Transcending ideas on a page to a screen
Where did the substance stem from?
How do the elements blend together? Where does this poem, the imagery, and overall effects connect otherwise?
What did the journey of constructing consist of?
A Letter to You, Dear Viewer
Viewer. You view the text, you view the images, you view the motions of people, objects, and space on a screen. Traditionally, I viewed both you and myself and as readers, humans challenged to read between lines of text and detect certain elements, themes, emotions portrayed through the way words move me. Text is so universal, used by every modern author, used by me as I type this message to you. But through the course of this semester, I have been challenged in this class to examine the implications that arrive with not only examining visual literature, but creating, manifesting, and transcending ideas into mediums of technology and selective graphics. As The Digital Manifesto by Paul Baepler and Thomas Reynolds truthfully mentions, our culture values expressing ideas across 'multiple modalities'; expanding our competency of skills in literary analysis (this is not to be confused with pushing out old skills to make room for new).
The intentions of this course included:
1) Gaining confidence, experience, and valuable knowledge in working with technological software such as Camtasia
2) Navigating self-expression using different types of media such as comic graphics, films, images, soundscapes (audio), spoken narration, and of course, text. The course is dubbed with the slogan “It must be personal,” after all!
3) Being open to the amount of organic work the course entails; it’s harder to frame how much energy and time will be invested in a piece, because it just depends on the nature of the video construction rather than the length of a paper assignment.
In middle school, I was an avid, amateur movie-maker and smiled at the thought of getting back into that expressive side I knew I had in me. But the approach of multimedia expression was challenging in ways I didn’t expect it to be, as working with literary pieces shifted the entire dynamic from pure originality and fun into creating dynamic, sustaining, and compelling pieces. Often, I experienced exasperation I had when I invested many hours into carefully editing only 1 or 2 minutes of video, or when I felt like I couldn’t cohesively project all my thoughts smoothly and (most importantly), concisely in a video. I am a slow speaker naturally, and I felt this elongated some of my works instead of attributing to a better analysis. After uploading a video, part of me was relieved but another was itching: did I really achieve the look and feel I wanted? Was I spending too much time on creation and less on critical analysis prior? Even little aspects like the way my voice sounded funny as narration, or the limitations (even though they had plenty of options, I was just picky) Camtasia had.
150 is all about methodology. And though my methods of examining literature were tested, in the end, it was rewarding. My pieces are not as compelling as some of my previous works (blog entries, essay responses), but I believe this is something I have improved upon over the course of the semester. Trying to take my language, analysis, reflection and speak about it, create visuals, and choose sounds and transitions to accompany the same feeling – this is what I hoped to at least get my feet wet in. With this as my goal, I believed I achieved it, and am excited to present to you what I have been able to craft.
My favorite driving force was the concept of a dream I wove into each piece created – dreams, often overlooked or trivialized or simply drained from their magic. You will see that this idea is touched upon often in my words. Dreams are so indispensable, so driving for human beings in their choices, morals, decisions, works of art. Often times, it is a challenge for me and my college peers not to unintentionally trivialize this gift we are able to have – to be bogged by expectations, being defined by grades or our resumes, to relapse into ‘default positions’ and allow automatic emotions to dictate what we feel and think in our busy, clouded schedules. We must go beyond and be aware and dig so deep into ourselves that it may be scary, uncomfortable, or alien. That what this course is about. “It must be personal.” We must be open to dreaming so big and doing everything in the chase of that lifelong journey. A dream. It’s a key method for how people live their lives – and thus, it’s a key method I wanted to shine in my own methodology for this class.
So dear reader, I hope you enjoy. I hope you view each of these varying stories and are still inspired to unceasingly, vigorously, irrevocably dream.
-A whimsical soul
"January 24th Blogpost Excerpt: Use this place to shake off the dust, That's turned me to rust. No more going through the motions. Be creative. Don't be afraid to speak up. Think critically."
Baby Steps into Camtasia
Though not a requirement of this portfolio, I wished to include my first exposure to Camtasia, which was to visually depict the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Not only was it my first tasting of using this new editing software, but also included my first close encounters with my fellow classmate Amy. She provided excellent ideas and creative material choice based on the theme of color in the poem, with white and red. Using her memory of a video watched at church, we were able to come up with a story to tell. Adding music and working together to piece the stanzas together, I loved the product we were able to generate. Though I do wish this course was more collaborative at times, I so appreciate the synergistic energy that we as classmates were able to share with each other online. I thought it was a little funny how both our work and feedback were delivered through the realm of digital literature, and that I would hear comments from usernames but never know who it really came from when I walked in every Tuesday and Thursday in person. The support and criticism my classmates provided I so appreciated, and they really allowed me to shape up my works into more detailed, polished, and representative structures of my mission.
Notes From My Peeps
I really love how you used a lot of overlapping to really build on your e-poem. It introduced an element that I would not have thought to use. I think replaying the same instrumental through out your piece helps viewers to really focus on your message and not get so distracted by different sounds/music. It seems that you really wanted to the viewer to pay attention to your images and the words of the poem. I'm thoroughly impressed. Great job! -Briahnna_Bass16
I enjoyed the movement and overlapping that you created in this e-poem. The music was great and had an inspirational tone. It really had a nice aesthetic and it was easy to follow along. Great job! -Chelsea_Cronin
2. For my E-poem Walkthrough:
The March Madness for poetry was a really interesting concept, and I loved getting to hear that personal side of your selection. But, I also really liked hearing about your source choices as well. Good job! -bradyle
3. For my Poetry Essay:
This is really an intriguing poem, and I enjoyed learning more about it in your essay. To me, it seems especially difficult to unpack, so I admire you for tackling it! I agree that displaying only the 5th stanza out of context, does the piece damage, and seems like a failure to appreciate the poem holistically. It is especially clear here that you did your research!
I would love to hear more about your personal interpretation of the poem as it relates to your research on the two very different locations in which it is displayed. I love your interpretation: “to appreciate the moment of silence after the blackbird’s whistle could be a way death is expressed, or coped with” Maybe expand more on this! I like where you’ve started to take this, and would love to read more about it. -Emily Danes
I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud: The Highlight of My Semester
I thoroughly discuss my source of inspiration, Youtube make-up artist and empower Michelle Phan, and visual sources and choices in my E-poem walkthrough.
"Febuary 16th Tweet: In love with layering music, images, and the smallest of detailed transitions to craft something unique, vivid, and personal." :) #epoem #ilit
Ellie Goulding - Beating Heart (Instrumental) by Batrisya Sasha
Walking Through a Field of Daffodils
"April 29th Tweet: This class may seep into my life, but as I say, let the show go on. If literature isn't self-revelant, what is it? It must be personal." #ilit
A Deeper Look into Sources
1. A good strategy might be to take viewers through the use of sources.
2. You can use a video callout or some other text-based technique to deliver this information.
3. For much or our web-gathered media (images, video, music), these will be the author, the title, and the URL.
4. The MLA Handbook suggests using questions like who, what, how, where, and when to evaluate sources.
5. The walkthrough video will be built around guiding the viewer through your use of sources in a meaningful way.
6. Finally, since you are becoming more familiar with Camtasia, you might challenge yourself to explore some new composing moves or to otherwise make as full a use of the video medium as you can. (I used more colorful callouts!)
7. You might make an effort to play some of the materials you are citing to help demonstrate them--balancing your narration with weaving the materials into the walkthrough.
No Country for Old Men
a. Does it betray its source
b. Is it its own, or a book interpretation?
c. Does it leave the source b/c of a new cultural or historical context?
d. The list goes on, but essays can address all these angles!
View this video for more analysis:
Spring Break with The Watchmen
Each van trip we took through the streets of Atlanta meant another chapter for me to unveal in Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbon’s The Watchmen. Ironically enough, I did feel a little bit like a superhero myself, as I was in Atlanta on a service trip, driving to different organizations and communities in order to learn about pressing issues and efforts to cultivate better solutions to holistic, complex problems like homelessness, hunger, crime, education, the environment. The list goes on. I can eagerly say that the Watchmen had similar intentions – bettering their communities by stopping crimes, thefts, and establishing themselves as trusted individuals working for the health of the world.
But this is where the line ends between nostalgic Justice League cartoons and the world of the Watchmen. Dissecting this comic was almost the equivalent of watching a less-funny version of Tim Miller’s Deadpool: it was time to flip the conventions of “being a superhero” on its head, exposing the complications of opposing opinions and the raw humanness of these characters – The Comedian’s oppressive history with women, Jon’s seeming unconcern with humanity, Lori’s desire for protection from male figures (without a father her whole life), Rorscach’s dark past and even darker approach to ‘making things right,’ and of course, Adrien Veidt’s crazy yet justified vision of a united world in midst of nuclear war by methods of killing, deception, and secrets.
Laced with political pokes of Richard Nixon’s presidency as well as the end of the Vietnam War for the U.S., and historical context of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, The Watchmen reveal concerns for hierarchy, human determination, and the fear of apocalypse. With so much destruction, heartbreak, and distrust (call in the Keene Act) swarming in The Watchmen, it’s a wonder to me at times how critically acclaimed and praised the piece is. For one thing, its refreshing in its use of real-life events, complications, and characters, complex and layering in their own ways – they deal with real violence, abuse, and crime in varying ways. This is similar to how both the Cohen brothers and Cormac McCarthy describe the system of justice and goodness amidst an unpredictable world. In terms of this portfolio, the take away for the themes of resilience, acknowledgement of the convoluted, and the concept that ‘life goes on’ is clearly tied up in the cover shown above, as well as the below panels.
E-Poetry: Death and Dreams of Wallace Stevens
But after reading 13 Ways, I detoured from this; parts of my piece definitely reject this more ‘formal’ lense (rather than a more romantic one) that I approached the study of Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. In complete honesty, this poem was highly puzzling and confusing for me at times, but I hoped to draw conclusions with the perspective of Wallace as the author. The use of a special environmental lense helped me pull out more specific ques on the pieces.
Hartford and New York City present unique representations of Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways. It is visible that physical environment, sonic landscape, and experience shifts the way someone reads a piece, views and deciphers a text, influences their interpretation of a work. Interpretation of a poem can always be conducted - but how it is done so is beautifully specific according to how much context is given, how long of a process of reading a poem is, how an author's life and work is commemorated in a popular city or with a winding path.
The 5th stanza of Thirteen Ways of a Blackbird, featured on New York City’s Library Walk.
The map of the Wallace Stevens Walk located in Hartford, Connecticut.
The 11th granite marker on the Wallace Stevens Walk is at the corner of Terry Road and Westerly Terrace where the poet lived.
Physical Spaces of the Blackbird
How is the evaluation of “Thirteen Ways” distinguished when we experience it on a bronze plaque or on concrete slabs rather than a laptop screen or on paper? And do the glimpses we catch leave us with different conclusions, some more open or specific than others? The two engravings prompt us to consider the relationship between the fifth stanza and the entire poem. We might start with the cutting and signature style of the poem. There exists Asian influence through Stevens’s unconventional use of Japanese haikus. He utilizes technical structures to describe the abstract image of a blackbird as well. The way it is presented in its two physical forms, the stanza may very well be cast as Stevens’s dying words of remembrance. Its removal from the context of the poem as an entirety isolates this portion in a definitive, emphatic manner:
“I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections,
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.”
Stanza five of “Thirteen Ways” is adjacent to the steps of the New York Public Library on the sidewalk of 44th Street. The text is discernible with shadows on a bronze plate embedded in the concrete. Thousands of citizens pass by this excerpt of Stevens’s, integrated as a part of an international collection of poem lines on the Library Walk, a “literary catwalk” as journal editor Bart Eeckhout describes it. Marked with the author’s name and title, it is decorated with two sets of bird footprints encircling the text on the left and right sides. Majorie Perloff, an editor of the Wallace Stevens Journal, spends one edition zooming in on the fifth stanza, the piece that is featured on New York’s Library Walk, reporting that this section is “a lyric that could serve as epigraph for Stevens’s entire corpus” (24).
The second is etched in Hartford, Connecticut, the town where Stevens pursued his literary career. On Aslyum Avenue’s north side, connected to the Saint Francis Hospital, one may have a hard time finding the fifth stanza. It is inconspicuous, hard to see, and on a path that wraps the asylum; just black text with a roman numeral V is present in the naked concrete. To the north and south lay the remaining twelve stanzas of the blackbird, painting his craft “between his home on Westerly Terrace and his office on Asylum Avenue” (Eeckhout, 6).
As a part of PMLA’S 2011 study of New York’s Library Walk, Daniel Tiffany elaborates on the plaque and its gravestone-like style. He suggests, “[it] addresses the phenomenon of disappearance, suggesting that physical absence makes possible an alternative (and perhaps preferable) mode of being” (Yaegar, 19). This stanza follows right after “A man and a woman and a blackbird are one,” indicative that they all succumb to the same fate someday. As creators, as people who experience generations of stories, we all follow the same path to our end, and lifespans can never be brought back. The blackbird whistling could be Stevens’ time on earth; the silence following could be when his work is truly revered and “preferred.” Reading the work of a soul gone, as the stanza suggests, may be more influential and transcendent.
Stanza five is laced with possible conclusions. “I do not know….” offers an unsure tone rather than a clear aphorism, which is typically sought after in the face of death. There’s a mathematical relationship in this set of lines: inflections or innuendos, before or after – like a chemical equation of neat reactants and products, a distinct black-and-white set of choices to think about in the blackbird’s song. The inflection indicates a variation in tone, the birdcall’s ranging chirps. A suggestion of this tune is implied in the silence that follows the whistling, an existence or image of life that remains after death. And the poem puts the innuendo after the inflection. Since an innuendo also supposes another conclusion to come, time almost restarts as the afterthought leaks to or suggests another thought.
The play with sound stands out in the poem’s physical environment as well. Thousands of citizens walk past the NY library each day, but how many stop to think about these five lines? (Eeckhout). In a bustling New York City, with the sound of drills and traffic and geese squawking, with no silence or peace of mind, this depth of thinking, this message – it may be cursory, perfunctory, and glossed over. Moreover, the isolation of this stanza can leave many without the context that might further guide our engagement. What can we understand about the blackbird without the first four stanzas, for instance? The transition from “twenty snowy mountains” to “autumn winds” that occurs in stanza three may indicate a shift of three seasons, a time passing and thus a new lesson learned; so much of the poem depends on its entirety, as analyzed further on.
Novelist Robert Musil says, “the most conspicuous thing about memorials is that one does not notice them. Nothing in the world is as invisible as memorials” (qtd. in Lütticken 308–09). The path depicting the thirteen stanzas in Hartford may face opposite challenges of the New York stanza. It could be argued that the location of the epigraph is too remote, or that it was not constructed with enough clarity and richness in presentation, as the words stand blank in native Connecticut granite.
And yet this homage to a great poet may belong right in this spot. “Such seems to be the opinion, at least, of the Academy of American Poets, which has celebrated the Wallace Stevens Walk as ‘one of America’s three best public art projects honoring a poet’” (Finnegan). It is the handful of those in the same physical context as he; these are the souls that will witness this walk. It is appropriate here. As we wander the path, we will see the landscape Stevens once saw, thought about, lived around. As we view his words etched next to the invisible footsteps he took, we can hear him reading to us – feel an influence in the atmosphere. Each of the stanzas can be read, appreciated, reflected upon in the time that it takes to reach the next one.
Richness entwines this piece. Walking the two and a half miles in quiet suburbia, one may notice and process much more than the average New Yorker. Here, the movement of the reader also fits with the poem which does not follow traditional haiku but does play upon its style of strategic patterns. Stanzas 1, 2, and 9 are shown to have 3 lines each, and five other stanzas (5, 6, 7, 8, and 13) represent 3 line units as well. These patterns can be strung together more visibly with the layout of the poem: “What we could call the Hansel-and-Gretel technique of dropping a few stones along the way makes intrinsic sense when we recall that ‘Thirteen Ways’ is ‘a fragmentary and imagistic poem that is well suited to being experienced in parts’” (Eeckhout).
The 2.5 miles of the Wallace Stevens walk is a small journey that evokes the poet’s life the reading of the poem. Stanzas 2 and 3 explain inhabiting space, as described as parts of three minds, three perspectives – a man and a woman and a blackbird. Darkness enters the scene after the highlighted epigraph stanza, icicles draping the window, a source of light and link to the outdoors, “barbaric glass” in sight. The blackbird pacing, casting its shadow, an indecipherable mood. It could be that we don’t know what exactly to think about death – mourning, acceptance, regret, inevitability. The allusion to the thin men of Haddam questions the glorified image of death – not a golden bird to honor those passed, but simply a blackbird that truly roams among their women and children; death is death, no matter how gloriously invoked. And when death exited the scene, it left behind its mirage as described in stanza nine. Images like these are lost without the entire context of the poem – possible deeper conclusions are forfeited. Simultaneously, these stanzas are arguably purposefully distinct and meant to be consumed in a spaced-out manner for a sensual delivery; this would explain the unique set-up of the Wallace Stevens Walk.
Stanzas ten and eleven showcase the frightening effects of the blackbird upon people, eliciting fear, “The shadow of his equipage/For blackbirds” (Stevens). The distinct isolation of “For blackbirds.” as a line on its own is simply one example of how Stevens utilizes technical structure to further corroborate the theme of dreaded death in this piece. As the river moves and life transitions on, so does death, a yin-and-yang circulation of events, one existing only in light with the other. Evening bleeds into afternoon, overtaking it (in stanza 13); the blackbird is pertinent and omnipresent. Like a vulture, it remains in the trees amidst the snow, coming full circle with the opening presentation in stanza one.
Hartford and New York City present unique representations of Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways. It is visible that physical environment, sonic landscape, and experience shifts the way someone reads a piece, views and deciphers a text, influences their interpretation of a work. Interpretation of a poem can always be conducted - but how it is done so is strikingly specific according to how much context is given, how long of journey the reading is, how an author's life and work is commemorated in a popular city or with a winding path. To examine the signature style of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” with a close-up view and an overall appreciation is what can be done through these two specific locations.
Didier, B. New York Public Library. 21 November 2004. New York City.
Eeckhout, Bart: Editor's Column: The Beauty of Epigraphic Blackbirds (or Just After)
Wallace Stevens Journal (35:2) Fall 2011, 149-159.
Finnegan, James. “What would Wallace think?” Wallace Stevens Discussion List. 8 July 2010.
Web. 23 Jan. 2016.
Lesekreis. Library Walk New City. 9 February 2014. New York City.
Lindquist, L. W. "Walk to Work with a Poet." Tweetspeak. Tweetspeak Poetry, 26 Aug.
2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.
Lütticken, Sven. “The Invisible Work of Art.” The Urban Condition: Space, Community, and
Self in the Contemporary Metropolis. Ed. Ghent Urban Studies Team (GUST).
Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1999. 308–23. Print.
Perloff, Marjorie. “Beyond ‘Adagia’: Eccentric Design in Stevens’ Poetry.” Wallace Stevens
Journal 35.1 (2011): 16–32. Print.
Poisson, Cloe. Stanza Eleven. 2011. Wallace Stevens Walk, Hartford.
Stevens, Wallace. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry
Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 January 2016.
"Wallace Stevens." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.
Yaeger, Patricia. “Editor’s Column: The Library Walk.” PMLA 126.1 (2011): 9–37. Print.