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Week 1: Poems are Parts (October 1-October 7)

Week 1: Poems are Parts (October 1-October 7)
Welcome to “Hack this Poem: A Workshop.”  In Week 1 we’ll be figuring out what we want to get from the course, and trying our hands at breaking down poems.

Who We Are.
As P2PU Community Members, we all have ownership in the learning process. That starts with finding out what we want from the course, and what our various backgrounds are.  We asked you to complete the Hack this Poem sign up form to establish what we want from the course.  Results are below.

Most of us are here to get involved with the open education movement--which is awesome! Among us, we are educators, experienced poets, members of the tech community and product designers.  

Several interesting options were mentioned as final products--including visualizations and remixes of art and words. We can’t wait to see the ideas generated!

How We’ll Work
Please try to post your tasks by Tuesday of each week. We suggest taking the next few days after that to move through your colleagues’ creations--we'll focus on feedback by Thursday of each week.  All work here will be public. P2PU's license is CC-SA, and you can find out more about what that means here.

Social Contract / Code of Conduct
1.) Be gentle. P2PU is all about discussing and diverging. But always be polite.
2.) Make your voice heard. Share it with the group if you have suggested improvements. For every week, please feel free to add more example poems if you know a better example.
3.) Participate each week. That means posting your version of the poem, commenting on another peer’s piece, and augmenting the conversation with links to other poems, etc.
4.) P2PU is both informal and serious. Activities are proposed here--post them whenever you like during the week, but be committed to it.
5.) Have fun!

Task 1: Why Does Your Favorite Poem Work?
Take your favorite poem (that you can find online) and show folks how it works.  A few ideas:

  • Visually portray the narrative of the poem in a PowerPoint
  • Draw the mechanics: convey the scaffolding of the poem and its connective bits
  • Read it aloud with a summation and post to Youtube
  • Physically mark on the poem, and scan it in, post to Flickr

Whatever your outcome is, it should complete the phrase: “this poem works because...”

Use whatever program or tool you like--we love to learn about new tools!--but please share the link (or even better, embed) in Week 1’s tasks.

Dig deeper: for your reference


Next Steps:

  • Locate your favorite poem that you can find online and show folks how it works, using any tool
  • Post both the original and your hack to the Task 1 space by Tuesday, October 4th
  • Be sure to complete the phrase “this poem works because….

All those on board, please say “Aye!”

Task Discussion

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 7, 2011, 9:18 a.m.

    Wanted to recap what we've learned this week.  Please chime in!  Also for folks who want to jump into week 2 after missing week 1. 

    • We have a great, diverse group of learners here--veteran poets and folks taking to poetry for the first time.
    • Most of us made visual representations of our poems--our “hacks” showed insight into our own interpretations of the poem.
    • Themes of land/sea, sky/lake, containment/rupture, viewer/recognition were prevalent. Pushing topics to the brink and “seeing what pops” made interesting poems.
    • We chose poems that had a strong sense of narrative that we could express to others.  Did we select them because of the assignment? Or are these the kind of poems we tend to remember?

    What Makes a Poem Work? Here’s what we say. This will be our rubric moving forward when we hack our future poems.
    Key Links to find out more:
    A Note on this Assignment: this was based on a previous exercise for Web 200: Anatomy of a Request for the P2PU School of Webcraft.  We adapted the spirit of that exercise for the principles of Universal Design for Learning.  
  • Carol Peters   Oct. 7, 2011, 6:46 a.m.

    Mary Ann, 

    I've come back to your representation of the Heaney time after time. It's a new Heaney for me, a new treasure. Your horizon line so perfectly represents the "rupture" you speak of.

    I wanted to mention Heaney's splendid vowel shift & sight rhyme from "thoroughly" to "through" that happens toward the end of the poem. Two words sight rhyme by means of their near identity, & the sight rhyme is made more poignant by the "ou" that changes from a long-o sound to a long-u sound.

    Thanks for this poem & your reading of it.

    - Carol

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 7, 2011, 8:06 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Carol Peters   Oct. 7, 2011, 6:46 a.m.

    +1 Carol.  Mary, I've been talking and thinking about the Heaney poem all week. 

  • Carol Peters   Oct. 7, 2011, 6:35 a.m.


    Re Christopher DeWeese's poem, "The Pier," I also want to point out the structuring of the sound, which is very beautiful, & in a few places remarkable suggestive of buried meanings. Beautiful examples include internal rhymes such as amusement/improve & leave/years; consonance such as timbers/mumbled; vowel sound transitions such as the "o" sound in clouds -> robe -> fog & scoots -> closer; assonance such as children/interns, planning/family, & barnacles/arms/stars/warbles/darkened/harbor; phrase rhyming such as mumbled water/messy warbles.

    Odd phrases in the poem began to make me look for correspondences, such as the mumbled water / messy warbles one I found first. A worked a long time before I saw that scoots -> closer might be reduced to "scoter," which is a common sea bird (depicted in my slide show) & scoter creates the connection to "otter" at the end of that curious sentence about a family. Similarly, the children becoming "interns" led me directly to "inland" & less directly to "this ghost I have all over my arms," a tattoo image that led me to the possibility that one internship for the children would have been as a tattooed lady. The wind -> boat-light -> semaphore is a lead-in from "sema" (root word means "meaning") to "edge of understanding."

    I know that "clouds robe the fog" has a secret meaning I've not yet found. Maybe someone here will see a possibility. I was particularly happy to find that "gull" image because it so aptly represents for me that strangeness of the "Gulls replace the stars . . ." phrase, gulls being often considered ugly/noisy birds compared to beautiful/remote stars. The final sentence sends me into a transport. Is it that trains fill [with people] in the harbor or that trains fill [all the space] in the harbor [where water was & boats might have been]? Each time I read the poem it keeps opening up to me. Which is not to say that the poet meant everything that I see & hear, but simply that the art he created, the poem, does these things to me.

  • John Britton   Oct. 5, 2011, 9 p.m.

    Here's the poem I chose:

    This Is Just To Say
    by William Carlos Williams
    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox
    and which
    you were probably
    for breakfast
    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold
    I've decided to reproduce it as a Rage Comic, which is a sort of internet meme often used to express frustration.


    Background on how I got to this:

    I'm a geek, and I know basically nothing about poetry. Over the past week I've been keeping this task in mind and stumbled across the work of Ian Bogost. I don't often read poetry, but serendipitously found his work.

    He's "a designer, philosopher, critic, and researcher who focuses on computational media—videogames in particular." Ian is most widely known for two works: "A Slow Year" and "Cow Clicker." You can read more about him on his website.

    "Cow Clicker" is a simplistic social game created as a satire of games like "Farmville." The game allows players to click on a cow once every six hours and tell your friends about it. Players can pay money to click again sooner than six hours. Quite unexpectedly the game grew in popularity, well beyond the audience that got the joke. He's got an interesting article explaining the game. From what I read, I don't think he's very happy to be known for this

    The second work, "A Slow Year,"  is a collection of games representing each of the four seasons in the style of Imagism that he developed for the Atari console.

    I eventually made my way to this post where I found the poem "This is Just to Say"

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 6, 2011, 9:03 a.m.
    In Reply To:   John Britton   Oct. 5, 2011, 9 p.m.

    John, I knew nothing about "Cow Clicker" and thanks for exposing us to "A Slow Year"--I'm a huge fan of visual poems, and "A Slow Year" seems to have the kind of intentional noticing that's the backbone of this course.  Awesome that you reproduced Williams from your lens and experiences.

    What makes the Williams work for you--it's simplicity?  It's brevity? Understatedness? 

    Glad you enjoyed the exercise!


  • John Britton   Oct. 6, 2011, 9:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 6, 2011, 9:03 a.m.

    I think what made it work was the way I came across it. There's so much out there to read that I was having a hard time choosing what to work with. Because I found it during my day-to-day browsing it was easier to stop and give it some thought.

    It's short and simple, a familiar feeling.

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 7, 2011, 12:16 a.m.
    In Reply To:   John Britton   Oct. 6, 2011, 9:13 a.m.

    Hi John!

    Haha.. loved your poem and representation of it! 'Nom nom nom' is very Angry-Birdish.. Fun!

    I felt that the poet didn't really mean it when he said 'Forgive me' though, since he was still going on about the sweetness and coldness of the plums! =P

    Since you're into anime, are you also into graphic novels? If so, you might like this poem by Neil Gaiman (of Sandman fame)

    It makes me laugh! =)

  • Carol Peters   Oct. 7, 2011, 6:38 a.m.
    In Reply To:   John Britton   Oct. 5, 2011, 9 p.m.

    Great way to represent this poem, which is one of my favorites. I'm very pleased to learn about Ian Bogost.

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 5, 2011, 11:48 a.m.

    Just wanted to echo what Tracy said--starting Saturday we will dig in on "Comparisons."  



  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 2, 2011, 6:36 p.m.

    Hi all, the discourse here has been extremely rockin'!

    The poem I chose is from, there's also a recording of the poet on the site.   I've broken down some of the narrative and the parts in a visual de/composition that you can find here

    "After the Service, the Widow Considers the Etymology of the Word Salary"

    J. Allyn Rosser


    This morning began like anyone's:
    coffee.  Mine a bitter roast
    too weak for the daytime
    that keeps me up half the night. 

    When I got where there was 
    no point really in going, 
    I had to hold every hand
    but the one.

    After negatives against
    a backlight of Before.  
    I feel I am missing 
    the correct chemical.

    Back home, I liven things up
    by microwaving popcorn:
    an edible jazz I feed to the trash
    for our walk to the curb.

    At the end of the day, one shadow
    seems made of a deeper gray:
    have I somehow earned this
    by refusing for years to fear it?

    Here at last my martini 
    embalming its hollowed olive,
    and, as apparently originally intended,
    salt for my salary, sighs for my meat.



    And the de/composition (attached)

  • speakwright   Oct. 4, 2011, 11:35 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 2, 2011, 6:36 p.m.

    I'm really digging the visual diagram. I agree with you that the logic and ironic humor of the poem is what makes it successful. The "sound" is a series of dead ends, there's not a lot of music here, appropriate for the kind of timeless self-aware shell-shock that the author is speaking about

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 5, 2011, 11:52 a.m.
    In Reply To:   speakwright   Oct. 4, 2011, 11:35 a.m.

    I think "ironic humor" is the right phrase for it, speakwright. Did you listen to Rosser read it on That was how I first encountered it--on the Slate Poetry Podcast (added to resources). Her voice added a music to it that I still hear through that shell-shocked dullness...

  • Carol Peters   Oct. 2, 2011, 7:35 a.m.

    Wow, what a new way to look at a poem. Thanks for this idea. The poem I chose is by Christopher DeWeese, you can read it here:

    I hope you can also read it here in the way I read (saw) it the very first time:

    I'll say more about other aspects of the poem later.


  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 2, 2011, 4:09 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Carol Peters   Oct. 2, 2011, 7:35 a.m.

    So intriguing! Looking forward to your analysis Carol!!


  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 3, 2011, 6:25 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Carol Peters   Oct. 2, 2011, 7:35 a.m.


    I find “The Pier” very compelling and curious. The poem has an whispy yet serious tone, captured in your image de/composition.

    I appreciated your piece’s embrace of the phrase “clouds robe the fog”---something about the slicing out of that phrase made it more interesting to me, emphasized the sound of it.

    The poem has a pace like slow mysterious boomerang--moving from the edge of understanding to gulls to stars, and eventually drops you at the reality of the speaker’s viewpoint.

    I’m interested in your sense of the poem’s time? Why interns? Seems like a point between childhood and adulthood.  What do you make of trains filling the harbor?

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it.
  • speakwright   Oct. 2, 2011, 4:06 a.m.

    Boston Ballad isn't necessarily my favorite poem, but it's one I happen to be thinking about a lot. 

    Boston ballad ppt
    View more presentations from N1mbu5.
    “Boston Ballad,” makes use of sarcasm and lampoon, and it is a little shocking to see that Whitman's writing can be unkind and ungenuine. These qualities are in direct opposition to the qualities is remembered for, and so at first the piece is stymying. Both the rhythm and attitude are unfamiliar: “I rose this morning early to get betimes in Boston town; Here’s a good place at the corner.... I must stand and see the show.”  “Boston Ballad” does not follow a traditional ballad structure, but the beat of the line is much more percussive and martial than Whitman’s previous poems, and does not mention emotion, or his usual ”unfathomably deep and tender love for humanity.” 
    In this poem, Whitman is using rhythm and meter to sound a call to arms. 
    Although Whitman could not bring himself to be a member of the abolitionist movement, we know of his sympathy towards escaped slaves from section 10 of “Song of Myself,” “The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside.... he staid with me a week until he was recuperated and passed north.” In Boston in 1854, abolitionism was becoming increasingly popular, and was fueled by the case of Anthony Burns, a literate and skilled black man, who has escaped to Boston and was working in a clothing store. He is charged with being a fugitive slave and is forced to return to Virginia with Charles Suttle through enforcement of The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, although the judge who had made the decision subsequently lost his job at Harvard Law as well as his position as a judge.
    Jonathan, then, seems, as his name suggests, not to be a particular personage, but a member of the “well-dressed,” and “orderly,” grandsons and granddaughters of the revolution who “gape,” but do not act, who are immobilized in the face of inequity and profit from their passivity. In “Boston Ballad” Whitman seems to be anticipating and urging readers towards the Civil War. 
  • Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 2, 2011, 6:54 a.m.
    In Reply To:   speakwright   Oct. 2, 2011, 4:06 a.m.

    Appreciate the juxtaposition of Whitman's words with contemporary images. I think it works well. The slideshare asks me to consider how Whitman's words resonate as citizens continue to occupy Wall Street and other cities.

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 2, 2011, 4:03 p.m.
    In Reply To:   speakwright   Oct. 2, 2011, 4:06 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this poem speakwright!

    I found it difficult to access when I read it through the first time - but your explanation, analysis and use of images really helped me to understand it a little more.

    My major takeaway from your slideshare is that good poems transcend time and can be interpreted in different historical settings! =)


  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 4, 2011, 7:14 a.m.
    In Reply To:   speakwright   Oct. 2, 2011, 4:06 a.m.

    Hi speakwright! 

    Thank you for sharing this intriduing find, and taking us deep into the historical context.  

    I think you're right that the tone created by the percussiveness is effective. Overall, does the poem work because it calls readers to action, makes them reflect upon themselves, their complicitness?

    Reading Whitman after Carol's pick, DeWeese's "The Pier" was interesting--both take up humanity's purpose but with different speakers--I contrasted Whitman's strong language and sacrasm against DeWeese's uncertaintly. 

    Be interested to hear what you think!  Vanessa

  • speakwright   Oct. 4, 2011, 11:44 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 4, 2011, 7:14 a.m.

    I think the poem works because the medium supports the message. The percussive rhythm and millitant tone strengthen the emotional effect of the poem. Some one else said they felt "stabbed," by the poem, because the narrator seems first to be praising the marching soldiers and the passive bystanders, but then attacks them. I feel the reader is prepared to sympathize with the "limpers" but really it's a guilt blow, when you realize that these are the forefathers agitating, and the very identity of the nation is at stake. Those who remain passive are "cute," as in clever, sugesting that they profit for their passivity. It really does push you the reader to take sides. It's is a pretty powerful piece of propaganda in my opinion. 

  • John Britton   Oct. 1, 2011, 5:14 p.m.


    The only problem is that I don't have a favorite poem, I'll do some reading tomorrow and see what I come up with.

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 1, 2011, 5:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   John Britton   Oct. 1, 2011, 5:14 p.m.

    Haha.. it could be anything that strikes your fancy ... happy reading!!!

    P/S: My 'favorite' poem keeps changing everytime i read sometime new and heart-stirring! =P


  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 4, 2011, 7:43 a.m.
    In Reply To:   John Britton   Oct. 1, 2011, 5:14 p.m.

    John, I had a thought--I know you're learning Polish. Thought I'd pass along a few of my favorite poets writing in Polish and see if any of them are up your alley. A few poems of theirs are further down the page. 


  • John Britton   Oct. 5, 2011, 5:35 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 4, 2011, 7:43 a.m.

    I'm working on this now and tried to read some of the Polish poems you suggested. It's kind of ridiculous, but the site says "This poem is not available outside the United States due to rights issues." I'm in Poland!

    I'm sure I'll find them somewhere else.

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 5, 2011, 7:09 p.m.
    In Reply To:   John Britton   Oct. 5, 2011, 5:35 p.m.

    Shut the front door--that's frustrating. 

    Poetry International Web has several options. Adam Zagajewski's poems in English and Polish side-by-side with audio (added to resources).  You can refine search for Polish poets.  Hope you find something up your alley.

  • Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 1, 2011, 11:58 a.m.

    My first post for week 1, based on Seamus Heaney's Postscript. I posted it on my blog. Hope that's ok.


    Mary Ann

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 1, 2011, 5:37 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 1, 2011, 11:58 a.m.

    Ah... My heart was caught off-guard both by the beauty of the poem and your response to it. Ironically, as much as Seamus Heaney claims that it' s 'useless to think you'll...capture it', I think he does - or at least the sense of it. The juxtaposition of your images gave me a further glimpse of  that drive along Flaggy Shore...

    I love your statement 'Art works that way when we make the time. We find ourselves arrived at a place of feeling that we cannot trace.  Life happens that way too.'

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Mary - it makes me want to try to capture a moment too, with words and thoughts and images.


    P/S: I've also posted this reflection on your blog, and look forward to digging deeper into it!

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 4, 2011, 8:37 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 1, 2011, 11:58 a.m.

    Splintered beauty is so so accurate Mary Ann.  I thought my favorite Heaney poems were his bog poems, but this poem may take Tollund Man's place!  

    I also noticed your light and dark contrasts, and read those images as a turbulent gray--“Working off each other” “wild” “foam and glitter” “tufted or cresting or busy underwater” all gave off a sense of unrest.

    I wonder about reading "Postscript" in light of Tracy's choice "The Thread of Life"--how both use the metaphor of where land meets the sea as a site of questioning and conflict, both immediate and distant. What do you think?

  • speakwright   Oct. 4, 2011, 11:52 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 1, 2011, 11:58 a.m.

    Seamus Heaney always seems to be able to blow your heart open with such a light hand. I can't see how he does it. The rhythm here seems like a long sustained push that finally tips at the end. The openness of the sound of the work "open"...  I don't know, this just seems like pure magic to me. I really want to see this poem hacked to peices to show how it ticks. 

  • Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 6, 2011, noon
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 4, 2011, 8:37 a.m.

    I am thinking that edges matter: land/sea, sky/lake, viewer/recognition of what is viewed.  Think this is worth returning to --the idea of edges and seeing what pops.

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 6, 2011, 12:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Mary Ann Reilly   Oct. 6, 2011, noon

    +1 Mary Ann.

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 1, 2011, 10:04 a.m.

    Hi all, smoothed out the embedding for our learner profile--et voila!

    Who We Are

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 2, 2011, 3:35 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 1, 2011, 10:04 a.m.

    Hi everyone!

    Just wanted to do a quick shout-out:

    HAPPIIEEEE BIRTHDAY VANESSA!!!!!! HAVE A GREAT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Tracy =)

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 4, 2011, 11:30 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 1, 2011, 10:04 a.m.

    Hi everyone!

    Thanks to all who have been making this space COME ALIVE! Vanessa and I are thrilled to bits with all the things that we have been learning from you!

    For those of us who haven't posted yet - no worries! Come onboard anytime that you can! We'll also post 'quick catch-ups' for each new week - so it's never too late to hop on the 'hacking' train!

    Just 3 more days till the next batch of activities.. so in the meanwhile, let's revel in the company of like-minded scribes!



  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 6, 2011, 10:55 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tracy Tan   Oct. 2, 2011, 3:35 p.m.

    Thanks Tracy :-)

  • Carol Peters   Oct. 1, 2011, 8:34 a.m.


    But I can't read the google doc, need access permission.

    I'm traveling in the 3rd world with limited Internet access, but I'll do my best to post by Tuesday before I hop on the first of 4 planes for my trip back home to Argentina.

    - Carol

  • Vanessa Gennarelli   Oct. 1, 2011, 8:56 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Carol Peters   Oct. 1, 2011, 8:34 a.m.

    Sorry Carol and all, thought it was public & have made it so :-)

  • Tracy Tan   Oct. 1, 2011, 10:26 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Carol Peters   Oct. 1, 2011, 8:34 a.m.

    Hi everyone!!

    @Carol : 4 planes! And still you write! You have my utmost respect =)

    Here's my take on what makes Christina Rossetti's poem 'The Thread of Life' work (I've only looked at the first sonnet).

    Anyone who can't see the powerpoint - please tell me!! (I'm new to P2PU too and not really sure how everything works).

    (Tech tip : It's a googledoc, so just click on 'Start presentation' button at the top bar to view it better. i know most of you know this - but I ...erhm.. didn't.. haha) 


    Have a happy creative weekend!!!