the week

Moving forward, it’s time to begin planning on how this project is going to take shape. In my head since the start of the semester, I’ve had this vague idea of how I wanted it to look, particularly in a digital space. I want to implement pictures from places Ginsberg has been (whether they’re taken from actual photos of his or ones I can take myself), and layer the picture with various clickable easter eggs. For example, if I have a picture of his apartment, I want the user to click a typewriter and have a poem come up, or if they click the radio, maybe a snippet of Jazz starts. Like I said, that’s how I envisioned it at the beginning of the semester, so the idea still seemed a little broad. However, I’ve honed the time period of my project down from a decade to a particular week.

From here, I’m focusing on the week in Allen’s life of when he had his vision that William Blake spoke to him for the first time – I believe that is an extremely important period in his life, and an event that made something inside him change tremendously, in terms of writer identity. In the summer of 1948, he had experienced what he could only describe as enlightenment, as he heard Blake speak to him (Morgan 103). That same time period, he was experiencing a flood of emotions – all of his friends were off doing things while he was stuck taking summer classes, Neal Cassady had rejected him, his dad was disappointed with his homosexuality, and so on. He smoked week everyday in that apartment in Harlem, alone and stuck with his thoughts. I feel like that time period has such potential in creating poetry and is pivotal in how Allen had started to think of himself, especially as a writer, and a prophet.

Thus, for my thesis, I want each section to be envisioned as each day of the week. I need to go back to his interview with The Paris Review to see if he mentions the exact date (or at least day of the week), because I want that to at least have some weight of reality. That will be my next move. The rest of the outline for the day of the week and certain events will be fleshed out after that climax.

Additionally, I know I talked about the digital space project earlier – I’ll map that out more in the future! There’s also strong possibility for a paper version, which I think is totally probable For now, though, I’m focusing on outlining the week. In a few days, I’ll storyboard more of this (mostly, after my portfolio is due for my class tomorrow!)

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allen goes digital, hailey goes on a rant

After last week’s Thesis Tank, you can say I was… inspired, so to say. Maybe a bit challenged, too. If I’m being honest, I feel like I got less out of it the experience than everyone else, and that’s okay – the panel was not a good fit for dispensing constructive criticism and guidance for my project. Besides Alan and Dr. Zamora, the only helpful response I got was from Kate Bowles, who suggested Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly, which I am yet to look into. But, even if I just got that, like I said, that’s okay! If anything, I did get something out of it – a fire to start the digital space of my project.

Additionally, since my project revolves around authenticity in personal poetics, such as Allen’s die-hard belief that the line between what you tell your friends and what you tell your audience should be blurred, I was not pleased after my part of the Tank. I appreciate guidance. I appreciate constructive criticism. I just felt like I was very greatly underestimated by some people on that panel, since all I felt like I was hearing was “don’t overwhelm yourself,” which I completely understand! I never want to take on a project that’s way too big – and this project is, in my opinion, a Master’s level project, and as such, I want to take on and produce a Master’s level work ethic and project. I’m not going to half-ass it, and I’m not going to leave it unfinished – this piece of electronic literature will be, at the end of spring semester, completed and ready to be explored and experienced by whoever stumbles across it. That’s the standard I hold myself to, and I never once thought of doing anything less.

Suffice to say, by the end of last week’s session, I felt motivated. Maybe motivated by the “wrong” reasons, but alas – I thought of the things that someone might have thought would “overwhelm” me. The only idea I had for my project that I wasn’t “sure” about was if I could implement HTML code alongside of Wix. I know a lot of Wix is drag and drop (it’s what I made my last piece of elit with, so I feel like I’m pretty skilled with the website creator), and I know it’s “limited” with those features that aren’t explicit coding. Specifically, one project idea I had came from Alan, in having some texts change upon viewing them; basically, if you click on an image of a typewriter, perhaps a rough draft comes up of a poem. Next time you click on the same image, something else is there in its place. I know Wix can’t do that on its own, so I found the code. Amazingly, it wasn’t an “overwhelming” task. Go figure.

I had to rewrite the code because I couldn’t change the font size and style, so I changed it around to fit my own purposes to test it out. It took a few tries, but I got my desired result (and I apologize right now for my… Jersey language. I just used a string of dirtier words to generate because I’m a simple girl with a simple mind.)

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Alas! The only thing I was most worried about! I’m excited to tackle the rest of the digital space. As of now, here’s the site so far – nothing impressive. I just put a picture of Allen there for now to take up space (and, if you look at the upper right hand corner, my code is still in actions. Don’t worry, that’ll get taken down). I tried looking for higher quality pictures of Allen’s actual apartment, but my searches did not yield promising results. Thus, I might just take generic 1940s apartment photos, maybe photoshop some typewriters in, so on so forth, in order to make it look like Allen’s space.

That’s all for now, unless another man underestimates me!

billy’s brother

Guess who got to return to Erie? I did! And it was not all for fun, but for business – thesis business, if you can believe it! I wanted to go back to the source for my exposure to Ondaatje’s work in order to ask questions. So, I got to grace my old adviser and poetry-guru, Dr. Jeffrey Roessner, with my presence (that’s right, y’all haven’t seen the last of me!).

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I used to go to Hogwarts for my undergrad, no biggie.
I explained the basis for what I wanted to do, and told him I was planning on a digital beat poetry project that could use the same multimodality and character-building of Ondaatje’s Billy the Kid. I then asked him if there were any other books of poetry in the same vein of Billy the Kid – after Ondaatje had written that collection of poetry, he wrote another book with a completely different form, and so on. He suggested a poem we had read in our Contemporary Poetry class (the same where we read BtK), “Ellen West” by Frank Bidart. It’s also a longer poem written in the point of view of this “historical character,” and experiments with form, although not to the same extend as BtK. Bidart takes an account of an institutionalized anorexic woman, and writes poems from her point of view, as well as implements actual medical records and the doctor’s own accounts of how the woman is doing – a very moving piece that starts to build those same multimodal experiences as how Ondaatje and other pieces of e-lit would.

We also took a look at the Northon Anthology of the American Hybrid. Honestly, we didn’t find a lot there, but I made a note to take a look at Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely – I think it might do a bit of the same experimentation of form and different elements of media, but it isn’t a character poem, so much a personal poem.

(From there, we got on a discussion about Slyvia Plath and how she [unintentionally] ruined poetry. While she and Ginsberg both were authentic and personal with their audiences, as well as self-obsessed, the content of what they were sharing were both different – my observation is that Plath was going on and on about her emotions and suicidal thoughts, while Ginsberg was talking about peoples’ assholes… and let’s face it. Assholes are way more interesting than any more of that “deep, dark” confessional stuff, but I digress.)

Additionally, as we were talking a little bit more of what I was planning on doing, and how it related to my undergrad thesis that Dr. Roessner had overseen, I had an idea of potentially how I wanted it to be digitally set up. I know I wanted to scan pictures and implement them on a website of sorts, but I think I might have the basis of the project be Ginsberg’s apartment studio from the 1950s. It will work like how you take virtual reality tours, but it’s clickable – kind of like those old PC story games in the late 90s and early 2000s.

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For example, you can click on a typewriter or piece of paper, and a poem will pop up – or click on a record player, and maybe an early recording of “Father Death Blues” or jazz will play. Part of this reminds me of an e-lit piece we explored last year, too – it was one about this woman’s life and her relationships, and you could go through the rooms and hit different objects to make different noises and to see some writing. I’ll have to go back to the Electronic Literature collection and find it when I get more into the creation of the digital space, but I’m excited.

Basically, the recap of the weekend was that I still can’t find any works that do what Billy does (on paper, anyways). It’s a mixture of persona poems, hybrid narrative, historical fiction, and interdisciplinary elements, which make it a unique work. While BtK might not have a twin, I’m certain there’s maybe a distant relative or second, second cousin that I can add to my references.