Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is a prose poem designed in a hypertext flash format and written in Arabic and English.
Sharif Ezzat, the writer of this text, is a multimedia artist and producer in San Francisco focused on digital storytelling and interactive design. His work has been featured by Adbusters, the Webby Awards, the Electronic Literature Organization, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. He has helped produce the Arab Film Festival in California for over a dozen years, and toured widely with acclaimed beatboxer Yuri Lane, providing multimedia visuals for his live theatrical performances.
Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky is a philosophical interdisciplinary experience. As soon as “enter” is tapped to start experiencing this poem, a male sound is heard reading a poem in Arabic while the English translation appears on a black screen. At the same time of hearing the male voice, sounds of bells and birds can be heard. By the time, while the poem is read, many stars appear on the black screen/sky. All the stars are silver and different in their sizes except nine stars, which fluctuate between silver and blue colors.
After finishing the Arabic recitation, the interface is about a black sky with shimmering silver and bluish stars with the sound of the bells and birds in the background. Each bluish star is hyperlinked to a part of the English translation of the Arabic poem, which will appear by hovering over it by the mouse. When clicking on a bluish star, a poem appears in the center of the screen. Sometimes the poem has a complement that will show up by hovering over the “X” symbol at the end of the poem. Clicking on another bluish star will reveal a different poem.
The poet starts his poem with an oral Arabic recitation, which works as a frame story of the other scattered stories/poems over the screen. As an Arab poet, Ezzat reflects upon the Arabic literary history by employing the structure of Alf Layla wa-Layla (One Thousand and One Nights) or (The Arabian Nights) in the construction of his piece. The narrator Shahrazad used to narrate different stories emerging from one main frame story. Interestingly, the same hypertextual structure used by Shahrazad in narrating stories is used by Ezzat to shatter the hyperlinked stories on the screen.
Shahrazad links her stories to postpone her execution by Shahrayar hopefully to save her life, while Ezzat hyperlinks his stories to recall the family good days hopefully to save his soul from the rust of loneliness. Ezzat’s stories invoke uncle, cousin, sister, wife, stars, himself and finally, he imagines the whole world as his family. According to Ezzat “I aimed to articulate a relationship between family, planet, and the cosmos, woven together through stories. I was inspired by reflections on my personal history and by the forests in Northern California to develop the narrative voice, which sought to be intimate, timeless, and inviting”
Ezzat starts his Arabic recitation by the line “I am full of stories, Pick one” which is similar to Shahrazad’s introduction to her narration (balaghani ayyuha l-malik al-sa’id ¬– It came to my ears, O happy king). When asking Ezzat if Alf Layla wa-Layla was an inspiration during writing this piece, he replied, “Indeed 1001 nights was an influence, though perhaps subconsciously”
This piece is a philosophical contemplation of life and the relation with close people.
Ezzat, Sharif. Gmail correspondence. May 8, 2017.