Pet Book Post #4 Materiality of Books

What I came away with after reading the texts we were assigned this week was that reading language in a material form alters perception. Specifically, the physical movements that one must make when reading a material affects the thoughts that run through the mind. This was further supported by my experience in class. Having to rotate an object as the words wrap around a tangled loop, or a lover’s knot, adds a sense of fluidity, but also confusion to a poem. Having lines cut off on one line and continue onto the next as they squeeze into the shape of an altar creates consise, but incomplete micro-messages instead of one clear poem. In Don Quixote, I also found aspects that forced me to read it differently.

Despite being in a bound form, my experience in class made it almost impossible to study my book like I have in previous weeks. No longer were the endnotes another instance of print. They became separate from the text. An obstacle. I had to stop reading, flip to the back of the book, find the number of the footnote, read that information, go back to the original page, apply my newfound knowledge, and repeat. This process was reminiscent of having reading the comb. For the comb I had to decide if the poem was meant to be read from left to right 2 teeth at a time, or from top to bottom as only 2 stanzas.

My perception of my pet book as material was aided by the presence of six physical objects. I was no longer reading my pet book, but interacting with it. As I went through the volumes, I had to close one volume, replace it in correct order, open the next, orient myself, close it and replace, and repeat. These interruptions affected the way I read. The sense of continuity was disrupted, and the gaps from not reading allowed me to digest the material… sometimes. Other times my mind wandered and I got off track. If the entire story was one bound book this would probably not have happened; at least, it might have happened less frequently. I will point out that this week’s readings have helped me answer one of the questions I had at the beginning of this assignment. I wondered how the story was affected through its telling in six separate books. I now believe that the story becomes material, not just literary.

Another important aspect I took away from this week came from Dr. Boeckeler’s “Comb Poems.” That is, that having a poem, or any text, on materials besides paper imbue language with personification. The comb poems “whisper” into the ear of the recipient as the person combs their hair. My collection of six volumes seemed to “taunt” me with their massive amounts of words. They “interrupted” my reading sessions. They did a lot that books do not normally do.

Overall, this week was the most interesting concerning the readings. This is because when I normally see words outside of a book, or even outside paper, I tend to discount them as literature. Seeing poetry on physical objects made me ponder on whether or not the medium is as important as the message. Or, does the medium even have a message? Does it merely exist to alter the message presented by the words? I am glad I was able to ask these questions.

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