Yeah, yeah, I know, 2012 began a few months back now. Well, yes, I guess it did but the academic year just began a few weeks ago, so I’m going with that calendar.
Now that I’ve had a few weeks to settle in I’m really getting into my research. I can’t believe I’m allowed to just read and write about what I love for 20 hours a week! I keep looking over my shoulder to see if someone is getting ready to tell me off.
My research to date has been about Robert Crawford. I’ve been doing some close readings of some of his poems and literary criticism. Robert Crawford is a Scottish poet who has written a lot about technology and its impact on people. Crawford’s technology is all about social and political change, well-grounded in people and nationalism. I never realised the importance of technology during the 80s in Scotland. I guess the American modernists were in a similar position in that progress in science and technology was considered hugely important and patriotic at the time, it was tied up with the wider national identity and emotions. A Scottish Assembly (Crawford’s first book of poetry) was published in 1990, just at the end of this influential period.
Reading Crawford’s chapter ‘Modernist Cybernetics and the poetry of Knowledge’ in The Modern Poet. I came across this:
Modernist allusion functions as a hypertext system, taking the reader continually from one reference to another, setting up complex relationships among texts within texts. The older, manuscript-based analogy of the ‘palimpsest’ is too simple to express how a poem like The Waste Land works. It sets up so many simultaneous relationships, transmits such a multitude of messages, that it offers us a vast database, a growing library of texts, bridges between them, and connections between cultures. Its complexity is a cybernetic one which anticipates the computer age at least as much as it derives from earlier forms…. The modernist poem is a deliberately coded work. (p190)
I was pleased to read this as I had been contemplating the history of this kind of writing after hearing Rachel Blau Du Plessis read on the 22 of March. It struck me that her work was very much a product of the internet age - had a very hypertextual nature. She had quoted Pound as an influence on her (as did Crawford). I hadn’t known what to call this kind of writing and described it to myself as analog hypertext.
In my notes about her I said:
Rachel talked of the whole epic as a brain trying to remember what’s going on, hence some repetition and looping back. She sees the whole poem as a grid with 19 poems in a column and 6 columns = 114 poems. The initial reason for this form was to combat the fear of a blank page. She wrote the first two pieces – ‘it’ and ‘she’, and they were in discourse with each other, she knew there would be more but wasn’t sure how many to do. At first she thought he’d do 100 like Dante (Pound also) then after she’d done 19 she saw them as a long string without a break (she described it like a long string of French knitting!) and decided to insert a column break of sorts. This was a random number but turned out to be fortuitous in that it’s a prime number. She said George Olsen does that too (see wide-open page).
She spoke of drawing coloured lines of connected and re-occurring themes and ideas through the grid to create streams or weave. I said that I thought her work lends itself to hypertext and she agreed. Her work is like a precursor to hypertext, she’s asking your brain to create and recognise the analog hyperlinks (I guess many poets do this in a way but hers seems very intentional).
So I now feel like I’ve confirmed a starting point to trace this kind of writing back to and that it is a valid notion. I am also relieved that it seems to begin with the Modernist, since that is as far back as I wanted to go when exploring the influence on the contemporary poets.
So that’s where I’m at…