18 Apr 2015

Hope is the thing with feathers on Genius.com

This is a title of  a wonderful Emily Dickinson's poem about Hope, which I have found on a website called Genius. There is nothing special that I found this poem, as there are many websites publishing poetry, as many (some free) publishing the analyses of famous works, too. What makes this website special are annotations, and the motto of the founders 'to annotate the world'. They started with annotating rap songs a few years ago, but nowadays there are not only songs: the website offers annotations to poems, novels and even contemporary articles. And I think that this idea is amazing and highly educational.

Imagine, there is a text, you click on the word or the thought - a box pops up with information on the text, with the meaning of the idea, connotations, pictures, videos and links, and even more. And now imagine that you have, say, a poem and everything inside, needed to understand it, is linked and, therefore, leads you from one thought or source to another and another and another. Like an online dictionary or Wikipedia, but it is you who decide which path to choose, you are an active reader, you may leave a comment or add another annotation. The readers are encouraged to post new texts and annotate them, to contribute to the whole project.

It came to me as an answer to two texts I have read recently; one is a book, 'How to Read a Book' by Charles Van Doren and Mortimer J. Adler, I am still reading it (it is quite long but very powerful) and it concerns the annotations, and the other - an article, 'What I Really Want Is Someone Rolling Around in the Text', by Sam Anderson from 2011, presents the idea about the books not only annotated but also shared with the other readers. So far, the only problem for me is that I cannot see the way to annotate the text only for myself or for my friends. I would not like to publish all my private thoughts to the public, but also when we annotate a text, there are lots of questions to answer in due time, and - what is important - by ourselves, by the readers. So I hope that at some point in the future it would be possible.

And now the poem with the annotations - there is a link to the website.