The Grey Warm Pearls Shone…

I finally got around to playing with Tom Woodward‘s Erasure Poetry SPLOT (smallest possible learning online tool?) on the VCU’s Artfulness site. I knew of the process of removing text from a page of text to create a tight, terse phrase or poem as Newspaper Blackout Poetry, and it was an early creative assignment for #ds106. But seeing the recent work Tom Woodward has done to wrap this exercise into a WordPress plugin was awesome. VCU’s Artfulness site has 3 different selections of text that you can blackout various words, sentences, etc. to make some poetry through editing. I tried the example “Biscuit,” which is a page from James Joyce’s Dubliners. Here is my final product online, and Im also including an image below if clicking strange links scares you 🙂


It’s immediately obvious I’m no Joyce, but what I loved about this exercise was how the process of going through a page of text word by word allowed me to isolate what I believed to be a water theme. The idea of pearls, waves, jets, waterproof, etc. I was also struck by the repetition of certain words and concepts again and again. In fact, my run at this process was an attempt to capture the text as if it was a series of waves endlessly, noiselessly washing over the reader. High brow, I know. But at the same time this tool immediately changed my approach to close reading of the page, not unlike how GIFs change my approach to close watching of a scene. It’s a powerful way to try an interpret a text, and leaves so much to the imagination—as great literature can.

As does this plugin! Amazing how Tom can do all this through a WordPress page, then capture it as an image or submit it to the site as part of a collection of poetry. This is a tool made for , and it really highlights beautifully the ethos behind creating small, simple tools for folks to explore an image, text, video, sound file, etc. Fine, fine work Mr. Woodward, I am remain a BIG FAN!

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9 Responses to The Grey Warm Pearls Shone…

  1. Pat says:

    Not one to self promote, but you mentioned Joyce and remixing

  2. Chris L says:

    Erasure poetry is a long-time favorite of mine. One of the few creative writing practices I still indulge in. And I mean “practice” in multiple senses because, as you say, the process of creating an erasure poem requires a close attention and reading unlike pretty much any other approach. It would be cool if one could identify the keeper words and erase the rest in one-click. Isn’t technology supposed to make everything easier and faster? 🙂

    Though, seriously, I find the process in this web version a bit dissonant, clicking (and thus focusing more) on the words I *don’t* want to keep than those I do.

    • Tom says:

      I built an parallel version where you click to expose words (with two parallel displays- more like the NYT’s version) but for this project that’s what was asked for. I find it a bit tedious for long-ish passages but I have little patience when on the Internet.

      I’ll probably offer both when I get a minute to package it all up.

    • Reverend says:

      I have to say while it was a bit more clicking than I wanted, I found it made me look and think about every word on the page. I appreciated that. I would fear the other way I might just look for works that caught my eye, maybe missing some given the closer attention required of blocking out every word I don’t want.

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