Intent vs Interpretation
An interactive experiment in author intent versus audience interpretation.
Come on and explore authorial intent versus audience interpretation with me. It’ll be fun!
- Watch “Nowhere”
- Watch “Drowning”
- Or here’s a handy YouTube playlist of both poems AND this video, so it’ll bring you right back
Heck, if you don’t feel like leaving this post, I’ll just embed that playlist right down here.
- MUSIC: “Quirky Dog” by Kevin MacLeod
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
(Yes, I’m aware of the irony inherent in using “Quirky Dog” for the Kitty Break.)
Hello, Earthlings! You’re watching Adam the Alien, and today I want to talk about authorial intent versus reader intent. More specifically, I kind of want to know what people think of, uh, some things that I wrote. But I don’t want you to be tainted by what I intended when I wrote it.
Now recently, I uploaded two video adaptations of old poems I wrote. Like, back in 2003, 2004, something like that.
And already, I have seen people making assumptions about what these poems mean symbolically. Things that I didn’t really intend.
Which is great! One of the things I have always loved is when I write stories with a lot of imagery, people will tell me, “Oh! I see how you did THIS or THAT, or how you inserted THIS idea. And I thought that was really cool, thematically related to THIS.”
And I’m sitting here going, “I did not do any of that, but thank you for the credit.”
Nothing makes a writer look better than a reader who digs really deep in for meaning.
Now, that isn’t to say things don’t have meaning, but any kind of art is one of those things that is going to have different meanings according to whoever’s looking at it at the time.
So if you haven’t seen the two poetry videos I made recently, there are links in the doobly-doo. Possibly somewhere on the screen, depending on what platform you are watching this.
The first one was titled “Nowhere”. It’s very short. It has creepy dolls. It’s great.
Restrained by their feet
And the second one is called “Drowning”.
I wake up unable to move
This time it’s gushing down
So what I would like you to do, if you’re willing, is go to those videos. And either comment there or, after you watch them, come back and comment here, and tell me what you think these poems are about. What interpretations did you make, and what things could you relate to or not relate to in them?
Seriously, go do that now, before you finish this video. I will wait. We’re waiting. We are standing here. We are waiting. You’re watching them. Hopefully. Hopefully you’ve gone and watched them. Do that, please.
Are you back? Good!
Okay, so if you’re watching this now, you should have already watched the “Nowhere” and “Drowning” poetry videos. You did that? Good. Okay.
They don’t have any meaning.
I mean, I’m sure they do, but I don’t actually know what it is. Because not only did I write these a long time ago, both poems were based on dreams. The imagery used in the poem is literal. I just wrote down, in a poem form, what I saw in my dreams.
The second one —”Drowning”— I do actually know what caused that dream, and that was the fact that I was having a nosebleed in the middle of the night while I was asleep.
Which, as it started to run down my throat, translated into a dream of me drowning in blood as I just kind of endlessly WOKE UP and WOKE UP and WOKE UP. It was one of those stupid, annoying dreams where you don’t know if you’re ever awake.
And then when I finally did wake up, and there was still blood, I–I wasn’t sure if I was awake or not.
So, hopefully, before you got that explanation, you had already gone and watched and interpreted those poems. So now I want to know: how does knowing the inspiration and intent of the author change any of that for you? And do you still think you can get something out of it that I didn’t intend? DO you still get something out of it?
I’m very curious to know your answers, and I hope to see some interesting comments. Until next time, I’m Adam the Alien. Fare thee well.
Writer. Actor. Director. Chalk artist. YouTuber. Nerdfighter. Traveler. Pansexual. Genderfluid. Millennial. Socialist. Living a complex life beyond those words.