Poetry and New Media in Modern America
During the summer of 2013, I will be continuing my research on American poetry, exploring: 1) how poetry was broadcast, transmitted, and projected by non-print and “new” media forms like magic lanterns, radio, film, and television; and 2) what poetry added to new media in the way of cultural prestige or popular appeal.
More specifically, I’ll be working with two sets of materials. The first is a set of glass magic lantern slides that were used to project poems and hymn lyrics for group reading. Magic lanterns were used from the 1600s onward to project images, but only around 1900 did they get used to project language; as such, they helped usher in new media reading practices that would eventually anchor how we read subtitles, text crawlers, and internet or Flash-based language creations today. The second set of materials is a group of scrapbooks, books, magazines, and recordings of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s book-length World War II propaganda poem, The Murder of Lidice. The pro-U.S. poem was printed in paperback, published in entirety in Life magazine, performed by Hollywood actors and broadcast on national radio, translated into Spanish and Portuguese and shortwaved to South America and Europe, and recorded on vinyl and sold in a three disc set. Even though it may have been the most widely distributed poem by an American poet in the entire century, no one has studied it at any length, and I’m curious about how the conversion into multiple media forms affected Millay’s poem as well as how audiences responded to it.