Zooming Poetry Presentation

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Otherwise below is a zooming presentation of the objects and the micro-machined poems if you want to view them in Internet Explorer. If you load up the presentation and view it I recommended using the full screen mode.

Verse 10

Kingfisher on a branch
above the Cox’s Bay creek
and a menacing heron
stalking the shallows below –
their shadow stands up over
the small fry in the murky
historical tide that flows
back up the channel to where
storm-water drains disgorge junk,
stains of domesticity,
oily rejectamenta
of home-making, the dreamy
rainbows of effluent hope
swirling in the same spring-time
sunshine that casts the shadows
of twiggy trees on the grass
beside the water, as if
we were all dazzled under
the surface of something we
can’t seem to see past but think
we remember what’s up there,
those shadows, waiting for us?

How did we do it?

To prepare a surface to machine on we got a paua shell from someones bach. We then ground it down using 3 different grit sand papers and finally buffed and polished it using diamond paste with the help of the rock polishers in the geology department.The surface presented some problems as the paua is actually a grating a ridge structure from the layers of calcite paua uses in their shells. Initially we tried to use the nanosecond laser system using a really tightly focusing lens we found that we really damaged the shell.

We ended up using the femtosecond direct write to machine the shell and found how comparably clean the machining was compared with using nanosecond pulses (about a million times longer in duration). The poem ended up being 1.2 mm across. The imaging of the paua shell was also challenging as the curvature made it hard to focus on the text. Nine images needed to be taken and merged together to get an in-focus image of the whole poem. This was perhaps the most challenging object but also one of the most satisfying to complete.



Verse 9

The first day of spring arrives
with the sound of the Link bus
(it’s green) whooshing past the end
of our street, past the early
risers at Cartune Auto
who begin to sing in the
rain as their roller door clangs
open – soon, I pass them as
I cross the parking lot at
the back of the post office
where I tap in secret
code on the keypad, unlock
our box, and lo! A gift for
the first day of spring, two books
sent from the beautiful house
above Swan Bay in Queenscliff,
where Baz and Rosie live in
rooms full of songs. What about
that time we finished lunch at
Collabassa, when Rosie
went back to the kitchen and
brought the women out, and sang
for them, Deep in my heart and
deep in my soul, and then they
sang back with glasses raised, a
song about the utter use-
lessness of men, how they crowed
at dawn but were crestfallen
by the time their lunch was served.

How did we do it?

We wanted to go really small with the metal as the femtosecond laser can machine metal very easily. We masked the beam and magnified it down to a microscopic spot and managed to get the whole poem down to 0.6 mm across. That makes each letter around ~10 microns across about a tenth of the width of your hair. We had to use an electron microscope to be able to view the poem.

Verse 8

Going in search of lost time
I discover a river
that resembles the White Nile
because it flows as much past
Gordon in Khartoum, the mad
Mahdi, the painted Nuba,
Michel Leiris and Leni
Riefenstahl, leggy models
streaked with spit-moistened ochre –
flows as much past these fragments
of memories I don’t have
as it does past the stains of
vomit and bluish wine, fish
traps in the rushes where en-
tire Levianthans fester.
These are not my memories
but I have them, what Rimbaud
wrote, filigrees and fragments,
Mémoire, his shadow standing
LOT: TWO TUSKS. ‘I am helpless
and unhappy, I can find
nothing, the first dog in the
street will tell you that. Send me
therefore the prices of the
services from Aphinar
to Suez … Tell me what time
I need to be carried on
board.’ Rimbaud’s final letter
composed in delirium
dictated to his sister
Isabelle, 9 November
1891, he died
the following day, and I
read his premonition on
my way down inscrutable
Rivers … slow deliriums
… archipelagos of stars!

How did we do it?

Femtosecond laser machining was used to inscribe the poem onto the cork. The cork has small fibers which made it difficult to see the poem if it was too small but also large craters which meant we couldn’t machine it too large we settled with 3.5 mm across. The image is made up of over over 10 images under the microscope that are all stitched together.

Verse 7

Khartoum is what I see first
when I step outside into
the street at the front of our
place, with a tree I’m starting
to remember, its shadow
was thickly matt in summer
but now sparse and transparent –
I look past its filigree
at a yellow battlement
scarified with texts and signs
that seem familiar, though the
swallows piercing a sunset
reddened with dust, the hoarse yells
of women beating carpets
flung across the sills of dark
windows, and the open gate
through which laden camels pass
(a cat perches on top of
bales of merchandise) – these I
don’t remember, yet they stand
up clearly in the morning
light where the green Link bus goes
swiftly past Cartune Auto
Service Centre ph 37
60268, its six
dark windows inscribed with texts,
its open warehouse door through
which a ute laden with tyres
enters the dark citadel
past the cat rolling in sun-
light on the footpath outside.

How did we do it?

The bus card made of plastic was machined using the UV nanosecond laser. The width of the poem is 0.8 mm across.

Verse 6

I get up early hoping
I’ll encounter the line drawn
under night time, the red streak
that bisects the shadow of
dawn standing up, horizon
of dark buildings in the east
whose windows begin to flash,
the gassy aquamarine
sky pouring itself into
the gaps between high-rise glass,
laser-streaks of gulls lit by
the afterburn of early
sunrise over there where hope
appears inevitable
and unwise, but worth getting
up early enough for, to
remember why you do this.

How did we do it?

Machining glass is always challenging for laser machining however the femtosecond laser makes it easy to machine these difficult materials. The problem with imaging the poem was that the pedestal is in the way of the microscope objective so we ended up having to use long focal length camera with a telescopic zoom on it. The whole poem is only 0.8 mm making it one of the smallest poems.

Verse 5

A green Link bus goes past with
Sorry in lights on its fore-
head, windscreen-wipers dashing
tears from its face, the shadows
of empty seats on fogged-up
glass, and I am, too – sorry
I’m sorry that life’s too short
and the memory of it
much shorter. Magnificent
obsession sale now on reads
the shop-front signage the next
unapologetic bus
passes not long afterwards
with my confused face looking
out through the wet, blurry glass,
messed up somehow, unable
to settle for sorrow or
jubilation – but then it’s
over, it’s gone, that moment
when I thought I’d remembered
something that reminded me
you just can’t hope to do that –
remember, I mean, too late,
when it’s too late to do that.

How did we do it?

The femtosecond laser was used to machine the cardboard. Due to the large size of the fibers we had to make this poem slightly larger than the others at 3 mm across. We initially machined the cardboard and found that someone had used it as a cutting board for some samples in the lab. So we went into town to the countdown and asked for some banana boxes for writing microscopic poetry on. We got some quite puzzled looks.

Verse 4

My first home, which I shared with
my twin brother David, was
our mother’s womb. This is the
first sentence of the book that’s
got me thinking about what
exactly memory does
and what time it does that in,
for example, when was I
‘I’ when I wrote that sentence,
was I in the time of the
tardy twin hanging back in
the warm, shady womb, or was
I out here in the cold light
of day, too late now to say
wait as Dave’s shadow stands up
and moves into the neither
here nor there we live in while
everything remarkable
in the world packs the foreground’s
augmented reality
that never lasts long enough.

How did we do it?

The front face of the watch was the easiest to machine as the cover was made of plastic which machined well into the UV laser system. We managed to get the machine the poem right above the hands of the watch which gives an idea of just how small it is at 1.3 mm across. One of the interesting things that happened with the text is that the first few lines became skewed. This is due to the thousands on line which we had to use for the words. The software optimises the shortest path to write all of the lines. However with too many lines the program could not handle the optimisation and gave a very interesting design where the letters almost look as if they are coming apart.

Verse 3

Augmented reality
was what Donna talked about
on the way to lunch in the
food-court on Ponsonby Road
but I forgot all about
it when she next told me that
the mummified body of
an Egyptian princess had
been diagnosed with a heart
condition at forty years
of age despite a presumed
diet of vegetables,
fruit, and fish, pretty much what
we eat most of the time and
believe we’re doing enough
thereby to earn a decent
stretch. Memory, though, what a
shadowy mystery that
is, how it mars the surface
of the present it then stands
up in, augmented, a dead
presence that should have lasted.

How did we do it?

Machining onto the die was quite challenging as we couldn’t fit it under our laser beam. We ended up taking the stage off and gluing it to the moving carriage. We used femtosecond laser machining with no mask but an attenuated beam. The whole poem is 1.2 mm across.