Mandrake Mystification

More than one of the student responses below touches on the feeling of confusion after encountering The Mandrake Vehicles for the first time. I too found myself slightly confused after reading through the digital poem. Strangely, however, my confusion wasn’t a result of Mazzoleni’s animated interpretation of Buchanan’s writing. It was the content of the poem that puzzled me. I liked the digital rendering of the poem; the “liquid layers” and use of letters falling away in reverse Tetris-like style were absolutely captivating to watch. I found myself clicking the “refresh” button over and over again to try to catch pattern formations that would better help me understand the meaning of the poem.

But, in the end, it was the traditional reader in my who was left stumped. As Diana Huang wrote in her response this week, “The language in the poems is beautiful, but as hard as I tried I couldn’t make much sense out of the poems themselves.”  For example, on the fourth page of the second installment, I found myself wondering: What do “Dante,” “the boy I enticed,” and a “felon cold” have to do with plants? I searched A Brief Note on the Mandrake Form frantically for historical information on the mandrake. Yet, all the note does is mention that there is “folklore, occult, ritual, magical association…[with] the mandrake plant” before going on to discussing the digital animation.

The Mandrake Vehicles was copyrighted in 2006. In my opinion, that was still early enough in the digital age that not everyone had been exposed to this type of online literature. It isn’t enough for a piece to be visually captivating if it will leave many of its readers yearning for more even after reading through from start to finish. In addition to A Brief Note on the Mandrake Form, I wish Buchanan had included something along the lines of “A Brief Note on the History of Mandrakes.” They truly are a fascinating plant and I would have liked to leave The Mandrake Vehicles feeling more educated about them.

— Jen Hirsch (@hirschjh)

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~ by survivingshanghai on January 24, 2011.

One Response to “Mandrake Mystification”

  1. If I were to revise this blog post, I would write more in-depth about how I experienced the digital rendering of the appealed to me. What did I discover each time I clicked “refresh” on the same portion of the poem? How did my interpretation of The Mandrake Vehicles with each new reading experience? As this is my first “official” foray into digital literature, I think it would be helpful — and actually required in this course — to further explore the intentions of the author and why he/she chose this medium for his/her work. This is a technology class, obviously the “traditional reader” in me is going to be stumped at times.

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