Last month I contrasted the wordle (a collage of words with size proportionate to frequency of use) of the contents of my personal profile and my friend Siona’s, and commented on how hers seemed more reflective of me than mine did.
As a second experiment, I produced the wordle above of the contents of a collection of five of my own poems, and below it the contents of my favourite poem, TS Eliot’s Four Quartets. I was kind of hoping that the result would be poetic, and it really isn’t, but it is, I think, instructive. What jumped out at me immediately were the words time and world, in both wordles. It occured to me that most poetry, as re–present–ation, is essentially preoccupied with time and space, what happened where and when. Many of the prominent words in these wordles are temporal or spacial. The word now features in both, and while Eliot’s place is the sea, mine is the forest.
If poetry is infatuated with time and space, I wondered why most poetry makes such poor use of both to make its message. Most poetry is linear, row on row, though ee cummings for example was more playful with the placement of words on the page. Even spoken poetry adds little, and sometimes even detracts from the mood and meaning, since poetry is very much a conversation in which the reader takes part, fills in the blanks from his or her own experience, adds context, which a dissonant reading can destroy.
The poem below, Swan and Shadow by John Hollander, is quite clever in its use of space.
What could we do, in the brave new world of the Internet, to make better use of time and space, in poetic ways? We know that the eye and the brain process information visually, from the centre out to the periphery, not linearly. Should we, could we write poetry that way?
We can now use video to make words move in ways that are both informative and expressive. Could we write poetry so it appears before us a few words at a time, at the speed we would read it, using text in clever and expressive ways, the way Michael Wesch uses animation to explain social media? I’ve spoken at business conferences about how visualizations can add meaning and value to information. Could they add meaning and value to poetry?
What role could/should sound and video play in enhancing, supporting, reinforcing the written poem? Is it like a spoken reading of a poem, that can make it better (if it’s well done) or worse (if it intrudes on the reader’s own sense-making about the poem)?
I’m interested in the answers to these questions in the context of poetry, because if the Internet presents us with opportunities to make poetry more communicative, evocative, ‘successful’ in some sense or other, then surely it can do the same for other written media, like blogs, newspapers, magazines, stories, novels. We have seen the addition of audio and video to these media, but in very prosaic, unimaginative ways. How could we do better? How could ‘multimedia communication’ be really innovative, integrative, reinvented from the ground up to convey feeling and meaning to us in richer, natural ways, to move us to the time and place of the writer of words, so that our conversation with him or her is more real, richer, more sensory, synaesthetic?
The Internet is itself innovative, but I can’t shake the nagging feeling that we’ve been very un-innovative in how we’ve used it to convey the meaning of language, that we’re too rooted in the hard-copy and one-way broadcast way of thinking about media. What do you think? If Marshall McLuhan were alive today, howwould he be using the Internet?
Category: Language and Communication
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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