Discussion of Media Specific Anaylsis–Johnston

Johnston, David Jhave. “Sooth.”The Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 2, February 2005.


Media Specific Analysis (Model)

Mona Albalawi



In a nutshell, "Sooth" is a series of poems about love, its effect and importance in the speaker’s life, provided in two languages, English and French by David Jhave Johnston, a multimedia-poet currently living in Montreal.

Textual Features

  • The poems do not follow specific rhyme scheme.

  • The structure of the sentences are playful “I sooth I with you / u sooth u with you”

  • Urban language, Digital text: the use of “u” instead of “you”

  • Using the first person singular “I”

  • The use of apostrophe: addressing someone else.

  • The use of metaphors in the description of love, the emotional and the physical relationship.

  • The recurrent image of “water” in different forms, within text, sounds, and video.

Media Features

  • Flash

  • Interactive text: by clicking on any point in space, a line of poetry will appear and floats near that point.

  • The texts are moving/panning all over the screen back and forth in different speed.

  • Electronic sounds and natural sounds. Ex. “Waterfall”

  • Sounds are connected with the text.

  • When a poem ends, it is repeated as long as the clicking continues.

  • The background is either a video or an image.

  • The colors/shades of the images change.

Reading Experience

  • The poems are short, with a clear beginning and an end. Unlike previous works, where we are lost or confused about the length or how or where to start “reading” it.

  • The reader must click in space for the text to appear while at the same time listen to the different sounds the text generates as well as looking at the different background images or video.

  • The act of reading line by line instead of the appearance of the entire text all at once, sets the tone and the pace of reading, which suits the meditative aspect of the poem.

  • Sounds, the electronic sounds, are a bit strange to the subject matter and somewhat disturbing to the ears.

  • Strange combination of the visual, the sound, and the subject matter. In “weeds,” a strange video recording of a sleeping person, discussing the effect of weeds, while listening to the running water in the shower.


This piece, in comparison to earlier works, appears simple.

“Sooth” means truth, and love according to the speaker is a truth that he cannot live without.

In “sooth,” the persona addresses his beloved about love, desire, passion, and that it is enough to sustain them. This feeling is overwhelming; it is akin of “weeds” or drugs, which keeps the speaker in a state of happiness, their act of love is compared to diving in a strong current river where they abandoned everything and immersed together, and how their physical interaction is good for the “soul,” as food is good for the body, and one cannot live alone in separation from another.

The Media features add another layer of meaning to the text, probably in the same way a specific sound is repeated in a poem to give a certain atmosphere or enhance the meaning intended by the poet.

The water imagery usually refers to the most important source of life, as in the river/wave sound in “sooth,” the shower sound in “weeds,” the comparison of falling in love to diving in a river in “body,” the video of the water surface and the dripping sound of water in “root, the video of a fish in an aquarium in “soul,” and snow and the sound of running water in “snow.” To the speaker, love in all of its forms is good for the “mind” and the “body” thus to the speaker it is the most important source of life.

The type of love that is indicated is not just the emotional one, but it is the sensual love, thus the act of clicking/touching the screen for the text to appear is appropriate.

The combination of the natural sounds and the electronic sounds are harmonized together, indicating a connection between nature and urban life, between poetry as a text in its “natural” state and the digital world/text.

((David Jhave Johnston on TWITTER: One on One with the Author))

Discussion questions: Open Discussion



Johnson's CV

Johnston website:

Johnston account of Twitter: @jhave2