Thursday, August 5, 2010

Technology and Poetry: Visuwords

I'm going to be all kinds of hypocritical in this post.  I can already feel it.

But I know poets who won't, or can't, write without a pen or a pencil in their hand.  They've got to feel the scrawl of ink against paper, and that's fine.  But at the same time, I suspect that a sizable portion of these writers avoid the computer screen less of pragmatism and more of some romantic notion of a poet with their pen.

I know.  Never this from a poet, right?

It's just that I can't stand how slowly a pencil gets the ideas from my mind to the blue line, and I'm quick to point out that the OGs of poetry couldn't afford paper, assuming someone had invented it yet in their part of the world.  I've no qualms with technology as a medium of creation; today's cutting edge is tomorrows romanticized.

That said, check out Visuwords.  Basically, it's something like a high-tech thesaurus.  You type in a word, and it populates a group of bubbles that are related to that word, complete with color coordinated lines showing how the new words relate to the original.

I've got mixed feelings about this site.  On one hand, it's kind of awesome jiggling those bubbles around.  Sort of like choking an octopus.  More than that, it actually seems like it could be useful.  Often, when I am stuck on a poem, or am just trying to start writing, I will write (type) a word down and begin writing other words that I think are vaguely connected to it in some way.

But I've known about this site for a while and still never use it, even as I defend my 6-year-old laptop against the Classic Pen Defensive.

In my own defense, I think that part of what makes my personal method of thought bubbles work is the process itself.  Seeing words is an entirely different experience from coming up with them yourself.

Which makes Visuwords something like a very pretty thesaurus.

But then, some people think better visually.  Some need the tactile feel of a pen in their hands.  And some of us just like throttling things as we put off writing today's poem.

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