Blog Post

The Social (re)mediation of Poetry at theyweredelicious.tumblr.com

 

My primary interests as a scholar are in digital media and poetry (both contemporary and 20th century American). So, of course I’m always trying to find ways to blend the two together. As I forage into the realm of digital poetry, I am increasingly confronted with the question “What makes a poem a poem?” Is it its structure? Its content? Its form? Its materiality? As I was thinking through these questions, I began wondering what would happen if we encountered a poem outside its enjambed and anthologized form on the printed page. What if we ran into it in more unexpected material circumstances, such as on a billboard or inside a fotune cookie?

To test out these questions, I began creating, collecting, and curating remediations of Williams’ poem, “This is Just to Say” in a tumblr:  theyweredelicious.tumblr.com. I like to think of this tumblr as a public play-space for exploring how a poem’s material context affects our perception of it, our interpretation of it, and its “poem-ness.” Some of the remediations on the tumblr were created in the physical world and photographed, some were created in Photoshop, some were made in meme-generators, and others already existed on the internet. Some are my own, many are submissions.

It has been a fun and rewarding project. The tumblr is an excellent way to help me explore how a poem’s material form affects its meaning and how materiality can be poeticized. I also think that a tumblr of remediated poetry offers a fascinating space for a Comparative Media Studies approach, such as that advocated by Hayles. Seeing the text in a variety of media raises important questions about how different media affect interpretation, dissemination, and meaning of texts. I wonder if creating a collective tumblr in a poetry class might help students visualize, interact with, and interpret both poetry and media in new and potentially more accessible ways. I have spoken to several people (who are not in an English department) about the tumblr, and they have said that these different remediations of the poem help them to understand the poem and the variety of interpretive possibilities it offers.

There are many potential angles of exploration here, such as questions about social interactions with poetry, collective composition, virtual materiality vs. physical materiality, and social media as a democratizing force inside and outside the poetry classroom. I’m hoping to think through some of these questions this semester, and I’d love your input on any of them.

I’m presenting a more detailed and in-depth articulation of some of these ideas at NEMLA 2013, if any of you are interested and attending the conference. More importantly, I’d love some input from this community before I present. Have any of you seen or done similar work? What other pedagogical implications do you see for tools like tumblr in the poetry classroom? Thoughts, reading recommendations, advice, and further questions are greatly appreciated. And of course, I’d love more dissemination of and submissions to the tumblr. Thanks! 

 

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2 comments

This is an intriguing idea--how fun! Thinking in terms of pedagogy, some of these questions are ones I'll be interested in exploring in the first-year writing class with various multimodal assignments--even beyond the realm of poetry. I wonder how some of those ideas might translate into helping students think about invention, composing, textuality, analysis, and so on. Good ideas to start thinking about. 

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hello, 

   I love your tumblr project! I started a poetry MFA in Fall but for the past few years I've ran the audio archive Knox Writers House. Before the website, I took a Williams seminar as an undergrad and had a poetry potluck where I recorded everyone reading their favorite of his poems. It was a total blast. 

Now I'm working on project that uses recorded poetry in an outdoor sound instillation also in an attempt to take poetry out of its normal context. Anyway, just wanted to reach out to say and right on!

Emily

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