I chose to explore the electronic work of literature called Girls’ Day Out by Kerry Lawryonovicz. It begins by letting the reader pick one of three sections that comprise the work: “Poem,” “Author’s Note,” and “Shards.” To access these sections, the reader must click on one of the pictures, which are of different parts of a horse (legs, neck, head). When one hovers over each picture, the colors become inverted, transforming the images into their ghostly counterparts.
The “Poem” section is actually the story written in a prose paragraph, rather than in verse lines, and the words are white on a black background. It tells the story of two sisters who essentially rent two horses for a single day and go riding through the woods and fields. The prose is choppy and focuses on sensory imagery. For instance, Lawryonovicz describes the setting thus: “The trees creaking. Slash of rain…The geldings lurch, stagger…But there is nothing to see. Only windtorn field.” When finished reading the paragraph, you simply click anywhere and wait. The words begin to fade, while only some letters or words remain highlighted, creating a new sentence or phrase. It does this several times to reveal a hidden story beneath the unassuming one of two sisters’ riding horses. It says, “Girls, six of them, riding boots, rotting under the plateau grass, two only bone in the mud beneath the windtorn field,” and the author then dedicates the poem to the Calder Road murder victims, whom she then goes on to name.
The “Author’s Note” briefly describes her experience of taking a pair of horses out from Star Dust Trail Rides for a ride with her sister during the winter and summer months. After a couple of years, they found out that the bodies of multiple girls had been found in one of the fields. The memory of their trail rides and the idea that they may have been riding across the fields that hid the bodies of the murder victims was frequently revisited in Lawryonovicz thoughts and was the basis for this “poem”.
The section entitled “Shards” is a separate poem made up of phrases found in the news clippings in The Houston Chronicle about the discovery of the girls’ bodies. The phrases are spaced out as if the author has left out large chunks of the original sentences, and when the page is clicked, the letters scramble and reform into new phrases. Although each phrase is detached from the original sentences, they come together to make an understandable, though incohesive, whole. Several of the phrases are repeated verbatim throughout, and there is a vague sense that this poem embodies the way the facts jarringly shattered Lawryonovicz innocent memories of her trail rides with her sister.
The visual and (lack of) audio effects contribute to the purpose and meaning of the story. These poems are not accompanied by any sort of audio, an effect that emphasizes the way the action happens in a sort of vacuum, in which the sisters are unaware of what is just beneath the surface of the pastures over which they ride. The prose passage is full of nature imagery and the horses are referred to as “geldings,” or castrated horses; these details evoke a sense of innocence, both the sisters’ ignorance of the murders and the lost innocence of the murder victims. The fading of the passage to reveal an underlying message serves as a conceptual reproduction of the idea of riding over the girls’ unseen bodies, or being unaware of something lying beneath the surface of the earth waiting to be uncovered; in other words, the hidden poem lies underneath the prose passage like the murdered girls lie under the ground. Furthermore, the reader must interact with the poem in order to uncover the concealed poem, much like the people who discovered the buried girls “interacted” with the environment where they were found. Additionally, the inversion of the images’ color scheme reflects the way the author saw herself and her sister in the position of the murder victims upon revisiting the Star Dust Trail Rides in her memories; they had been so close to becoming victims themselves. The color scheme of the “Shards” poem is also almost the inverse of the main poem, with black words on a light gray background. The two poems represent two different ways of expressing the same story, one being told by those who rode the trail, the other being described by newspaper reporters. It is more difficult to discern the meaning of the second poem than that of the first poem. It seems to me that the first section of this work of electronic literature, “Poem,” is more successful in its endeavor to illustrate the themes of “buried” meaning and lost innocence.