Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flash Poetry

What is flash poetry? Flash poetry is a poem with just the right music and images- in a macromedia flash file format. It is an interactive, electronic interpretation of poetry. It is a ralatively new innovative effort to give poetry another rich outlet in order to connect people with greater human understanding. Flash Poetry ( is one of the first flashpoetry-only websites, created but the advent of high-speed internet connections.

The major strength of Flash is its versatility. It's not difficult to learn basic techniques for moving text around the screen, distorting it, adding graphics and sound. With these abilities, Flash poets can produce interesting and engaging work. Yet Flash is powerful enough, if you need that power, to do much more than this. A poet with a bit (or a lot) of programming skill can build in much more complex behaviours.

One way to produce an animated poem is to take an existing conventional poem and see what you can add to it using the techniques Flash offers. This needs a bit of care, though. If the poem was satisfactory in its original state, you need to ask yourself what's to be gained by changing it. It helps if your starting point poem has some weakness, lacks something you weren't able to achieve with pencil and paper. It might be, for example, that there was a choice of words, each of which added something different, but it wasn't possible to use both. By animating the poem, you can allow the reader to see the effect of each choice, and make the additional point that there was a choice.

Start with an existing poem, then use Flash to fill in the gaps or plan your poem from the outset as an animation. Remember to bear in mind the possibilities of movement, selective display, colour while composing your piece which will require a familiarity of the capabilities of Flash.

The Irish poet Bill Dorris, has supplied an example of Flash poetry so you can see what it looks like. As is often the case with Flash poetry, "The Burning" is the result of a collaboration, in this case between Bill and American poet, Janet Kuypers. Some feel that flash poetry somehow taints the purity of the artistic endeavour. On the other hand, some could claim that the pen and paper used in writing conventional poems are manufactured by commercial companies too. What do you think? Before you decide though, take a look at:

Here is a "conventional" poem to read too:

Orchids For Her Hothouse

Dear Samantha,

The orchids that accompany this letter are from a hothouse in
Delaware. At least, that's what the florist says. He's the same
guy who insists that the social interaction between individuals
of varying demographics over the limited space on this planet
should be settled with enough squabbling to counterweight the
power of the State. But he smokes a pipe so what else would
you expect. Sometimes no one speaks to him for days. They
just make their purchases and leave the correct change on the
shinny counter after giving him a supercilious stare. You're
nothing like him. You're an idea that replicates itself like a virus.
Your symptoms pass from mind to mind and can be found in the
latest fashion statement. These orchids are intended to be my
way of saying I miss your little bare pantry and the way your
farmhouse smells. I miss putting my Balinese bench where your
corral is. What I guess I really mean is I need you to recommend
my next set of power tools. And the postage stamp in the snow is
definitely foreign. Why even my plastic lawn flamingos stay awake
all night imagining backyard barbecues. Sure I have my faults and
I'll always be dishonest. But I'm getting much better at predicting
when I'm about to do something stupid.

This poem first published online at:
Copyright 2007 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.
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