Individual Work
Turning Away

Curtis Harrell’s “Turning Away” is a revolving haiku. Harrell says that he chose the haiku because he “realized the necessity of a poem short enough for the eye to comprehend in its entirety; too many lines would simply be impossible to keep up with if two or more of them were changing at the same time.” A haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that has a strict five-seven-five syllable line structure. Harrell states that he had difficulty “creating twelve lines which would not only be coherent in any combination but also different from one another.” The work is continuously changing and never arrives at completion. Each line is an animated graphic interchange format (GIF) that loops through a series of four alternatives. The electronic text exploits the potential of electronic media to create expansive poetic form in the haiku. The title, “Turning Away” has a double meaning: It suggests that the author is turning away from the moon, and it also reflects how the work is set up—one line, or epiphany, “turning” into another.
The main focus of “Turning Away” is the moon. The first line presents a particular kind of moon; the moon always belongs to someone, and is a specific colour: “yellow hunter’s moon,” “swollen lover’s moon,” “fat orange liar’s moon,” or “bone-white harvest moon.” The second revolving line describes the moon’s movement: “caught in lonely branches,” “hanging over sallow fields,” “reflected in the still pond” or “moving past your black window.” The third line implicates the reader, using the pronoun “us” or describing the shared experience between reader and speaker; this line creates a final unity in perception, where the speaker’s vision of the moon is linked to the reader’s perception of the text.
Like the moon it describes, “Turning Away” is both orderly and chaotic. The haiku form is retained throughout, but its textual elements are continually changing. Similarly, the moon—revolving continually around Earth—is a stable and predictable presence, but its light is intermittent and fluctuates depending upon, among other things, the unpredictable situation of clouds. Harell’s haiku—textually shifting but structurally rigid—emulates the moon’s simultaneously consist and cyclic nature.