This is a short poem in two parts that feel quite different from one another. Upon opening the poem for the first time, readers are greeted by a kind of magnetic poetry interface: a collection of words they can drag and drop to write a poem from the words and letters made available. This serves two purposes: to prepare the reader for a different kind of conceptual poetry space which allows interactivity entertaining the reader while the main poem loads in the background at which point they can click on “watch.”
It’s worth reminding readers that when this poem was published in 2000, most people accessed the Internet via a 56-k modem, which meant that the “high quality sound” version took about a minute to load— plenty of time to lose an audience if not engaged in some way. Megan Sapnar also used this technique in her “Puskin Translation.” If you note the words chosen for this introduction and then consider the dedication and epigraph you’ll soon realize that this opening isn’t a distracting toy: it is preparing readers for the content of the poem.
The main part of the poem plays like a short video poem, incorporating carefully scheduled animated lines of poetry, soft hip music, and carefully synchronized video clips from an automated car wash. The Dante quote evokes a sense of difficult times in one’s life, prompting a journey parallel to the one described in the Divine Comedy, except that this time the catabasis happens in an automated car wash. The parallels give weight to the poem, which needs to be understood as an integrated combination of words, images, and sound.