Individual Work
Every tongue, that wound my heart

Nilufar Karimi, poet, and Eliseo Ortiz, visual artist, collaborated to create the poem, “Every tongue, that wound my heart.” The piece was published in the Fall 2021 issue of “The New River”, an open-access journal of digital art and literature.

Karimi and Ortiz share a similar interest, which developed into their collaboration on this project. They both investigate the “language and symbolism nations use to enforce violence on their populations”. By presenting their work as poetry and open-source, they encourage others to respond to their statements.

On the “Every tongue, that wound my heart” webpage, two words, heart and eye, are hyperlinked to bring the user directly to two different pieces of ergodic literature. Below the description, there is an excerpt from Lee Chonghwa’s Still Hear the Wound, Toward an Asia, Politics, and Art to Come that discusses how memory is stored in human bodies throughout the generations. At the bottom of the page, Karimi and Ortiz ask the reader four questions, about both their and their family's experience during the playing of their national anthem.

By clicking on the "heart" hyperlink, the user is brought to a page with an image of a heart created out of the phrases from the 35 countries’ national anthems that have the word heart contained in them. Along both sides of the heart, there is a listing of the 35 nations, with lines connecting to the parts of the heart where their lyrics appear. Users can either click on the country or the phrase in the heart, and that particular phrase from the national anthem will play. The user can click on multiple countries at a time, which creates an inharmonious playing of the anthems. Users follow the same process for the "eye" hyperlink.

Once on the heart and eye webpages, the useability of the poem is difficult. When an individual attempts to play the anthem, there is not an indication that the user has successfully clicked on it. Also, there is a lag between the clicking and the anthem beginning. Although this lag was most likely implemented as it encourages the reader to continue to click on different countries resulting in the “dissonance” that the creators were hoping to achieve.

Interacting with the “Every tongue, that wound my heart” ergodic poem allows the user to reflect on how their national anthem not only affects them mentally, but physically as well, even if it is not included in the piece. This allows for a critical reflection on how the national anthem is used as a tool by the government to develop nationalism amongst its population.

Karimi and Ortiz are from Iran and Mexico respectively. The focus of most of their work is on their country's relationship with the United States. Karimi focuses on the US-Iran nuclear deal, as well as the diaspora of many of her people, whereas Ortiz focuses on the exposed gaps within the naturalization process to obtain U.S. citizenship. Both Karimi and Ortiz bring a political perspective to their work, which is emphasized in this piece by asking their audience to reflect on how the national anthem affects them; this then forces individuals to think critically about national identity.

Karimi and Ortiz’s focus of their pieces is the heart and eye. The heart is symbolic of love and compassion, and the eye is the lens through which an individual sees the world. Both these anatomical features are viewed as the ways that humans express themselves, and having them the focus of these pieces demonstrates that nationality is engrained in individuals through their anthems.

In "Death of a Discipline", David Golumbia argues that with the advent of digital literature, interpretation and analysis, which form the basis of literary study, as typically seen in English departments, will no longer be applicable. However, “Every tongue, that wound my heart”, while it is digital literature, is able to be interpreted and analyzed in terms of its structure, language and symbolism, therefore, disagreeing with Golumbia’s argument that digital literature will completely change the way individuals approach literary works. Conversely, Matthew Kirschenbaum, in "What is Digital Humanities and What's It Doing in English Departments", looks at the interdisciplinary nature of digital literature, including the combination of literature with other formats, specifically, media studies and fine arts and concludes it contributes in a positive way to literary study. As demonstrated in this piece, Karimi, a poet, and Ortiz, a visual artist, collaborated to develop the heart and eye images, showing new forms of literature that can be created through the field of digital humanities which push the readers’ understanding of the world around them and enable them to criticize it from a different perspective.

Author statement: 
The Editor’s Statement is as Follows: In “Every tongue, that wound my heart,” Nilufar Karimi and Eliseo Ortiz explore the embodied, intergenerational, and varied natures of national anthems. They ask, “What does your body do when it listens to a national anthem? What do you see? […] How does your heart beat?” In the linked fullscreen diagrams, the contours of the anthems’ lyrics become the contours of a heart and eye. In this way, anthemic language seems to become somatic, carried deep within the arterial chambers, just as it is projected outward through perception (the eye, as well as the listening ear).