Follies in Project Design

Project Completion

Dec 15, 2021

After 4 months, after countless hours of pouring over poetry, scribbling in Photoshop at the dead of night, reflecting on reflecting, my project is complete. I feel immensely proud to have been given the opportunity to demonstrate my skill and hone my craft these 4 (well, 4 and a half) years, and I believe that this project is the culmination of all that I have learned. Looking back over everything I’ve done over the semester, the poetry and accompanying artwork, I can see that I’ve used this project as a vehicle for my own emotional expression, venting the negativity within me to create a dark and brooding atmosphere on each page. For some time I was quiet… embarrassed by this trajectory I had put myself upon; it felt show-y and over sentimental, but I’m very glad that I allowed myself to express unhindered.

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Discoveries from Networking

Dec 07, 2021

While word-counts and N-gram/concordance plots are interesting in their own right, the crown-jewel of text analysis is, in my opinion, networks (NTA). They’re extremely useful in visually representing for an audience the intricate, interwoven nature of a piece of text, demonstrating how two or more aspects of a text (characters, settings, themes, word choice, etc.) are related to one another. They can be stunningly beautiful, while also providing a great resource for better understanding a work! When constructing the network for my poetry, I came across multiple, interesting insights into my body of work that I had not previously even considered, similar to my other escapades into analysis. I had no idea that my poems were so interconnected in the way that they are, that you can draw a path from one poem to another through shared themes so easily. Take, for example, the two poems Virga and Clockface. I wouldn’t expect any relationship between these poems on the surface, but with the network, you can reveal that they share not one but two topics: Fear and Imagery. Something true of both, yet they are so different in their core…

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Poetic Composition

Nov 22, 2021

Something that my professor and I have been pondering of late is the proverbial “home” and nature of the work within this project; In what format or medium, exactly, does the poetry “live?” Where is it most true to my intentions for it, where is it most honest? I’m not sure I really have an answer, but to begin to delve deeper into the topic, we can start where I do: conception. Every poem in this project began as an idea stashed away in a note on my phone, always available to me whenever inspiration strikes. As I think on it more, I begin building the bones of my poem in my head, sounding out the initial word choices and tempo/rhythm. After this, I sit down to “officially” write my poem in a notebook I keep on my desk, safe at home, each line and stanza carefully handwritten.

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Reflections on Other Works

Nov 12, 2021

My advising professor recommended to me a few works to reflect on as my project nears its end. William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, for some of its similarity to my own work, and J. R. R. Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle, for its commentary on the artistic process. William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience is all about duality, that much is obvious. More specifically, I feel as though this collection is contrasting the variance in humanity, life, and virtue. There is a surprising amount of variety in topic across all of the poems, but they're connected with this through line of contrast. I think the pair, Infant Joy (Songs of Innocence) and Infant Sorrow (Songs of Experience) are perfect examples. They're short poems that both tell the story of a child's birth. You have the Joy poem centered around the bliss of creating new life, from the dual-perspectives of child and mother, joined in their happiness. Then Sorrow, where only the child's view is expressed, and the tone of the poem is sullen. The baby unwanted by its parents, by the end it has nothing left to do other than sulk.

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More Revelations in Analysis

Nov 3, 2021

I’ve conducted more analyses on my own poetry. This time, I’m looking at N-grams (sequences of ‘N’ words/text). This is sometimes more helpful to look at than just individual words alone, as they can give a better understanding of the patterns of writing and commonly used phrases in a piece of text. I looked at the whole of my poetry collection so far, as well as two individual poems (Host and Hollow, as they’re reminiscent and might be interesting to compare). My most used N-grams of interest are: “I can,” “can feel,” “the eyes,” “my body,” and “to burst.” Again, lots of focus on feeling, on personal experience and sensation, and those damned eyes!! Analyzing Hollow and Host didn’t give me much, as they’re not very long poems, but I did want to briefly touch on the concordance plots as they contrast (and reflect) one another.

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The Work of Allison Parrish

Oct 28, 2021

Allison Parrish is a poet and a programmer who intermingles these two worlds brilliantly across her many projects. You can find her full portfolio here. I wanted to explore her work and reflect on it as some of what I’m doing currently with this project approaches some of her ideas. While looking through her work, I found myself coming back to her Reconstructions site. The project is (to quote her) “an infinite computer-generated poem whose output conforms to the literary figure of chiasmus.” Lines are pulled from poems in the Gutenberg Poetry corpus and randomly selected to be conformed to an ABBA scheme. It continues infinitely until the page is closed. The idea of a poem that is literally never-ending, going on forever if you let it, is so completely fascinating to me. The words are nice, sometimes a particularly poignant combination of lines is created, but obviously the significance of a work like this is its infinity. A wonderful detail of the site is that as new lines are added, older ones are raised to the edges of the screen, made translucent and faded, but they never disappear. They're memory is preserved on the page, always a part of the full poem, even as it grows larger and larger.

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To Query Poetry (While Writing It)

Oct 13, 2021

As I noted in my previous post, text mining is a goal for this project. In order to do this kind of analysis on a body of works (like a collection of poetry), it’s easiest to combine all of the text from each entry and dump it all into one document that can be analyzed as a whole. One could brute-force this process by manually copy-pasting every piece by hand, but in all honesty, that’s wasted time that could be much better spent working on something else. So, we automate it. That brings us to XQuery, a language designed to help, well, query, and transform large collections of (typically) structured text. Using it, we can write a very simple script that iterates over each document, takes all of its internal text (the whole thing or just specific elements), and spits it out into one big master document -- all in a click of a button. Pretty standard stuff, really.

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Text Mining and Analysis

Sep 27, 2021

For this project, I want to, after all of the poems are finished, conduct some text mining and analysis on them to see if any insights on my own writing can shine through. Text mining is a process done on unstructured text automatically by artificial intelligence using natural language processing (or NLP). It’s very useful in discovering patterns in a piece of text to help better understand it. Forms of text mining can be word frequency (how often certain words are used), collocation (finding sequences of words that often are written near/next to each other), and concordance (finding the context in which certain words are used). Advanced text mining techniques like sentiment analysis (analyzing the associated emotions/moods with words) or intent detection are also common.

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Free-Form Poetry vs CSS

Sep 20, 2021

A continuation of my reflection on how poetic structure and HTML converge. I wrote a free-form poem a few years ago by the name of Host. I wanted to include it in my project, because I’m proud of it, and I thought it’d be a good fit. But, upon encoding it into both XML and HTML, I came across some challenges. This poem is free-form/free-verse, e.g. it adheres to no set structure or rhyme scheme. Most of my poems are like this, but Host is particularly egregious, because it was originally written with full-sentence lines and stanzas that were whole paragraphs. I transferred the work as it was, untouched, into the standard HTML/CSS set-up I’d crafted for my poetry and was disheartened to find that it had completely broken the styling. The lines were taking up the whole page, overlapping with the info box at the side, and made a mess of my aesthetic design.

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On Poetic Structure and XML

Sep 14, 2021

The structure of a poem — what lines go into a stanza, how thoughts are broken up into lines, where the line breaks are placed — is almost as important as the words chosen throughout. It dictates the pace of a poem, how fast it's read, and even the meaning; putting emphasis on certain words through enjambing can create a new context in which the words are read. Take the first poem of my project, Pulse, as an example. The structure was very deliberately crafted in order to maintain and build on a rhythm as the poem went forth, that rhythm being representative of a heartbeat, and integral to the meaning and experience of the poem itself.

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Onward and Upward

Sep 06, 2021

Writing this reflection now, it’s wild to me that my time at Behrend has passed so quickly, that I’m in my last stretch already. I’ve spent years preparing, and yet I can’t help but feel like I’m blinding jumping into the deep end as I embark on my senior project. It’s so exciting even with the anxiety and pressure; I have the freedom to create something wholly of my own design, dedicate months to nurturing a collection of artwork built entirely by myself… I’m grateful that I have the opportunity. One fun aspect of taking on a multi-part, complex project such as this one is the unforeseen obstacles that turn into boons. Take my janky code that I concocted in my first week on the job -- it was haphazardly put together, not very well-organized, just so that I could get a quick working concept going. Out of that foundation, my professor and I have been crafting a piece of JavaScript that will do everything I need much more elegantly, and in the process, I’m learning a lot about a language I previously barely understood.

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