Feature image: Oddly serendipitous journal entry from this morning~
Sharif Ezzat’s Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is a Flash hypertext poem, whose simple interface asks readers to navigate the space one star at a time. The work is designed to look like a starry night sky, several of the stars acting as nodes that link to free-verse, narrative poems. The title of each poem is a reference to a line in a poem that is read in Arabic (with English subtitles) by an older man when readers initially access the piece. The subject matter of these poems revolves around the lives, relationships, and struggles of what appears to be an Arabic family. This family, though, seems intended to be representative of the human family more than of any one specific kind of family. Additionally, one of the poems addresses the reader directly, mentioning that we [the reader] are upstairs and cautioning that we not be woken up. This reference, paired with others spread intermittently throughout the piece seems to indicate this pieces and its stories exist somewhere between dream and reality. The overall atmosphere created by the design and reinforced by the honest, poetic elements of this work can, in fact, be summed up in one word: dreamy. This work seems to draw its power from the earnestness and honesty of its simple design.
This work is an old favorite of mine. In fact, it is the second work of Elit I ever read. This second reading of the work revealed that it is still as compelling as it was when I first read it. As soon as you enter the work, and hear the wind chimes tinkling in time with that old man’s voice telling you, “I am full of stories” you are immersed. The work captures you in a much slower and deliberate manner than some other works of Elit that make further use of digital means. It’s almost gentle the way the work invites you in, asking you politely what stories you would like to hear. When the screen lights up with stars as the old man makes his introduction, it does so ever-so-slowly and then all at once–the same way we fall asleep (and fall in love).
There are several stories you can read through. Each story is accessed by clicking on a star on the screen. The poem revealed is center justified on the screen, putting it immediately in focus. The content of each poem seems to be either reflective or meditative, asking readers to think more deeply about our place not only in our own lives and in the lives of others but also our place in the universe. Throughout the poem, people are compared to natural things like water, land, and stars. The sound of birds and running water can be heard intermittently in the background as well. All of these elements combined seem to reinforce the idea that all of life coexists and that we are all just trying to find our place within it. Often screwing up royally in the process but sometimes coming up rosy.
Overall, I think this is a compelling work not in spite of its simplicity but because of its simplicity. It asks nothing more of its readers than to listen–to words both spoken and written. The poetry lies not within the work itself but within the story the reader weaves. The design of this work seems to further reinforce this idea by having no set directions for how to navigate the work. Additionally, the simple interface of this work with its gentle and soothing elements seems to reinforce the dreaminess of the piece, making readers wonder as the characters within the poems do about whether or not everything is all but a dream. Above all, I think this work wants to share with us that, while the stars may rarely align in the ways we would like, when they do, it lights up the night.
I’m hoping for some light soon.
*This work also reminded me of a song I thought I’d share:
~Till next time~