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Hybrid Poetics Explores Interdisciplinary Poems

Student Works Show Different Approaches to Mixed Media Poetry

UMass Lowell Image
Technology, advertisements and rearranged texts are just a few of the poetry forms students present in the hybrid poetics showcase. Photo by Dimitrios Booras.

By Julia Gavin

Is it poetry if it doesn’t rhyme? 

The question is asked every time an introductory poetry class reaches the section on prose poems. Sandra Lim, an assistant professor in the English department, addresses that question and more in her writing workshop on hybrid poetics and the results are a mixed media showcase.

“I wanted to teach an upper-level course that covers the poetry that doesn’t always fit in an introductory class,” says Lim, referring to prose poetry, songwriting, found poetry and other forms. “We look at the perceived boundaries of poetry and how to move beyond them.”

Students shared their final projects with a poetry and art installation in the English department, a public exhibit to show others the possibilities of hybrid poetics. The resulting projects range from sculpture to music as the students chose their different approaches to altering literary text. 

DeAnna Rikeman looked at poetry as a code and created a song from her poem “Autumn Bullets.” Rikeman assigned a different musical note to each letter of the alphabet and played the interpretation next to her printed poem. While the resulting song doesn’t have the same tone as her poem, Rikeman altered the wording to make a more pleasing sound.

“I chose my words with the notes in mind. For instance, I changed ‘removed’ to ‘taken’ in one line because it fit better with the song’s rhythm,” says Rikeman, a creative writing major. “Also, the code works because there are names in the poem and once you hear how they translate, you can pick them up throughout the recording.”

Shannon Rodrigues used texts and imagery in her project, “Take Infidelity for a Test Drive.” Rodrigues had a poem about infidelity in mind, then, after watching “Mad Men,” she decided to use advertisements the characters could have created as source texts. 

Rodrigues found classic car advertisements from the 1950s and '60s with interesting text and imagery and reimagined them as promotions for infidelity. She explored erasure poetry by deleting a few words in the source text to create new poetry with a different meaning. An advertisement featuring a man dramatically embracing a woman above a car with the tag line, “Strong, silent, and in the classic tradition,” still flows when the viewer thinks of promoting infidelity instead of automobiles.

“I changed a few words here and there, such as Dodge to dog, but it’s almost exclusively the original text,” says Rodrigues, a creative writing major. “Thinking outside the box in this class and reframing the ads has a completely different result.”

Alex Derderian, an art major minoring in writing, used her visual skills and interest in technology to find poetry in her internet travels. In her piece, “I Hate Myself and So Could You if You Did the Things I Do,” viewers turn a wheel  on a frame that scrolls through screenshots of search terms, blog entries and conversations to see a snapshot of the online experience.

“I spend a lot of time online, sometimes procrastinating to avoid creative work. So I wanted to log this activity and use some of that time spent for a creative result,” says Derderian. “In one section, I used Google to write a poem with the autofill possibilities for questions you ask yourself. I was interested in using text in my art and this class helped me find a way to explore the possibilities.”

Derderian says she wasn’t sure what the class would be like, but is happy with the results.

“When I heard ‘hybrid’ I thought it might just be two works mashed together, but I learned more about incorporating poetry into art and finding it in other texts and forms,” says Derderian. “It’s fun, because we have permission to make art of anything.”