Inside Joey Yearous-Algozin’s Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font is poetry from a screenplay, magnified and in basic HyperText Markup Language. The full script of Director Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty is used, as it features the United States’ obsessive manhunt for al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden, in the film. The text itself begins vertically condensed, which is a layout that most would find visually frustrating or ‘incorrect’ in that there is an awareness of what the computer screen, the website – and thus, what the poetry on the page – should look like when one logs on, searching The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb). Those very assumptions about using IMSDb’s graphic interface also drive this work, as they are pulled apart by text amplification, page splicing and challenging endurance to read and reckon the text.
My reading of Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font began with breaking through the half-question, half-realization, “Seriously?” I was in disbelief and thought that my computer had messed with the PDF formatting. I’d never encountered Yearous-Algozin’s work prior to writing this review. I only remembered seeing him with his fellow Troll Thread Collective members in the eight-part interview they did with CA Conrad as I researched Troll Thread Press. I read on and found humor in scrolling through the titles of popular movies and television shows I recognized. I then landed in reading the margins to detect any changes that Yearous-Algozin might have made. I clicked on what I thought were links to webpages, but ended up being underlined blue font. I attempted meaning from seemingly automated enjambments. I wondered about why the white and red backgrounds alternated from page to page. I noticed that the white squares were Unicode shapes that separated titles and superimposed appropriate line breaks. I wondered, “What do I do when the poetry isn’t the way I intend?” which bound me in the decision to struggle through and experience this poetry. Because I am the kind of reader who enjoys poetry as working, questioning and researching, I started thinking about the prominent use of halves in this work, especially in relation to the media as an institution and its half-storytelling.
Yearous-Algozin employs “zero dark thirty” as a reference to the screenplay and as an opportunity to critique the narrative that privileges US intelligence efforts to create a public enemy that justifies counter-terrorism. The time “zero dark thirty” is military notation for a half hour past midnight or any time when darkness has fallen, and it is the time in which the black operation to capture Osama bin Laden is carried out in the film. Yearous-Algozin critiques the role of the media’s storytelling, which in many languages such as Spanish, Filipino and French contain derivations of the word “media” to relay time as half past the hour, and perhaps only tell one half of a story.
In Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font, we encounter the frays of the script. By enlarging the text to thirty-point font, the page results in cutting off half of the page and readers are left to fill in the gaps, blanks and spaces between text. In many ways, readers must guess what is happening on the other side, the imagined side of the story. Large font usually allows readers to see texts fully, yet the script is made distant and rendered almost unreadable. The text formulates its own meaning as the script carries on, for example, on page 36:
The slimming of the story filters into what looks like traditional, formal poetry when form is declared and continuous. Whether or not this work is a version of the film per se, the text demands the constant question, “What is going on?” in regards to the story and the current affairs of counter-terrorism. The reader enacts the public’s role in working hard to piece together elements of the plot in order to have something to follow. We, readers, are intentionally divorced from a half of the text that may consist of two to three words or film directions that could provide us an entire context. We are left with fragments and self-generated questions, all of which highlight the idea that pieces are intentionally left out. The white spaces become cinematic, where theatrics and poetics work together, to provide a visual intensity to figure out what happens next. A majority of the text appears formally as it does on page 65:
The text reads, “Lahore – / you might want / about that / Did you see the / London? / Dude, I’ve been / room with / another man for / two days” which creates multiple spliced images. The original script is as follows:
With Yearous-Algozin, we are left with an omniscient but secretive speaker. In the screenplay, we are aware of the characters and the dialogue. The difference shows the decision to selectively document the events. This reinforces the idea of half-stories at work in attempting to create a full story. Because we are left in the dark to imagine and reimagine, articulate and rearticulate, the text itself is actively keeping information from us to remind us that we have a role in recycling half-truths.
The result of Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font evokes the secrecy of covert operations initiated by the United States military as well as the disappeared narratives that vanish with folks who lost their lives. Though parts of the dialogue are absent, or maybe because the lines are unfinished, the text isn’t incomprehensible. What’s at work are the theoretical and critical junctures that live beyond intended text. I highly recommend engaging the text and its multiplicity for yourself.
Purchase or download: Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font from Troll Thread
Janice Sapigao is Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. She earned her MFA in Critical Studies/Writing from CalArts. She co-founded an open mic in Los Angeles called the Sunday Jump. She currently lives in the Bay Area and teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College.
Please visit her website at janicewrites.com