Ted Slade wrote:
> Isn't the problem that poetry is anyway hypertextual, containing
> references, allusions, multiple meanings, non-poetic images, concealed
> rhythms, not all of which are consciously put there by the poet, and
> which the serious reader has to tease out, not by a single linear
> reading, but by repeated and close study? And if you try to formalize
> this by developing the hypertext poem in which every such nuance is
> represented by a link the reader can follow, aren't you in danger of
> destroying rather than enhancing the essential interplay between the
> reader and the poem?
Depends what kind of hypertext you're writing. If you tried to formalise
the reading to suggest that only the nuances you link to are acceptable
readings - yes, that's reducing the poem (like heavily footnoted
editions sometimes do - or copies where someone else has underlined key
passages, so it's harder to choose for yourself).
But think of a poem in three dimensions. One dimension is the temporal
direction of the poem, the flow of the story, or the argument, or the
development of feelings. The other two dimensions are the realm of
connotation, the allusions, ambiguities, wordplay, etc., to which you
referred. The hypertexter is working differently in dimension one.
Instead of leading you in a straight line, he offers a garden of forking
paths. Instead of a single street to walk down, he offers a townful of
alternatives. But you can still pause to admire statues and shop
windows on the way, and still be thrilled by a glimpse through the
curtains into someone's life.
But I'm talking as someone who writes hypertext in discrete units, with
links only at the end of each page. This means that each reader who
completes the Maze of Mirrors has read a complete poem. I'm not
personally convinced by hypertexts (like the interesting one on Peter
Howard's site) where there are links in mid-poem that can lead you off
to something completely unconnected. Here it seems connotation is all,
and you may get the incidental delights of phrase or image, but lose
completely the sense of a poet's purpose.
Ted also suggests that "the serious reader has to tease out [a poem's
meanings], not by a single linear reading, but by repeated and close
study". Well, you can always repeat your journey through a hypertext.
But I'm not happy about the formulation. Where does it leave spoken
poetry - often written on the air for a performance or two, and never
published (Shakespeare didn't publish most of his plays, for instance)?
Or those long poems (Don Juan or The Golden Gate) which we may read with
joy, but probably rarely re-read in their entirety?
Or by "serious reader" does he mean "academic reader"?
All the best
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