Concrete poetry is a poetic genre that displays a unique visual effect on paper through character pattern, or through the formation of characters and signs.
This article is divided into two parts; the first part puts forward and discusses the problem that traditional concrete poetry confines the reader’s imagination. The second part is concerned with the solution to the problem through the concept of interaction design. This article starts with the features and visual images of concrete poetry, by combining interaction design to predict the prospect of concrete poetry. This article will also study that how to, through the emotional experience triggered off by interaction and the interactive behaviors between men and robots, address the controversy that concrete poetry lacks imagination and interaction in traditional literature.
William Wordsworth puts it: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, which originated in the quiet of the emotional memories.” What this sentence implies is the artistic conception of poetry. Artistic conception has a magical power which can penetrate into the depth of inner heart and brings one with strong feelings. Concrete poetry inherits this kind of expression of emotion in its development and adds visual formation on the basis of traditional poetry which grants people with an intuitive feeling and displays the stretchiness of poetry.
However, this genre is highly controversial since its emergence, some scholars argued that, seen from the perspective of literature, the development of concrete poetry leads to the disappearance and melting-away of artistic conceptions. Readers passively accept the formation and images created by poets; this practice deprives readers of their imagination and depreciates the literary value.
For instance, in the poem Loneliness, Cumings separated the letters of words and arranged them vertically, which produced an image of a falling leaf. In this way, this poem gives one a picture and renders the meaning of the poem directly to the reader. At the same time, it communicates a sense of loneliness of hopeless and helpless. However, readers vary in experience, environment and situation, thus the picture appears before their eyes can also be quite different. In short, the feeling of a happy person and a sad one generated after reading the same text is quite different. For example, in a delightful situation, his loneliness can be depicted as happiness. It can be a slantwise, whirling fall that is as beautiful as dancing. But a person full of sorrow reading the poem will delineate a mental picture of leaves all over the sky falling disorderly. Therefore, the problem lies in that concrete poetry focuses on the self-feeling, fixed layout and pattern of the author, this practice results in the misunderstanding of meaning and limitation of imagination.
W.Benjamin thinks that arts lost their aura in this era of mechanical reproduction. These texts have been reduced to a format and lost their unique sense of reality, even human beings have began to lose their unique character and personality. Traditional concrete poetry is confronted with such a problem. Nicholas Carr believes that words written on paper is only a tool of record, they have no feelings, all the meaning found their sources in people’s inner heart instead of the words themselves. This viewpoint is interesting; my opinion is that no matter how beautiful the layout is, how vivid the words are, they are only the external expressions of one’s ideas and feelings. We are now in the midst of the era of new media, which advocate personality and self-image. It is apparent that the traditional concrete poetry has reached its saturation point in today’s world and on longer meets the needs of the time.
How to view the development and prospect of concrete poetry? In my humble opinion, we should firstly make clear the era of concrete poetry for the style of creation always changing together with the time. The advent of the era of new media pushes the concrete poetry to another field—digital literature. Digital literature is a text with such new elements as photography, computer graphics, interactive writing and sound. Concrete poets under the context of new media can enjoy more dazzling visual effects and auditory pleasures, some people called this as poetic performance. This form is the embodiment of new media at its initial stage of development; it frees the poetic carrier from the writing expression in paper in the traditional format. However, the ordinary concrete poetry under new media is only externally more brilliant, readers can only passively accept them, therefore, it can not address the mental limitation brought by concrete poetry fundamentally.
In the era of new media, how concrete poetry develops in order to solve the problem that limits the imagination of readers? I focus my attention on the concept of interactive design. Interactive design is an emerging subject formed by many interdisciplinary ones. On a Design Conference held in 1984, the founder of IDEO Bill Mogridge firstly put forward the word and put it into use in 1990. Interactive design means customer-oriented and focusing on the experience brought to customers by products. ‘Experience’ constitutes the purpose of interactive design, and i think it is also the way to address the problem of concrete poetry’s lack in interaction and imagination and the only road for the development of concrete poetry. Concrete poetry under interactive design will transmit and display itself by various means such as sensing, imaging, lights and sound. Attracting readers to reading and letting participants interact with words can realize the ego of poetry and the implied meaning of words. Participants can also experience the charm of concrete poems through interaction.
The following two are the concrete poems describing rain, and they enable readers in different times enjoy different poetic charms.
The first is il plevt written by Apollinaire, it has the words arranged in a slantwise manner, like rain slide in front of window, to indict the image of woman shedding tears.
By comparison, although they are both poems about rain, the work written by Camille Utterback & Romy Achituv in 1999 applied interactive design to realize the interaction between men and words. The words in the poem not only display the motion of the written-rain, but enable readers to interact with the written-rain by exercising their imaginations as well.
The combination of interactive design with concrete poetry is a wonderful point of departure, and a good attempt to promote the further development of concrete poetry. Concrete poetry in interactive design, unlike the traditional concrete poetry and the ones under new media which are attractive by their appearance, lays emphasis on the feeling of people and the interaction between readers and poems. All these were done to ensure that readers can participate in the process of creation.
In my opinion, the key step in applying interactive design is to grasp its two features: interactivity and imagination. These two features are the key to offset the defects in concrete poetry’s development. The intervention of interactive design does not lie in whether it will maturely express concrete poems but lie in that it will bring concrete poetry into a new visual domain. The features it displays are more dimensional, diversified and more interactive. Readers can create concrete poems freely by applying interactive experience, and to experience the charm of poetry with their full imagination free from the restrictions of author’s layout. (1189)