Critical Voice by Terry Locke

Poetry and hypertext

Thinking about writing poetry using hypertext as a medium raises a number of interesting questions. The main one for me is relates to the question of allusion and intertextuality. Does the hotlinking of an allusion somehow detract from the pleasure of the text for a reader? Or does it enrich reading? What about the addition of sound and visual images? Does the explicit indication of an intertextual frame somehow disempower the reader by, in a sense, robbing them of the opportunity first off to establish their own connections?

In a Bulletin Board posting, a former English teaching colleague wrote: “When I was reading the poem ‘In Train’ I found they interrupted what could have been an aesthetic response, partly because the different colour made them ‘leap out’ at me (whereas maybe they wouldn’t have, if in the same colour); partly because, once my attention was on them, I felt impelled to make the link. Somehow doing that turned the experience into something else, certainly something ‘secondary’, maybe a conversation with the poet about the creation process? The experience of reading the reviews was different: it didn’t matter whether the links were there or not: the whole experience felt ‘secondary’.”

The terms “primary” and “secondary” are ones I introduced into a discussion of reading (specifically literary) texts in a course-based online discussion. I think of reading as a social, cognitive and technologised practice. By primary response, I’m thinking (perhaps too loosely) of the sorts of responses a reader makes to a text in drawing on their own store of, say, non-verbal images and culturally constructed meanings. In writing the last sentence, I was tempted to write the word “unprompted” after “drawing”. But of course, a text is itself a network of “promptings”. I may be, then, a question of the promptings we are prepared to tolerate versus the ones we experience as irritants and controllers.

Anyway, as indicated in the Index page, this site is about experimentation and exploration. There is a link below to my own experiment in hypertextual poetry.

NB. Some poems in the “Prelude” and “Walking the Heaphy Track”
sequences need Macromedia Flash Player which you can download free.

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