Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hypertext Poetry

Hypertext poetry is how I have my scholars deconstruct poems. The scholars copy a chosen poem to a webpage and then they proceed to go through the poem line by line and create links for the words, phrases, or images they imagine from the reading. These links can be graphics that serve as illustration; links to webpages that provide further explanation; or links to files they create to explicate the line. This method of deconstruction provides time for the scholars to become intimate with the poem.

Currently my scholars are working with two poems, "A Father To His Son" by Carl Sandburg and "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes. When we look at Sandburg's poem, immediately we see quite a few words the scholars may not know. I instruct them to make links to any online dictionary from those unknown words. After many of them made a link to "lucre," I heard them use that word. By attacking the vocabulary in this way, they had better access to the poem. Another serendipitous event occurred when one scholar made a link on the first metaphor, "'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'" The scholar linked on "be a rock" to a webpage, "How to be a rock in a chaotic world." The link was perfect for the poem and helped him make a connection to what the father was suggesting with the metaphor. A simple search for "guide him" provides wonderful links to movies and videos about how an adult, a mother, a father, or a mentor is either there or not there to guide. The power of these words in this line are made more powerful after the results of a simple Google search.

The links that the scholars choose provided them with further insight into the poem. What the scholars discovered was that each link had to make sense to the poem and help defend their interpretation. Besides defining words, they learned about some people.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
This is a great way for the scholars to learn, by roaming different results in a search. It teaches them about using multiple resources as they need to visit a number of them to find what they want. I could never provide this presentation in a class without computers because they have to find the links and discover about these people.

What I find the scholars doing is wandering about the Internet. They will take a word phrase and do a Google search. What they discover engages them. They learn new things, see links to the poem, and links to other pages that provide a valid or not so valid connection to the poem. I love watching them decide what the links should be from all the links they find to help them make sense of the poem. Serendipity is the word that comes to mind as I watch my scholars wander and discover.

Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son" is a very simple poem to hypertext. The great metaphor of the poem, the "crystal stair" is so often illustrated. Searching for "ain't" and "I'se" provides the scholars with better insight into language. Doing these types of exercises and spending time in the very mundane chore of deconstruction provides the scholars with a greater appreciation of deconstructing a poem so they get a better understanding when they explicate the poem in their essay.

This method of play by using hypertext links to deconstruct the poems is a very thorough way to help each scholar find the theme of the poem and express that knowledge in a creative and personal way.

Some examples:
Arnold, Brengi, Dariles, Illyanna, Jonathan, Justin, Kenrich, Seneya, Stephanie are just a few to view.


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