence, absence, and storage of thoughts while the other is pure imagery and embodied experience. The two are connected by being displayed and spoken through time, initially scrambling your thought process as it tries to follow two threads of text.
After your first reading of this short poem, I suggest you turn off the sound and read the visual text and then turn the sound back on and simply listen to the other stanza. Then experience them simultaneously again to see how meaningful the layering is, how the scheduling of the text leads you to re-imagine some of the sounds, and how the central metaphor brings the whole poem together.
These are among David Knoebel’s earliest e-poems, going back to 1997, but they’re important because their conceptual compression and technical simplicity set the tone for Knoebel’s subsequent poetry. Inspired by the haiku, they consist of three words or short phrases: a first line (which serves as a title) linking to the second line (which loads as an HTML page) and a third line which plays as an audio recording as soon as the sound file loads— which is almost simultaneously.
These crisp little poems are built out of layering in virtual and computational space and time. As you read them, notice how just as your brain is making the conceptual connection between the first two lines it gets hit by the third, transforming your thought process. Between the three, Knoebel maps out little experiences that resonate with humor, wit, curiosity, and delight. The relationship between the lines vary as well: completing phrases, commenting on the previous pair of lines, or making a connection to nature (in good haiku tradition).
This VRML piece is a meditation on Euclidean geometry, matter, mortality, eternity and language in all of these contexts. It consists of two spaces, the first of which we experience as a movie that displays four stanzas, each of which expresses Euclidean elements: solid, plane, line, point. The next space is intriguing because it has the four words above, plus two more words, all surrounding a cube made of clusters of 2-3 letters. Navigate this space when the initial movie ends, seeing the different views, and you’ll get the point of what Knoebel is trying to express with this minimalist poem in a virtual environment.
Part of his “Words in Space” series, this poem uses VRML to position two dimensional words in different three dimensional rotational axes and provides a minimalist interface for the reader to switch between two types of rotation or movement, signaling the change with an audible click.
The spiraling of the words around a central axis and around each other mimic the speaker’s thought process as he obsesses over what seems to have been a traumatic incident. If we extend the idea of word rotation to its static title, we could read it as “walkdont,” as “dontwalk,” or over time as “walkdontwalkdontwalkdontwalkdont” an idea reinforced by the use of color in three key words and phrases punctuated by the blue “Who knew?”
Now you turn the words around in your head until you figure out what happened…
Part of the “Words in Space” series, this deceptively simple poem uses VRML to provide us with a first person point of view of this poem. After the initial click that sets this piece in motion, the lack of control as we fall past the lines, reading them as we go at an accelerating pace, helps us identify with Bill, a roofer “who lost / his footing in the dew / slick plywood.” In this virtual environment, the letters, words and lines gain an architectural physicality that reinforces the poem’s setting. Soft music in the background of this poem sets a sad tone for a situation full of gravitas.