Web Writing That Works!

           A Project of
           The Communication Circle

Guidelines Rants Patterns Poems Services Classes Press Blog Resources About Us Site Map

HomePoems > Kubla Khan                            



Kubla Khan--The Poem





Kubla Khan

This hyper-poem explores the links between texts that Samuel Taylor Coleridge read, and the images in his poem Kubla Khan

The poem starts in a part of China called Xanadu, where the great Khan, Kubla, decides to set up a pleasure dome. But the images seem to be a blend of suggestions from poets and travel writers describing many other scenes.

Coleridge believed in the imaginative power of association, which links together images to form a new vision. 

And his imagination may have been particularly inspired in the dream state that he entered one night when took a tincture of opium called laudanum. He claims that he experienced a series of vivid scenes, and wrote the poem in his mind during the reverie, then, when he woke, recorded part of the vision--before he was interrupted.

The Road to Xanadu

More than a century after Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan, a Harvard professor, John Livingston Lowes, wrote a book called The Road to Xanadu, pointing out possible sources for ideas, images, and phrases in The Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.  But Lowes went farther than mere bibliographic sleuthing.

He argued that Coleridge's imagination was strikingly visual, that his memory was preternaturally strong, and that he was a voracious follower of footnotes, devouring all surviving Greek and Latin texts, and pursuing raw material for his poems from one travel writer to another. In effect, he suggests that Coleridge's mind formed intricate links between the images he uncovered, and, in the poetic process, annealed those images into a new melody.

Ted Nelson read John Livingston Lowes as an undergraduate in the late 1960s, when Coleridge was considered proof that drug taking could improve your poetry, and when Lowes was seen as a valiant explorer of the unconscious, in particular, the unconscious mind of a great poet, assimilating imagery from many sources, recalling a phrase or two, and from these rough links, creating something new.

So when Nelson envisioned a system much like the World Wide Web, almost twenty years before Tim Berners-Lee actually created the document type definition for the HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Nelson called his world of links, his network of associations, Xanadu.  Nelson was recalling the land of Coleridge's Kubla Khan, as interpreted by Lowes.

I've created this hypertext to honor Nelson's vision of a web of associative links, Professor Lowes' strange but intriguing book, and Coleridge's magical poem.

What you have here

In this hypertext version of Coleridge's poem, you can jump from the poem to the text of other authors he may have been recalling.  You can read what the original writer wrote, then pop back to the poem to see if you think that Coleridge really had that imagery in mind, then go on to check another of the possible sources for the same line.

You may want to read through the selections from each supposed source, to get a sense of the whole, then return to the poem to see how strongly you feel that writer influenced Coleridge--or not.

After each selection from a possible source, you'll see a set of the words and lines that, perhaps, were inspired by that source.

Or you can start with words in the poem, and backtrack to possible sources.

And, because Lowes stresses the visual nature of Coleridge's memory, you can start with an image in the poem, then go to the words in the line, and through them, possible sources.

So you have many paths through this hypertext edition of Coleridge's Kubla Khan.

  • If you want to read the hypertext version of Kubla Khan, see Kubla Khan--The Poem.
  • To read through the authors that Lowes says influenced Coleridge when he wrote Kubla Khan, see Sources.
  • If you would like to investigate the words that, Lowes claims, may have come from these sources, see Words.
  • To explore the vision that Coleridge explored in the poem, see Images.


Home | Guidelines | Rants | Patterns | Poems | Services | Classes | Press | Blog |
Resources | About Us | Site Map

Web Writing that Works!
  2004 Jonathan Price
The Communication Circle
Discuss at HotText@yahoogroups.com
Email us directly at ThePrices@ThePrices.com