Virtual Verse

A Poetry Project

Begun at Bret Harte High School before I Left
Deborah T. Aufdenspring
New Technology High School
Napa, California

Below is the story of an incomplete poetry project involving computers in the English classroom, digitized student poetry readings that did happen and can be downloaded at the bottom of this page, an Internet Poetry Slam that didn't happen, and sundry other ideas.

(Not actual QT movies)

Amanda Gozulak and Amber Dodge were amongst Bret Harte High students who had their poetry digitized for community presentation and Internet distribution. Their poems, with a reading by the authors, are available at the bottom of the page.

While teaching at Bret Harte High Schoool in Angels Camp, before I moved to New Tech High in Napa, I had wanted to expand my use of the computer from my history classes to my English classes. I thought that digitizing student poetry would be a neat thing. Students could videotape other students reading their poetry, digitize the tape, and have virtual poetry readings at any time. Students would write the poems, read them, videotape them, edit the tape, digitize the tape, and put the readings into either a computer-driven slide show program or a more in-depth computer program. Besides the poetry experience, students would get hands-on technology experience.

A Poetry Kiosk

Poetry slide show slides were done in PowerPoint©, using school colors, and included the student author's name, the text of the poem, a student copyright notice, and a QuickTime movie of the poem being read. A computer could be set up where the community could see it, the slide show could be set on automatic, and each poem would then be read in turn. No school personnel need be present.

These virtual poetry readings could be used to disseminate the students' poetry within the community, to other Bret Harte classes, even to classes at other schools. Parents, and the larger community also, would be able to see their children's work in a new form, through slide show presentations. Administrators, teachers, parents, students and the community would see that technology has a place in the English classroom.

Besides the slide show presentations, the poetry readings would be placed in a stand-alone HyperCard program. Each digitized poetry video, along with the poetry text, a video or audio interview with the student, student biography, explanatory text, and still picture and/or art, would be included in a Hypercard stack we'd developed. The stack was modeled on theVoyager CD-ROM "Poetry in Motion."

I hoped that the use of video, HyperCard, and a commercial format would make poetry more interesting. The combining of state of the art technology with one of humanity's oldest art forms could make poetry more exciting. Being able to store this year's student poetry for future year's consideration, would give student poetry more continuity.

I also thought that we could exchange our virtual verse with other schools, leading to a cross-fertilization of image and word. Whether this would take the form of simply exchanging files, or something more elaborate like an Internet Poetry Reading, I didn't know. At one point I thought it would be cool to have an inter-school Poetry Slam, using video-phone technology. (Can you picture an inter-scholastic Poetry Read-Off, complete with cheerleaders. Imagine cheerleaders cheering poets, in addition to the football team.)

Last spring, I received a mini-grant from my local affiliate of CUE (Computer Using Educators) to get me started on this project. With the grant from Central California CUE, I was able to purchase a Zip Drive that would enable me to store and archive large files, such as short digital movies. We were on our way. With mass storage, we could videotape students reading their poetry, and convert it to QuickTime movies.

Unfortunately, the Zip Drive and available class time only came together at the very end of the school year. We were able to have my sophomores write their poetry, and get some of it videotaped (volunteers only). But due to the fact that this was literally the last week of school, only a short (5 poem) demonstration slide show was created, and not much of the HyperCard stack got fleshed out. (Transcribing the interviews was the real killer.)

I resolved to work on the videotapes over summer, and have good examples to show the next year's sophomores.

That, too, went by the wayside as the last week of school was also the week I was offered my new job here at New Tech. After some agonizing, I took the new job. The summer got eaten up with moving, and writing our new history curriculum integrated with technology.

Nonetheless, I'd like to share the above ideas with you, thank CCCUE for the use of the Zip Drive (it went back to them to give to someone else to use), and thank my last years' students for their work.

I'd also like to share, with their permission, some of those students' poetry. If you would like to hear some of their poetry, here are a few VIRTUAL VERSE offerings.

My Sparrow

by Amanda Goszulak©1996
Click here for a reading by Amanda Goszulak. (510K download)

Captured under the wing of a sparrow
Wind in my hair, sun on my face
I grasp at the world
With trembling hands
My hunger for life
Burning in my heart
Kept safe under my sparrow's wing
High above the world
Danger and fear kept far from my soul
A warm safe place for my mind to dwell
We fly over time's grip
Days passing swiftly with watchful eyes
Closer to our death we fly
No place to get away
My sparrow's light feet
Touch only tainted ground
He burns inside to fly
Caught by evil hands
Will there be no freedom for my sparrow
Who chose to walk the earth?
Forever my sparrow and I dream...

Without You

by Amber Dodge ©1996
Click here for a reading by Amber Dodge. (227K download)

Without you
There is no love
No blood red rose
No beautiful white dove

Without you
There is no fun
No true blue bird
No great yellow sun

Without you
There is always pain
And whatever my loss
Will be your gain

Without you
There is no me
I can't live without you
Can't you see


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