Haikus Without Prescription: Translating memory from the web into print

Haikus Sin Récipe (“Haikus Without Prescription”) is the title of my cousin Luis Felipe Blanco’s blog. He began sharing his poetry in it in 2008, and worked on it with some regularity for two years until his sudden death in November 2010. It contains 163 text entries, mostly poetry, in Spanish, English, and Spanglish (there’s lots of that).

My project, based on my cousin’s blog, addresses the notion of digital spaces as memory sites, and consists of a twofold strategy for memorialization. The first part involved the creation of a booklet with a selection of poems from the blog, in Spanish, that was later presented (in December 2015) as a memory device to my close family. The second part consists of a video that offers a personal meditation on my process, in the tradition of memory performance.

My cousin’s blog, now orphaned and ever confined to the digital, is subject to the policies and physical integrity of Blogspot’s infrastructure. In light of this, I made the decision to create digital and print backups of it. But how to better make the content accessible in a way that would truly favor memorialization? The subsequent process of reflection and research led me to translate the material from one medium to another: from digital to print. Memory studies suggest that when digital content is stored away online it is very often as though it disappears, as users are less likely to revisit it; digital technologies, when off, are opaque and not readily accessible. The booklet that I designed is meant to facilitate access to my cousin’s poems in a way that a computer cannot: a book, in its materiality, prompts a person or a group to engage in the ritual of reading alone or aloud, or browse, undistracted by other elements and without having to rely on a device.

My editorial and aesthetic choices at the moment of designing the book were made purely out of instinct and personal taste. It was quite challenging to complete a project within an academic setting in which I had no other framework than myself and my relation to the content. However, as the intended use had determined the format, approachability did influence some aesthetic decisions. For instance, I tried to overcome any possible barrier of taboo or literary distance between the reader and the content by hand-binding the booklet, using craft paper, and hand-writing an introduction.

The final product contains only a selection of poems by Luis Felipe and is subject to be revised and re-made in the future using different texts. It does not reference a particular historical event or site, but instead groups together fragments of his creative output -which poses the possibility of reconstructing some sort of essence of the author, his personality, or his character. In that sense, the booklet is also a memory probe that serves to trigger unique processes of memorialization of individual experiences with my cousin that other members of the family may not be aware of.

In order to further contextualize the project for exhibition, I included images of the actual blog in the performance video, in which I am also reading a poem written by Luis Felipe shortly before his passing.

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