I have a friend who is wonderful, and also about to embark on thesis made of poems that deal with the paradoxes of infinity. He likes to mix maths into his poetry. I have a couple of essay collections about the intersection of contemporary poetry and science, and in an effort to help (sort of) I offered to lend these books to him (The Measured Word ed. Kurt Brown and Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science ed. Robert Crawford). In the process of digging them out of my very spindly book case, I read a few of the essays. It seems a mark of how much my mind has opened up in the ten months or so since I first read these books of quite how much the ideas presented struck me.
Most important to what I experienced yesterday was Stephanie Strickland’s essay ‘Seven-League Boots: Poetry, Science, and Hypertext’. Even more importantly, it is archived and available to read online here.
This exchange between you and I is hypertext. The internet is the largest and larger hypertext. A hypertext, defined by Strickland, is fundamentally thus:
In a hypertext, any part can link to any other, or be unlinked, or re-linked, at any time. Hypertexts live on computers. There is never only one way to read them.
She argues that the poem too is hypertext, can be hypertext.
I agree that some poems, at least, exist as hypertext.
Particularly some of the poems from Warsaw Bikini, a book of poems by Sandra Simonds. I have read this book a few times, and most often I enjoy it. It’s quite a deluge to read all at once. Reading it again, this past week, it struck me that I was drawn to the shorter, tighter, more lyric poems, such as ‘Tomorrow’s Bright Bracelets’, rather than the poems that sway across the page, long and unapologetic in detouring and getting lost.
Tomorrow’s Bright Bracelets
Winter lungs are white trees.
Winter lungs are bare white trees.
There are no ornaments because this isn’t Christmas.
Put a silver ribbon in your hair.
Put on all of your bright bracelets and walk out into the feathered snow.
My eyes are pale like a crust of ice over a long river.
What would the gift-givers say if they saw us now?
What will they tell the world?
And when you are home: Open
all of the windows in your small house- take off
all of your clothes, and then take off all of your underclothes
and watch your flushed cheek turn grey in the mirror.
I love this poem. I wish I had written it. When I read it, and type it, it feels almost as if I could have done. However, my point is that on this read through I felt less love for the longer poems. An example, the opening poem ‘I Serengeti You’ or ‘Ponce de Leon as a Floridaphile’, to a lesser extent ‘Dear Montana’ which is published in GutCult.
I realised though, after reading Strickland’s essay, that these poems, in order for me to enjoy them fully, needed to be released from my imposed lyric and more narrative reading. Released into hypertext.
To read as a hypertext is to find your own way through a poem. To make connections in a non-linear fashion. To link and relink and unlink. In this way, the poems that seemed too much, a deluge, became an opportunity. Dynamic.
So thank you hypertext. You are making me connect.