Dear colleagues:

Sometimes things fit perfectly into other things in pleasing and useful ways. And sometimes the inspired impulse to repurpose a JavaScript timeline tool to version modernist poetry dies in the murky waters of the cool digital sea. Last week I envisioned plotting the shape-shifting text of Marianne Moore’s “Poetry” with TimelineJS as a means to document and compare the alterations in the text over time. I imagined the mutating poem slowly scrolling across the screen in a panoramic display that would not only gather all the variants but also somehow illuminate their significance and beautifully argue a history of Moore’s poetic praxis. Text would alter and dissolve and the timeline would profoundly articulate my dyad image of Moore as poet and editor.

I tried to make linear time fit my ideal visualization of versioning.

My attempt failed for a number of reasons—both conceptual and practical. I wanted to use evolution as a metaphor and not as an ideology. I figured I could represent changes over time without enforcing a teleology of the text and yet the timeline format necessitates a linear narrative. This attempt forced me to question how to present text temporally without inducing teleological implications. So, like, how to undo all of Western thought in this MVP case study?

On a basic level I lacked the technical skills to manipulate the timeline to adjust its features to serve my project. Ultimately the form of the tool lends to registering accounts of historical events. And so, for example, the timeline can’t represent multiple nodes or events at the same time. While the fluid transition between points appeals to my sense of how to represent variants, the timeline merely conjures continuity rather than simultaneity.

As such, TimelineJS provides a glance and general overview of changes amongst versions over time, but the linear scroll doesn’t permit detailed scrutiny and comparison. I would return to the tool in order to construct a biography, a bibliography, a publication history, or even to post a collection of dated facsimiles. Fortunately Daniel Carter’s brilliant modVers tool came to the rescue. Currently I’m splicing lines of poetry with lines of code. Coming soon: Mo[o]re on making the machine.


Post by Adèle Barclay, attached to the ModVers project, with the versioning tag. Featured images for this post care of,, and Timeline JS, at


More about Adèle Barclay

PhD Student, English | GRA, Modernist Versions Project | Lead: Versioning Modernism