This week’s discussion of “SOS” was definitely one of my favorites, since we got to experience a very visual poem in a multimedia context. A lot of people (including myself) noted having very different experiences reading the poem versus watching the video. In his post,, Ruben describes this very well:
““SOS” by Haroldo de Campos (here on slack you said “Augusto” but on vizpoem it says “Haroldo”) is an eerie poem which has a COMPLETELY different feel when the audio and video aspect is added to it. I mean when I first read the regular version of it, it didn’t register as creepy whatsoever, just eerie. But the audio amplified the subject matter that is being discussed in the poem, which seems to be about the unknown of the afterlife maybe. The audio itself doesn’t point to anything specific either, just robotic beeping which can be very directionless since it sounds like a mess that doesn’t pertain to anything. However, we normally attribute that type of sounds to some sort of 70s or 80s sci-fi idea of space and the future which is kind of what this seems like it does as a poem too. The poem is probably pretty old so it might be in that era, but I couldn’t find when it was written. The visual aspect only adds to this feeling though, with the trippy way that the words first appear all scattered and then they disappear, and reappear one by one from the outer rim to the inner “SOS” as it’s conclusion. Overall, I enjoy this poetic approach and I would like to see more of these types of poems that explore different mediums.” — Ruben
This discussion of differences between the versions led some to make comparisons between the video and kinetic art. KAT points that out here:
“If someone just randomly sends me the link to this poem, in a dramatic context I will likely believe I am looking at a piece of sound/ kinetic art. Perhaps something that was purposely made and it requires the audience to have a certain knowledge and awareness to understand the content it delivers. Imagine this poem’s setting got to be displayed on the giant screen of the ICA Richmond with sound and all; since Augusto de Campos is a visual artist and poetry is considered art, this could be extended into an installation! … The SOS version by Augusto de Campos is creepy but impressive in terms of extending the idea of concretism. This class made me realize poetry is not just about verse and rhyme on the paper but mind-blown visual and sound effects. About the poem itself, The concretist poem is a great “example of meaningful interaction between form and function” This poem is so cool! I found myself watching it again and again..The persona which Raven mentioned got me thinking. It seems like the speaker of the poem is trapped and pretty hopeless (from the translate professor Coats has kindly provided) the unusual visual of the poem definitely add the extreme effect. Despite the trapped vibe, the sound effects make the poem does not seem so urgent, to me the persona is likely decide to sit in the dark of their room and accept the situation.” — KAT
I especially like the that KAT brought in the idea of “form and function,” since it is still applicable to the video version. I hadn’t really thought of it outside of the context of text on a page, so having someone bring it up when talking about a multimodal work was eyeopening. It made me think of the work not only as a poem, but also as a piece of video art that has its own forms and tools that enhance the piece. Amanda Berg agrees with KAT on seeing the video as more akin to kinetic art in her post and adds some of her thoughts:
“When the computerized version of “SOS” started I wasn’t sure what was happening or what to expect was going to happen. The music and voices were very Erie and fit well with the poem. I agree with @KAT I definitely think this is more of a kinetic art type of piece and for sure would have thought it was if I didn’t know the poem prior to reading it. The poem however is a very creepy poem in itself and the computerized piece is a perfect reflection of it. I think this piece really helps show that poems are much more than just words on a page, they are stories and visuals and ideas. This helps bring such another creative element into it to help portray the story. The tone that this poem and computerized version was kind of loneliness and the feeling of being all alone. This being accompanied by the eerieness of the music and everything is such a scary combination and gave me an uncomfortable feeling but honestly that made it even more interesting.” — Amelia Berg
Overall, I think this discussion has helped us see, as a class, that poetry is more than words on a page or lyrics to a song, but rather the framework around which many different types of art can be created.