Poetry News

Jacket2 First-Reads Sophia Le Fraga's "W8ING 4"

By Harriet Staff

We pointed our good readers over to Gauss PDF earlier in the year, and now at Jacket2 Joshua Weiner takes a chance at close-reading Sophia Le Fraga's new and technologically savvy poem, "W8ING 4."

First, some a priori statements. A poem is made out of language. Language arises out of need; most of our basic communication needs are denotative. Poets play with language in ways that other language users don’t (and when they do, we might say that such use of language is poetic). Poems open connotative capacities in language in order to do something other than indicate, something more, something different. One definition of poetry that I like is release of maximum connotation.

So Al Filreis, Brian Reed, and Craig Dworkin — all poet-critic-scholar-teacher guys — have told me that this new work by Sophia LeFraga, “W8ing 4,” is a poem. It therefore is one. But am I capable of recognizing it as one? What is a poem? What kind of answer does this work propose? Is the work effective; is it a good answer to the first question? What poems do I already know that can help me understand and appreciate what this poem is doing? How does it extend poetry or expand its field? And if I don’t like it, will it be possible to recognize and describe its value? And if I do like it, does that mean it’s good? All these questions orbit the work before the act of reading.

The poem “W8ing 4” is framed by the degraded language of its title, as well as the technological device of the phone: sound (phone/audible voice) and text (texting/legible voice). In addition to the title’s texting/slang spelling — the use of letters and numbers (for their phonemes) — the title is a fragment. “W8ing 4.” Waiting for. Waiting for what? Waiting for God (Weil); Waiting for Godot (Beckett); Waiting for the Barbarians (Coetzee); Waiting for the Man (Lou Reed). You’ll find half a dozen romance novels on Amazon with titles that begin, Waiting for: Me, Nick, Rachel, Rain. Also, Waiting for Baby, an obvious life manual. LeFraga’s literary allusions may go quite high or quite low. I expect scrambling of old standard cultural codes. Promising, I think, because potentially vigorous; but by now, not very new.

LeFraga’s work is a video, on Vimeo. The screen shows an iPhone. I can control the forward play, pause, and rewind of the video: kind of like maneuvering through a book, but cumbersome. The resolution is really blurry. I will have a hard time reading the text. High tech meets low-fi. The phone has her name at the top of the screen: $oph. The poet may be the “speaker,” just as with a conventional lyric poem … ? The money sign is the anti-sign of poetry … Ironic? Am I feeling anxious? What kind of writing is this? [...]

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Originally Published: June 5th, 2014