Digital Poetry

The revolutionary hope that I bring to the classroom is that it will become a space where they can come to voice (hooks, p. 53).

Curwood and Gibbons’ work regarding Multimodal Counternarratives was an interesting experience for me.  While issues of societal and institutional bias are not new, the expression of these issues through the lens of master narratives and counter narratives felt almost as if I was learning a new language with which I could better explore the topics.

The idea of a pervasive master narrative against which an individual can directly speak via counternarrative seems a powerful tool, well-suited to the adolescent nature of rebellion.

I was intrigued by the usage of digital poetry as a tool for adolescent identity development.  In my own community, Ann Arbor, there is a heavy emphasis on the Poetry Slam as a vehicle for expression across age groups.

True speaking is not solely an expression of creative power; it is an act of resistance, a political gesture that challenges politics of domination that would render us nameless and voiceless. As such, it is a courageous act—as such it represents a threat. To those who wield oppressive power, that which is threatening must necessarily be wiped out, annihilated, silenced (hooks, p. 8).

Now slam poetry is a more restricted form as only certain things are allowed on stage.  Music, for instance, is banned.  However, it’s power comes from it’s multi-modality: the voice the speaker gives to the text, the tempo at which the words fly, the gestures and gesticulations as the words come.  This has been used by Ann Arbor educators to give voice to those who have felt voiceless.

Digital poetry as practiced by Jen, displayed in Mr. Nouansacksy’s work, and described by Curwood and Gibbons adds even more modalities to poetic expression.  This gives adolescent a “deeper toolbox”, if you will, with which to build their expression of identity.  In Tommy’s poem, I was struck by the use of the text coloration when appealing to the humanity of the audience via the questions (“Will you feel useless? Used?).  I also felt the dissolve of background during the “more than a stereotype” was powerful.

It’s possible that I am reading too much into it, but at the end when he is shown playing with the doll for “comic relief”, I wonder if the choice of doll was intentional: a blond cheerleader.  Surely, this is a reflection of the All-American master narrative turned to a plaything in the hands of the outsider, unnatural, gay, asian teen.  There is power in this work.


Curwood, J. S., & Gibbons, D. (2009). “Just Like I Have Felt”: Multimodal Counternarratives in Youth-Produced Digital Media. International Journal of Learning and Media, 1(4), 59-77. doi:10.1162/ijlm_a_00034

hooks, b. 1994. Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice
of freedom. New York: Routledge.