New iOS apps make poetry interactive

June 29, 2012

(Credit: P.o.E.M.M.)

Poet Jason Lewis, associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Design and Computation Arts, is using mass media to put poetry back in the hands of people with a suite of ten new digital poetry apps.

Known as P.o.E.M.M. (Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media), the project is a series of poems written and designed to be read on touch devices, from large-scale exhibition surfaces to mobile screens.

For Lewis, the fact that the iPhone and iPad are personal devices was key in P.o.E.M.M.’s development. “Poetry is an intimate medium but when it comes to digital poetry, the computer screen creates distance between writer and reader. Touch screens allow the audience to be drawn into a closer proximity to the computer screen than ever before,” says Lewis, whose first digital poetry project for a touch-screen interface was created in 2007.

That artwork eventually went on to spark the entire P.o.E.M.M. project, which so far includes four apps: What They Speak When They Speak To Me, Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better, The Great Migration, and Smooth Second Bastard. The first version of each app is built around Lewis’s poetry, but then each is extended to include texts by other poets, who write on themes ranging from miscommunication across language and cultural identity to the excitement of heading out into a great unknown.

Developed in collaboration with former computation arts student Bruno Nadeau, the P.o.E.M.M. apps allow readers to interact with the poem’s text. New iterations of the apps will give users the chance to add their own words, use Twitter feeds to generate new strands of poetry, and play with words, design and structure to generate original poems that can be rewritten at the tap of a screen.

The P.o.E.M.M. project was given the Jury Award for the recent Electronic Literature Organization‘s annual exhibition. The project was developed with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture.

Smooth Second Bastard at Vital to the General Public Welfare.2 from Obx Labs on Vimeo.