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.
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.
[Image: Konstantin L/Shutterstock]