Michael Waltuch’s Whale Cloth Press, the original publisher of Robert Grenier’s Sentences in the Chinese box version (with ivory clasps, manufactured in Hong Kong), has put up a mediated version of the poem.


It is interesting to think about the tensions between the work in its print/index card/box format and its digital one—they are not identical. For one thing, even though the cards are displayed in a random order, different each time, they can never be displayed spatially—tacked up on a bulletin board, or placed on steps, or photographed in the crotch of a tree. The box was a three-dimensional boundary (like the skin surrounding the body of the work) that is quite a bit unlike a frame for a static two-dimensional image or an html page with flash animation. And yet the work is finding a new reception that reads the individual instances of the text in a kind of “free space” of interpretation:


Steve Roggenbuck writes, “reading sentences makes me feel like i really like things; it makes me feel like i really like to be alive or something.” “Liking things” rather than making poem objects out of them: the point then is an immediacy, an access to experience as fleeting, lived. Such an effect of immediacy meets the mediate nature of presentation in online form: somehow they do agree. Yet the effect is different: Sentences in a box made the reader question the mode of representation itself; Sentences online frees one from representation and toward life as not directly represented.

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