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What They Speak

One of the fascinating literary questions is what will happen to poetry as it gradually becomes unleashed from the sanctuary of the printed page. So far the answer has been mixed. There have been lots of experiments with digital media from randomly generated verses to HTML poems but few, if any, have been popular enough to be quoted at the dinner table. In fact I am pushed to remember any.

One interesting new arrival is an iPad/iPhone app called What They Speak When They Speak to Me. When you open the iPad version it consists of a black screen with white(ish) letters of the alphabet swimming around and little else. It is a pleasing artwork in its own right. But as you start touching the letters with your fingers and dragging theme around they form sentences if moved in one direction and reverse sentences if moved in the other (mistaken identity?) After a while you realise that if you start with a capital letter you can likely get a whole sentence and even change it into a shape such as a triangle or even a face with the words following the shape you plot.

The actual  lines – such as “Are they speaking to themselves or me?” don’t seem to be part of a narrative but do address the central theme of mistaken identity. The idea behind it is great. Maybe they should open the platform up and let anyone put their own words or clips of classical poems up to exploit the verbal serendipity of the space.

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