First reading of Sophia Le Fraga's 'W8ING 4' (3)
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: . If you’re seeing brackets [ ] instead of the “bust in silhouette” emoji, you’re effectively seeing a kind of lacuna: the information isn’t missing, necessarily; you just can’t see it. This is maybe like saying Godot (the signifier) is not supported by your computer. He’s right there in front of your face (he’s even in the playbill), but you just can’t see him. Keep waiting or follow the instructions above.
The only website I know of with an emoji in its url is http://.la (biggups 2 Laos); though according to this article, .tk (territory of Tokellau) domains also support emoji. This is why Le Fraga hosts “W8ing 4” at her website, and Gauss PDF lists the work as simply “W8ing.”
What we have here is in every sense a problematic title character: ; unicode U+1F464; \xF0\x9F\x91\xA4 in UTF-8 bytes. Godot.
I’m staring at the first frame of this video and the title is clearly “W8ing 4 .” It would seem then, that the only reason everyone keeps calling it “W8ing 4” is because this problematic title character isn’t totally supported across the board. Basically, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Cool Erasure Project. The World Wide Web isn’t totally ready. In the words of the character $oph, “We came 2 soon.”
I wonder how many productions of Waiting for Godot support the character (actor) Godot?
OK, so this poem is by definition a video, specifically a Quicktime movie (.mov). That is its form and its format. It’s like saying: that poem is a sonnet. That poem is a Twitter account. That poem is a book. That poem is a piece of software. That poem is an organism. We should all get used to this. But is the poem a movie? Is it a film? Is it a short? Is it cinema?
To me it’s more like a professional recording of a stage play. Not a multiple camera production (there’s no editing); it’s more like the camera is on a tripod in the back of the theater; the shot is framed on just the stage. We cannot see the audience.
So if the poem is the video, then a transcription of the poem’s text would likely have the same kind of relationship to the video that a screenplay has to a movie. How much of the screenplay can your browser support?
(sample from poem)
Nothin 2 b done
word ~ I feel like yr right
all my life I’ve been like wtvr b
reasonable like you haven't
tried everything yet
but the struggle is real
so yr back?
I was starting to think you
were gone forever
Me 2 tho
we’ll have to celebr8
being together at last
Not now but l8r def
you should have ben a poet
Are we tryna go 2 this thing
bc we’re w8ing 4
U sure it was here?
That we were supposed 2 w8
hold up r u saying we’re at the
should be here
he didn’t say he’d for sure
And if he doesn’t come …
we’ll come back tmrw
And then the day after
What operations of the poem are not supported by the screenplay? In other words, what does the video do that the text alone cannot? That’s where the poem lives. What then is the relationship between a stage and an iPhone (and in turn, your computer screen)? Whose iPhone is it in the video? Is it my iPhone?
To me the poem feels like the opening of a first person video game: it’s 7:08pm and I’m txting w $oph. Unclear who I am yet, but I know that I have AT&T and by the looks of it, pretty good Wi-Fi. $OPH has an iPhone too. Battery life looks good and my alarm is set (why? for what time(s)?). Also, what’s up with those four other messages?
I see that my Bluetooth is off, but more importantly I see that I’m mirroring my output to another display. In short, this is a performance, and it’s being recorded. This is theater. I assume that portrait lock is on to prevent the actor / camera operator from tipping the screen from portrait to landscape mid-performance. This is a calculated production move and another reason this isn’t a poem about secret voyeurism or the surveillance state. Same with those four messages; they can only be interpreted as part of the text.
“W8ing 4 ” is a poem about early twenty-first century vernacular and written in the vulgate.Twenty-first century quotidian language is, on the whole, about character management; its cadence is predicated on speed — a syntax to emulate speech, not writing. So this poem then is also about reading (and how we read and write) a language set that is no longer purely alphanumeric. When we talk about reading this poem we are talking to a large degree about how we read the language of our iPhone screens. Icons are characters too, and in this production they should also be included in the playbill.
And because this poem has a source text, it’s also a piece about translation. “W8ing 4 ” is mostly a translation of Waiting for Godot’s media (format) and carries with it everything that accompanies that shift. Le Fraga isn’t so much concerned with translation in the sense of total plot fidelity. Nor is this an emoji translation of Beckett. Here translation is enacted by virtually producing this play on an iPhone screen. Moreover, I’d argue that the source text’s principal function is one of pedagogy. This is an age-old strategy: employ the canon so that relationships to the source help people understand new forms and strategies. Imagine a similar video poem but with no obvious or recognizable source for reference … In this sense, “W8ing 4 ” is an attempt to usher you, the collective readership, forward — to make a literary argument for nontraditional forms of poetry. Oh, I get that; that’s Beckett. I’ve read that. So ultimately becomes a kind of synecdoche for all things multimodal — all forms of poetry that aren’t yet totally supported by our common understanding of what poetry is and is becoming. Either that or is you and that’s who we’re all w8ing 4. Do you even emoji bro?
Alejandro Crawford’s poetry collection BHO is available on EOAGH, and his book Morpheu (BlazeVOX, 2009) can be purchased through Small Press Distribution. When Steve McLaughlin’s Into the Field podcast series presented a recording of Alejandro Crawford in Jacket2, here was his introduction: “Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford is a poet and video artist of the first degree. I spoke with him in Athens, Georgia, on a muggy July afternoon just over a year ago . These days Alejandro makes a living as a professional VJ, touring the world regularly with the band MGMT. You can see a bit of his work for them here, and Art21 Blog has recently posted a demonstration of his Vonome video organ. Collections of his videos can be found on Vimeo and YouTube.”