Anipoems: How Simple Technology Can Enhance the Meaning of Text on a Page
As an avid reader of poetry, I jumped on the opportunity to explore Ana Maria Uribe’s anipoems. These short texts are animated letters or words that bring the title of the poem to life. Though this type of technological poetry was created in 1998, they resemble the gifs that we often see in popular culture today. They integrate the elements of text, movement, and visuals to not only simulate the contents of the title (e.g. the poem entitled “hojas rojas secas,” translated as “dry red leaves” depicts the s’s falling like leaves from the words) but also to add a layer of playfulness to these short poems.
The anipoems seem to redefine the idea of concrete poetry. Uribe was not, of course, the first poet to think of the concept of “shaped” or “patterned” poetry. This literary tradition dates back to poets like George Herbert, who wrote two famous shaped poems–“Easter Wings” and “The Altar”—which serve as religious emblems. In the same way, the form of Uribe’s poems suggest their meaning. However, she takes this art beyond the tradition of the shape poem by minimizing the actual text and enhancing the visual aspect with color and movement. In some poems, like “more centaurs,” Uribe just uses repetition of one letter and animation to create a literary piece.
This begs the question: Is this really poetry? According to Merriam Webster, poetry can be defined as “something very beautiful or graceful” or “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sounds, and rhythm.” In my opinion, Uribe’s works fit this description, as they play with language/ sound to produce an experiential reading for viewers. However, the way in which we read these digital poems differs from the way we read traditional texts, or words that run from left to right on a page. The anipoems are multimodal texts that require the reader/ viewer to process a plethora of mediums all at once.
That is not to say that the anipoems are particularly complicated. To the contrary, they seem to refute the idea that technology is too complex and overwhelming for the average reader. The sense of minimalism that they evoke in the technological world is actually very refreshing; they are unapologetically simplistic and yet meaningful at the same time. For instance, on the surface, Uribe’s “pas de deux” is simply the black letters “R,” “I,” and “P” flashing in mirror-image pairs on a white backdrop. Upon closer inspection, I found that the French “pas de deux” is a ballet maneuver that literally translates to “step of two.” The morbidity of the R.I.P becomes even more interesting and complex when juxtaposed with the idea of the graceful ballet duet, leaving us to question how one relates to the other. One might even say it’s a poetic treatise on mortality. The fact that the poet can say so much in just three letters is no less than incredible. In this way, Uribe not only redefines the genre of poetry but proves that her work is the antithesis of the cognitive overload that is the technological boom of the 21st Century.