What is MetaContextual Poetry?

MetaContextual Poem

The Problem

I have struggled with what defines “good” poetry. When I was studying poetry, I was told, “a poem should stand by itself. It does not need clarifications, if it does, go back to the drawing board.” Yet, I want to break rules that seem to make sense. For example, I have already decided that the rule: don’t publish anything that isn’t good, doesn’t work for me. I have published exploratory poems and defined a poetic form called exploratory to justify posting online “edit-phase” poems.

This time, I want to publish poems with a web of clarifications, a spectrum of possibilities, and even blend poetics with philosophy, science, and math.

How express a WEB of layered concepts in a succinct poem with perhaps rhythm and rhyme?

I might want to write with old, unknown, or foreign words, but I also want to guide the reader to solve the puzzle. I want to be abstractly precise. I want to web words and establish spectrums of meaning. A web of clarification can lead to creative disambiguation. I even want to educate through poetry. How can I do this without losing the poetic grounding?

These two sources gave me the way to solve my dilemma:

1. The MIT Lab FOLD project.
2. The film Arrival and Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Number 1

FOLD brings an innovative simplicity to hyperlinking. Through the platform, writing can be contextual. There’s a limit to the idea: one word has one card. Perhaps, they plan to add functionalities in the future. For now, it is a fun idea to contextualize, but it is not a metacontextual platform. For me, metacontextual [1]My use of the prefix meta- has the book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter in mind. Hofstadter, Douglas R. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic, 1999. Print. means that a footnote or word highlighted should bring to mind different contextual levels.

Why not make the poem longer?

Well, I don’t want to extend the core of the text and lose the essence of what is most important. I might want to be succinct, rhythmic, and count syllables. I want to add a lot in a short space without bloating or overburdening the reader. I want metacontextualization to be a possibility, not an obligation.

As a poet, I despise the idea of forceful lecturing. I want the reader to embrace the opportunity of learning laterally through poetry. I want the reader to feel the poetic heat, so s/he desires to take off his jacket. I don’t want to force new ideas as s/he tries to hold on dearly to beliefs. However, metacontextuality is about learning more about a puzzle, not a solution to it.

How will I do this?

My metacontextual poetry will extend some words through the jQuery qTip2 toolbox. By doing so, I can add context to my poems as well as levels of contextually. I word might have two footnotes for a single word. I might provide several words in a specific order in a single note. I would also add or clarify foreign words. I would also add embeds to multimedia.

Why is metacontextuality that important?

Why don’t I just keep adding words to clarify in a linear fashion? It is important to disrupt a linear way of thinking. In a superficial reading of a text, we might not discover that there is much more behind. Even after reading it multiple times, there are ideas that escape us because are not accustomed observe from very distinct dimensions. Through metacontextuality, we can bring to mind these dimensions as a spectrum of meaning rather than straight definitions.

The following number two will illustrate how the film based on the short story by Ted Chiang describes a way to escape language’s linearity.

Number 2

The written language of the Heptapods was a circle with intricate details, similar to a circle created with a brush. The circle would be an elaborate sentence where determinate points would determine what’s being said. I interpreted the language used in the film as a “contextual” language rather than a linear one. If I could lift a point higher, it could mean more of that meaning. If it is lower, it means less of that meaning.[2]You can read another interpretation for the width of the strokes here: Rhodes, Margaret. “How Arrival’s Designers Crafted a Mesmerizing Alien Alphabet.” Wired. Conde Nast, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2017. https://www.wired.com/2016/11/arrivals-designers-crafted-mesmerizing-alien-alphabet

The story’s premise gave me the idea that language could be metacontextual, rather than linear. Instead of fighting between two fixed points, we would have a spectrum language. For example, instead of saying the green dog. I could say the yellow almost green bluish dog that looks completely green in the dark who gets lost in the grass.

It could appear that I could just say the long linear sentence and problem solved, right?

Green is green. However it is not; actually, it is a spectrum in the vastness of colour and not necessarily a fixed point but a set of points.

The language we use and the way poetry tries to dislocate meaning through innovative language helps us to think less binarily (or sometimes more). The problem here is not poetry, but the way we conceptualize language. We need a metacontextual language to open a space to visualize the spectrums that naturally occur in each person’s mental processes. We need to clarify levels of meaning and create dimensionality in how we think.

Why are metalevels and dimensions so relevant?

Words are spectrums we use as if they were precise mathematical formulas. Logic attempts to lock down language in true and false statements. Some things are false, completely. There is a need for that, but we continue to make these false and true statements when we have to rely on probability. We tend to think with cognitive biases and logical fallacies.

How can we shift that tendency?

We can speak in terms of possibilities rather than fixed points. We could think of a spectrum in an endless process, rather than a period in a sentence. For example, I am completely a human being, but I have a 99% DNA shared with chimps and bonobos.[3]The 99% percentage reference comes from: Wong, Kate. “Tiny Genetic Differences between Humans and Other Primates Pervade the Genome.” Scientific American. N.p., 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2017. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tiny-genetic-differences-between-humans-and-other-primates-pervade-the-genome/

We are not chimps but are mostly chimps as well. We need to embrace facts and states of possibility rather than fixed narratives that hurt science and human advancement. I wholeheartedly believe fact-based communication could help us become a peaceful species.

Instead of two positions, we have a spectrum within a set of polarized viewpoints. Instead of saying it is dead wrong, it is mostly wrong. Instead of a weapon, it is a gift or tool (Film reference).

An example

I wrote a poem called: Time is a colour to exemplify how metacontextual poetry could be used. My attempt is based on jQuery qTip2. If you’ve got an idea to improve the metacontextuality, I would love to hear it.

Final Words

That said, I still will be creating exploratories as I embrace this new phase of my writing with metacontextual poetry. I have added multimedia to add layers of meaning, but I will continue to aggregate new ways to educate myself and those who desire to follow my work. Comment below if you’ve got ideas of technologies in mind that could help advance the concept of metacontextuality.

My hope is that metacontextual poetry may help build a bridge between words, barriers, limits, beliefs, ideas, languages, sciences, maths, and art. Instead of thinking linearly, it might be time to start approaching language and thought as a web, a layering, a spectrum: an Escher’s hand drawing its other hand.

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