Reflecting on Composing Hyperlinked Poetry

Yesterday, I shared out a poem cycle called Capturing Myself in Hyperlink:A Poem of Connections.

A few people have asked me how I created the piece and what are the possibilities for the classroom. I appreciate all the friends on Twitter and others (Bonnie, Paul, etc) who gave me feedback as I was putting the poem cycle together.

So, here goes:

The Composition:

I wrote the main arc of the poem, knowing it would be a launching pad for smaller poems. I did not go into the piece knowing how many trunks it would have and I didn’t worry about it. Although I thought the piece should reflect the concept of identity and writing in the Web 2.0 world, I wasn’t sure how the piece would develop as a poem. So, I just wrote. It was a flurry of words and I just let it come out of me. Later, I looked at the piece and began to imagine where the connections to other poems might originate. These became parts of the links beyond the central poem.

So I moved to the smaller poems, keeping in the back of my mind the words from the main piece and then imagining how it might all come together, like some poetic puzzle. I worked in keywords that I knew could branch off later and tried like heck to keep it from sounding to false when doing that. I worried that the construction of the larger project would take away from the emotional center of the smaller poems. I really wanted each poem to be able to stand on its own and jettisoned a few that did not. Again, I tried to move around the singular theme of the main piece — how we see ourselves as writers in this changing world.

The Construction:

Once I had the words, I had to figure out how to put it together. This was tricky. I tried a wiki. Didn’t work as I wanted it. I tried Google Docs. Didn’t like it either. I went into Dreamweaver (an html builder program) and started building a webpage. I copied the code from Dreamweaver and tried to make it a page on this blog. Didn’t work. I considered Google Page Creator but it was too limiting. In the end, I decided to keep using Dreamweaver and then host the page at my band’s website. This was not ideal but it works.

I used anchors (designated points on the page), so that I could keep everything on one single page, with the links floating up and down the page. I realized early on that I needed something that brought readers back to the main poem and decided that the word “I” would be the link.

My goal all along was to create something with words, sound, image and video, and so my first attempt had podcasts built into the texts. But some friends found that all the audio started automatically (even though my html code said otherwise) on their browsers (seemed mostly with Flock). I wanted the poem to work on any browser, so I scratched that, and created little video-podcast clips that are hosted at YouTube. The images came from Flickr, with Creative Commons licenses, and I made sure to cite where they were originally located.

I used my little Flip flash video camera to record myself reading a few of the poems, for variety and some emotional impact. It was difficult to keep eye contact with the camera, since I was reading the poems. And there is a little black dot on the camera lens (inside) that annoys me. The podcasts were done using my Olympus voice recorder.

I thought it would be interesting to show all the connections among the poems, since every single one links to at least one other. So I turned to Bubble.Us to create a concept map, with arrows showing the connections. I’m still trying to figure out if the poem should stand on its own or use the map as an entry point, and I am now leaning towards stand-alone. I think the map, while a nice ancillary object, may be too distracting.

The Implications:

I already have my students doing a variation of this hyperlinked project. It is much less complex than mine, obviously, and I struggled with a publishing platform. I don’t expect to teach my kids Dreamweaver (heck, I barely know it myself) and I am not ready for a week of html lessons, either (is that on standardizes testing?).

I know you can do this type of embedded links even in Word (using a folder with multiple documents) but putting it on the Net from Word is tricky, particularly when you consider I have 80 students. In the end, I decided upon MS PowerPoint, as you can set up a project and then do internal linking within the show itself. Plus, for my students, the platform is familiar and we be using it again later this year for digital picture books.

Last week, I had my students write four short poems on a single theme and then they started to create their PowerPoints. We’ll do some finishing up later this week. They were quite intrigued with the concept of linking. My hope is to find a few that we can publish as part of the new Space student publishing project now underway. (See sneak preview of Space)

As usual, I also created a sample of a project (I always try to do the assignments I give my students) and my theme was (surprise) writing. Here is what it looks like in Slideshare (although the internal links won’t work). But you can also view the Writing: A Linked Poem Powerpoint here as a download.

SlideShare | View | Upload your ownI am open to ideas that you may have on how to extend this into the classroom.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

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7 Comments
  1. I was wondering how this kind of poetry writing would work in a collaborative group. Could they write one poem together and then each work on their individual poems to flush out the circuit. Or the reverse, they each write their own poem and then come together to write one the links their individual poems together. Either way I think you are really on to something here!

  2. Donna
    You know, I had not thought of that.
    But you could use a wiki or google docs to accomplish this, allowing other poets or writers in your circle to not only link in to your writing but also to link out from your writing.
    Interesting, eh?
    Kevin

  3. And now it makes me wonder if that is not a project worth trying with some online friends.
    Sort of like our ABC Movie project but with hyperlinked, multimedia writing.
    Something to mull over
    Kevin

  4. Kevin,

    I am doing a workshop on collaborative writing and try to get my students to work collaboratively in my classes. Working on another collaborative project would be a great model. I think you are on to another great project.

  5. I find this whole concept incredible! You are amazing, Kevin! With my love/hate relationship this week with my computer I doubt very much I could join you in the world of hyperlink, but I can still applaud you from the sidelines!
    ~jane

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