Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Evie Shockley's digital book: our first & futuristic volume of poetry

Some years from now, when SIUEs' Lovejoy Library has acquired several volumes of poetry in electronic or digital book format, we'll look back and acknowledge Evie Shockley's the new black (2011) as our first. Last spring, before our long-time humanities librarian Julie Hansen retired, she asked around on whether folks had any book order request. I included the e-book version of Shockley's volume on my list.

The physical version of the book had been on my mind since its release, and I had already assigned the volume for a couple of my classes. Adding a digital or online version of the new black to the library's holdings, however, allows us to expand the ways we might engage poetry.

For instance, the tools that accompany our e-books make it possible to search Shockley's volume for key words and phrases. Type" "african" in the search prompt, and the various poems where Shcokely uses the word in her book appear. At some future moment when we have several e-book volumes, we could readily identify and then consider the similar and dissimilar ways that Shockley and a select group of her contemporaries employ common words.

Readers can use the highlight function to have words defined and have locations and prominent people identified. These easily available functions will serve us well when we encounter important yet unfamiliar words and references in volumes of poetry. 

Shockley's book is the first full volume of poetry that I've read in this kind of digital format. I'm still becoming aware of the benefits of engaging her work through this medium. Hopefully, these initial online experiences reading the new black signal future possibilities for reading a broad range of volumes.

Future Histories project
A Notebook on the work of Evie Shockley

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