Project 1: Poetic Illumination

Due: Friday, September 16
Objectives: Digital Annotation & Close Reading
Grade: 20% of final

Your first formal assignment will require you to use Poetry Genius to annotate a poem. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the website. Sign up for an account and explore. Pay attention to how the website organizes different texts, how users comment on and discuss annotations, and how or why annotations accrue value (IQ points) within the social network of users. The next step will be finding a poem that has not yet been posted to Poetry Genius. You will need to do that by visiting the library—try starting in the basement. There you will pick a poem that captures your attention. If it’s a very long poem, pick an excerpt that can stand alone (fewer than 100 lines is prudent). Transcribe the poem in a plain text file. If you have questions about transcription, check out The Smithsonian’s Transcription Center or the Scriptorium.

As you transcribe the poem, note any lines that stand out to you. When you close read, you observe facts and details about the poem. For most of the poems, this will require you to look up allusions and references to other works of art or to unfamiliar names. Your aim will be to notice some of the formal techniques that the author uses to convey and heighten the poem’s significance. Be sure to keep an eye toward the overall meaning of the poem as well. Use Voyant and Poemage to help notice patterns from a distance.

Working in groups, you will annotate your own poem as well as someone else’s. You should add at least five annotations to your own poem, then add two more annotations to poems posted by other people in your group. Use hyperlinks to add basic information, photos, videos or links that help explain words, phrases and lines. For full credit, use at least one hyperlink, one image, and one video. Once you have strong annotations, you’ll be in a good position to write a more holistic interpretation—what literary critics call a close reading.

Explain patterns that you’ve noted in the annotations. Are there any repetitions, contradictions, or similarities? How does the author use character, point of view, setting, imagery, symbolism or style to convey meaning? The final draft of your close reading should be  about 3 pages (750 words). Submit it typed with twelve-point font (Times New Roman or Cambria) with your Poetry Genius username in the heading. Your interpretation should reflect a unique reading of a single text and should demonstrate careful engagement with what happens on the page. The final grade will be based on the accuracy of your transcription, the thoroughness of your annotations, and the quality of your close reading.

Check out this page for an example.