English poetry goes digital

Research Policy Office
Friday 20 February 2015

The study of Medieval and Renaissance English poetry conjures up images of quiet libraries and beautiful volumes, but researchers in the School of English are endeavouring to change this image.

Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets” (Faber, 2010), by Professor Don Paterson, twice winner of the T. S. Eliot prize for poetry, and partly a result of discussions with Renaissance researcher Professor Neil Rhodes, is a full-length popular commentary written from the perspective of a practising poet. Through Paterson’s collaboration with World Book Night (WBN) new and diverse audiences were also found for Shakespeare’s Sonnets with the inclusion of a sonnet on the back cover one of each book that was distributed.

Since then, Paterson’s work has been reinterpreted for new audiences and is breaking new ground with the launch of a highly successful The Sonnets by William Shakespeare, a Faber/Touch Press iPad application which features a lightly re-written version of all of Paterson’s commentary, as well as him reading several sonnets.

Collaboration between Dr Chris Jones, researching the application of Old English in the work of modern poets, and Jacob Polley, a practising poet, resulted in several translations of, and new poems in dialogue with, Old English literature. “Livings”, several newly composed riddles in response to those in the Old English Exeter Book, followed by a several new poems published as part of the award-winning collection, “The Havocs” (Picador, 2012), which includes a poetic translation of the Old English “Ruin”, made in a manner that imaginatively restores the damaged, fragmentary nature of this poem.

In March 2013, the StAnza Poetry Festival developed an online Poetry Trail in conjunction with the School of Computer Science, which includes a recording of Polley reading his contemporary Ruin as well as Jones’s poem ‘Borges on the Wall’, a poetic reimagining of Old English in a modern context. The Poetry Trail, available as an App for iPhone and Android, guides literary tourists around the town of St Andrews by use of QR codes at several sites (including local museums, visitor centres, and independent cafes) where the user can listen to site-appropriate poems.

Tweetable riddles, dubbed ‘twiddles’, Jones and Polley’s latest collaboration, is a Twitter collection of the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book riddles in 140 or fewer characters.

The Poetry Trail was funded by National Lottery and Creative Scotland and is promoted by Event Scotland.

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