Simone White, Sophia Le Fraga, and Andrew Whiteman joined Al Filreis to talk about Ed Dorn’s “The Sundering U.P. Tracks.” A political reading of the poem emerges through the discussion, as they group situates it as a late-1960s reflection on a slightly earlier moment of realization and radicalization: the turning-point summer of 1965, when Dorn’s collaborator, photographer Leroy McLucas, arrived in Pocatello only to discover that he was to be housed on the other side of the tracks. The racial trope and idiom of the US East reverts to its literal origins in the making of the US West. And there it is: the key fault line, a built-environment actuality and metaphor. Dorn here is ready rhetorically and politically for a counter-expansion that rereads American generations of Manifest Destiny, monopoly, segregation, and local oligarchy on one hand, and, on the other, “summer firebombs / of Chicago.”
I went to Brown in March as an “artist in residence” for Interrupt3, a three-day conference on the intersection of art and text and digital things. I was anxious when I arrived because in the days before leaving people had asked me repeatedly what I would make once I got up there. I had no idea.
As soon as I arrived in Providence, I began seeing signs with the words “Imagine Brown” everywhere. They were on lampposts and banners and posters all over Brown’s (quite white — qhite?) campus.
It is a truism for the experimental translator that as Google Translate gets better, it actually gets worse. Witness the demise of the ability to "Turn Your Google Translate Into a Beatbox." If you follow the instructions now, you only get a perfunctory recitation of consonants, alas.
Until I looked at Sophia Le Fraga’s “W8ING 4 ,” I never really thought of seeing the lines of a “text” on a phone as lines of a poem. Since I love the look of poetry, the visual arrangement of words on a page, it seems silly that I didn’t see those parallels until now.
There is a lot to look at in “W8ING 4 .” The rows of emoji leap out at me with sentimental feeling. They make me think of sticker collections, tiny patterns on cotton dresses, little parts of Joe Brainard paintings. They are buttons, digital and tender.
The human figure Le Fraga’s texters are waiting foris abstract, grey, and genderless, which means it could represent a man. But the poem the texters create together is animated by a girly liveliness: notes in bubbles, all the “likes,” the instant transmission of intimacy, the slangy surface of their writing, the big-hearted depths. “I was starting to think you/ were gone forever.” “W8ING 4 ” is the girlification of Godot.
It’s probably safe to say that to read about this work online you need to do so in Safari, or you need to download the Chrome extension Chromoji. In Firefox you’ll need to follow these instructions. In terms of this Jacket2 piece (in terms of character support), your browser or operating system or whatever may not display the following character correctly: .
I considered Sophia Le Fraga’s “W8ING 4” as a conceptual video-poem. I immediately placed it as a contemporary revision of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot by the opening phrase, “nothing 2 b done.” Le Fraga’s work also seemed more play than poem in its use of the mobile phone screen as a stage and deployment of texting as a means to update Beckett’s famous exploration of meaning, modern alienation, and the nature of human bonds.
First, some a priori statements. A poem is made out of language. Language arises out of need; most of our basic communication needs are denotative. Poets play with language in ways that other language users don’t (and when they do, we might say that such use of language is poetic).
The main conceit of “W8ing 4” is that I, as a viewer, occupying the same perspective as Soph’s iPhone interlocutor, am forced to be uncool. I’m forced, in other words, into the subject position of an uncomfortable teen girl. This is not a stretch. I am no longer a teen, but I am still a girl, and young enough for coolness to be a quality of immediate concern.