Infographic: HTML5 Makes 60 Years Of Poetry Feel Utterly Slick

Pictures. Waveforms. Play buttons. It’s not YouTube, it’s poetry.

For all of poetry’s rich history, it’s become a somewhat old-fashioned artform. While poetry slams have done their part in keeping the culture fresh, the poem itself has gone relatively unchanged in thousands of years. It’s simple print on paper. Sometimes you’ll hear it read. But for all of our satellites, lasers, and biotechnology, poetry cruises along without advancements.

On one hand, it’s a testament to the art form. On the other, there must be something that can be done to modernize the medium. Now, the Arts Council and BBC has released a new project called 60 Years in 60 Poems. Designed by Faber & Faber and Somethin’ Else, it’s a rich, HTML5-based multimedia platform too appreciate the last half century of poetry in a new way.

Here, poetry has taken cues from online text, a digital take on the traditional anthology. The collection is sortable by tags (either by year or by topics) and is sharable across social networks. It’s also beautiful and data rich, as each poem is infographic-ized as a circular waveform with a play button at its center. Hit play, and hear the poem read. Explore other pages and read the poem in print, or see photos from the era the poem was originally published.

You can explore tidbits from the year each poem was written.

The result is poetry—written and spoken—through and through. But it’s tastefully modernized, enriched through deep, clickable interfaces that work just as well on a tablet as they do a traditional PC browser. And the entire app has the seamlessness that you expect in HTML5 sites, the program-on-the-page quality of slick code marrying with design and multimedia.

Sadly, there is a catch to it all. Maybe it’s their servers. Maybe it’s the fact that HTML5 is still a young technology (even Chrome can’t score a perfect 500 on this test). Because despite a blazing fast Internet connection, I encountered a few hiccups, load errors, and graphic duplications, that frequently hindered an otherwise flowing, explorable interface.

Yet 60 Years in 60 Poems is still an enjoyable thing to explore, all the same. And it’s fascinating to see—much like CD-ROM technology reshaped the encyclopedia as a multimedia reference (to eventually be replaced by the even richer world wide web on whole)—how new coding standards will reimagine the way we consume multimedia. Text no longer needs to be a page in a book, much like video no longer needs to be a channel on TV. We’re approaching a place and time in digital media when creativity and talent can dictate presentation, rather than technology. So dust off those sonnets you wrote in college and learn to code. It’s a whole new world.

Try it here.

[Image: Konstantin L/Shutterstock]

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  • Buck

    Doesn't work without flash blocker turned off. Probably using Flash for the audio.

  • Al

    Yeah, this is awesome because it's an original, interesting way of presenting and making accessible something that is often inaccessible, while bringing out an important aspect of the art form that is really hard to communicate.

    It's not awesome because it's HTML5. A lot of the interactivity doesn't work that well, even in Chrome. But, it is really good.

  • Mary H

    A poetry project that really uses interactive, digital media to enhance the
    work. I think there's tremendous opportunity for the literary arts to
    contribute even more to its domain using digital media, but few are doing so. So,
    maybe HTML5 is or isn't the ideal platform. Who cares. I'm just glad to see
    someone try it, and to honor poetry someplace other than a printed page or a
    static website. 

  • O_U

    I wouldn't trash HTML5 right away (as per Al Brown's response), but I find this presentation enjoyable enough to listen, because for me, I like both poetry and design. I felt it a bit cumbersome though, using the circular playhead as a giant decorative symbol. It could've compressed some more information to give it a larger context, instead of just one year, one author, and one title per frame (or screen). The waveform (or wavy, circular graphic surrounding the playbutton) did not serve an immediate function, so essentially, that was a waste a space and isn't too visually appealing anyway. In my opinion, if approached in my own way, I would use the magic of HTML5, and presenting the text in an expressive, typographic manner, while maybe having all the themes, years, and authors relate to each other in some other way. It should not be too overbearing though, that it might overtake the actual speaker of the poem. Otherwise, kudos for making poetry a bit more technologically accessible. 

  • Al Brown

    I fail to see how this is really that cool not to mention how HTML5 makes it anything new. Why do you insist in calling out HTML5 sites that are not special in anyway aside from they said they used HTML5. HTML5 has already been trashed by the real power users and is spiraling down into a mess of crappy libraries that dont work. So please just talk about websites that are good and drop the whole look at this its HTML5 and does nothing good.