Editing Modernism in Canada


November 5, 2012

An Update on Katherine Wooler’s (b)p-roject

Thanks to the kindness of Ellie Nichol, Katherine has full copyright permission for bp’s work. Now she is ready to start on the first part of her project: creating a critical edition of bp’s Dadaist works. Katherine’s priority to is make sure she does not overlook any of bp’s work, so her first step has been to collect as much material as possible. Given the sheer volume of poetry bp published, locating each and every work is a challenging endeavour. Fortunately, Katherine spent the final year of her undergrad degree perusing bp’s work in Dalhousie’s special collections, so she knows where to look for the specific works she wants to study in greater detail.

Still, every time Katherine searches through a different library or online database, she finds something she did not know existed. Almost daily, new bp works arrive through document delivery and inter-library loan. Katherine finds “An Online Archive for bpNichol” to be a particularly useful tool in creating a complete bp reading list, and she also consults the writing and bibliographies of such bp scholars as Stephen Scobie and Douglas Barbour. Right now, Katherine is awaiting the arrival of the Open Letter issues that were dedicated to bp, and she plans to visit Simon Fraser University in June to see their collection of bp works. Even though the sheer volume of bp’s creative output is overwhelming, Katherine loves to read everything bp.

A major part of Katherine’s process involves the digital or technical aspects of her project. She recently bought the Adobe Creative Suite 6 software package, and is developing her Photoshop skills while learning to use InDesign and Dreamweaver. This is a big learning experience for Katherine, but she has many knowledgeable people around her to provide advice and expertise.

One technical issue Katherine has encountered so far involves the question of how to present the different versions of a concrete poetry text. Collating software — such as Juxta and The Versioning Machine — compares different versions of a text, but it needs to read text in XML or plain text. This type of software works well for prose or more traditional forms of poetry, but is not all that useful for concrete poetry. A possible solution for Katherine is to use OCR (optical character recognition) software, but using OCR means that Katherine will not be able to create TEI markup for concrete poems or have searchable PDFs.

Admittedly, the absence of searchable PDFs is not as much of an issue for bp’s concrete poetry, some of which is composed of one repeated word running on various angles or a creative reorganization of the alphabet. Katherine’s main challenge in digitizing bp’s work is that word images cannot be conformed into any machine-readable code that relies on the strict organization of elements — that challenge is also the beauty of bpNichol.

Ultimately, Katherine’s project goal is to create a website that presents a small selection of bp’s work and explores three different editing approaches, but for now, she will continue to scan, scan, scan.

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