Saturday, 23 May 2015

john sutherland, new edward thomas bio, daniel swift, iridescent slick, beautiful pollution, poem viewer, oerc, between walls by william carlos williams

















I was intrigued to read John Sutherland's review of Jean Moorcroft Wilson's new biography of Edward Thomas, Edward Thomas: From Adlestrop to Arras, in the Times this morning. (If you don't have access to the Times article - it's behind the paywall, of course - try this one from Daniel Swift in the Spectator.) The Thomas in the book, at least in Sutherland's words, comes across as an unikeable man, if a gifted poet. I think some of this is there in Margaret's novel too, particularly apparent in the counterpoint of Helen's and Edward's perspectives, though it is tempered by sympathy for him as a flawed human being. I have to say that by the sounds of it, I prefer the version of Edward in the novel because it captures the complexities of relationships and lives as they are lived - complexities that are potentially quite different to those of relationships and lives as observed with hindsight. The Sutherland reading seems pretty one-dimensional and uncompromising. Nevertheless, details such as the manner of Thomas' death, are fascinating - Sutherland writes:

'His widow Helen perpetuated the myth that he had been killed by the “percussive force” of a nearby shell. That beautiful face and body was buried unmutilated. Wilson has examined the evidence and concludes it was a direct hit which blew him to smithereens.'

When walking into Oxford along the canal earlier in the week I came across a beautiful iridescent slick of fuel floating on the surface of the water - see above pic. Such striking metallic colours, and so polluting!

With all the excitement about the Edward Thomas plaque last week, I didn't have time to write about a presentation on Poem Viewer at the University's IT Services HQ the week before last. This was given by Alfie Abdul-Rahman and Martin Wynne from the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC). The web-based software turns the text of a poem into an interactive visual image that highlights the features of the poem's language and how they inter-relate to one another.

Visualization - the synaesthetic rendering of language as images - is a truly exciting area of study that enables scholars and students to gain insights into the multi-layered dynamics and structures of language in an especially vivid and immediate way.

Here is an example of the visualization of the opening of William Carlos Williams' poem, Between Walls:













You can experiment with this visualization here - try switching the images for the variable features on and off using the check boxes down the left-hand side of the screen. Also try changing the Layout drop-down to 'Structured' and the resulting Macro-glyph drop-down to one of the animations.

If you want to find out more about the wonderful Poem Viewer project, see this OeRC page, including the paper written by Alfie, Martin and their colleagues (Rule-based Visual Mappings - with a Case Study on Poetry Visualization), and the excellent MP4 video.

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