Jim Andrews describes his poem "On Lionel Kearns" (2004) as “a binary meditation on the work of a pioneering Canadian poet [Kearns] contemplating digital poetics from the early sixties to the present.” Andrews creates a digital representation of Kearns’ proto-digital poetry by an array of kinetic poetry made using Directory/Shockwave with added effects. Andrews connects these twenty different screens through Kearns’ minimalist visual poem, “Birth of God/uniVerse” (1965). Jim Andrews’ work includes the binary system, fractals, and transcripts of an interview via email, linking learning the work and making meaning of it to become a “participatory poem” that the reader can write.
Every click to the next page brings poetry, the binary code, fractals, email correspondence, with noodlings or distortions of each page. "On Lionel Kearns" begins with the visual “Birth of God/uniVerse” poem. The next page presents a quote by Marshall McLuhan about the binary system signifying the importance of the digits one (1) and zero (0) that make up Kearns’ and Andrews poem. There are dual meanings and considerations associated with the two digits that make up the binary code. Kearns states in his email that they could represent a number of paired things: nothing/something, male/female, womb/embryo, or conception—birth/death.
The poem highlights materiality through desultory noodlings and distortions, allowing participation and interaction with the “wreader” (reader and writer). The noodlings emphasizes the poems material as an object of interaction with the “wreader”; the distorting way the text is presented invites an interaction with the poem leading to a personal understanding of the works meaning. The distortions play around with the poem flexibly, warping its material bringing a type of participation to the poem in creating individual meanings. The noodlings highlight the relationship between Kearns’ poem and contemporary digital poetics.
Fractals, a fragmented geometric shape that can be broken down into parts, used in "On Lionel Kearns" conveys a relationship to other works by Kearns in which fractals are discussed. The Sierpinski triangle, a triangle consisting of a generated pattern, is repeated thirteen times, splitting into parts, each of which is a reduced size copy of the whole, is an example of fractals Kearns discusses. Andrews incorporates the Sierpinski triangle to make the connection to the other works. Feedback loops, the paths that continue from the generation of the feedback signal to the modification of the event, are crucial to fractals, as seen by the Sierpinski triangles modified progression from its original generation. Fractals and feedback loops are both seen in Andrews’ representation of Kearns’ work which corresponds to his other works.
Andrews encompasses segments of Kearns’ correspondence with Nan Yake, a teacher questioning meaning behind “Birth of God/uniVerse. This email links the concept of learning and making meaning of Kearns’ poetry. "On Lionel Kearns" becomes a “participatory poem” that the reader writes when they engage with it.
Andrews presents Lionel Kearns’ work through contemporary digital poetics in an abstract way in order to extract various meanings the poem could potentially convey from the “wreaders.” The poem provides an example of the unstable nature of language and its meaning. Andrews is commenting on Kearns’ work while he is presenting it poetically and programmerly.
Megan Coben was a student of Dr. Kiki Benzon for a course in Contemporary Fiction taught at the University of Lethbridge, Canada during the Winter term of 2011.