Teaching Links as Metaphor

April 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mathias Svalina

The aesthetic impulses of poetics are not limited to the practice of poetry. One pedagogical goal I have in teaching poetry is to relate the aesthetic experience of a poem to other arts & rhetorics. The love of poetry is a lived experience that extends beyond the texts—it is a modeling & enacting of engagement practices. Also, we do not teach the basic functions of prosody & craft as rules but as practices, open to reinvention & new relations. Therefore I think one way of understanding poetry is through connection to daily experiences. The networked poetry classroom allows for a relational aesthetics, connecting prosodic practices to net-based practices such as links, chat, multiple-author docs &, perhaps most importantly, the repeated watching of videos of otters holding hands while swimming.

I’m going to present a loose lesson plan for introductory classes of creative writing & poetry lit courses that relates thinking about links to thinking about metaphor & the creation of meaning in poetry.

1. I begin by presenting the class a simple text with a link. I choose it from a well-read site, rather than anything too academic or focused on the art-world. Something like this story on fishing in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/us/31fish.html?hp.

We discuss the ways that the links in the story work: as informative background, as evidence, to identify groups. We further discuss how the links affect attention & thinking about the overall topic of the story.

I ask them to brainstorm kinds of links that would be inappropriate to the rhetoric of a newspaper article & what is so wrong about these links. They do some quick searches & then a few of them display the links that they would bring into the article to make it function more like what they would expect out of a poem.

Then we discuss how a link is made. I quickly go through the html code of a link, in case they do not know it. We discuss the decisions that go into putting a link into a story.

2. Transitioning, I show them this page from Danielle Pafunda’s blog, with a few of her “Dear Diarama” poems: http://daniellepafunda.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_archive.html

We look at the links as a tags, which have an obvious connection to the word it is linking from. Then we look at the actual image in the link & discuss the distance from the original linking word but also the way that these evocations create multiple layers of meaning in these brief poems.

I have them write a poem based on Pafunda’s process & post them to a class discussion board. (After class I ask them all to comment on how each others’ poems affect them.)

3. The next step is to return to a more traditional poem & discuss how the discussion of the linking process teaches us something about metaphor & the layering of meanings. Obviously, one could use nearly any poem here, but one I like to use is “Aspen” by Greta Wrolstad: http://www.octopusmagazine.com/issue10/wrolstad.htm#d

It is rich in metaphor at numerous levels of thinking &, in my opinion quite beautiful. (Wrolstad is a poet and artist who passed away in 2005.)

I return to our discussion of the actual coding process of making a link & discuss the making of metaphor in a poem at the craft level as well as the conceptual.

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