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Poetry Chains

Poetry Chains is a series of animated text visualizations of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, first showcased in the Hybridity and Synesthesia exhibition at Lydgalleriet, as part of the Electronic Literature Organization Festival in Bergen, Norway in 2015. The project is inspired by Lisa Samuels’ and Jerome McGann’s reading of a seemingly whimsical fragment found in a letter written by Dickinson: “Did you ever read one of her Poems backward, because the plunge from the front overturned you?” They investigate what might it mean to interpret this question literally, asking how a reader could “release or expose the poem’s possibilities of meaning” in order to explore the ways in which language is “an interactive medium.” Poetry Chains provides a continuous, dynamic remapping of Dickinson’s poems by treating her entire corpus as a single poem. A depth-first search is used to create collocation pathways between two words within the corpus, performing a non-linear “hopscotch” (with a poetic rather than narrative destabilization).

A version of the animations (with no interaction) is available online. Currently, the live version is only compatible with Google Chrome.

Poetry Chains was implemented as a continuously looping animation using D3.js and Three.js. It uses a signed distance field font for smooth rendering of rotated and zoomed text.