I found myself in a meeting today with my boss and several other tech-savvy colleagues, discussing the educational and productivity-enhancing implications of various new technologies. When we got around to the iPad, I mentioned its potential to bring some sizzle to literature--possibly in ways the Kindle cannot. I whipped out my iPod Touch, fired up the new Poem Flow for iPhone application that just got released today, and we all sat around for a few minutes watching "The Second Coming" by W.B. Yeats elegantly fade, in measured lines, across my tiny screen. The implications for the larger iPad seemed obvious.
The implications of this technology for poetry, however, remain to be seen. I was contacted at the start of this month by Laura Often, Public Relations for Text Flows, the company that partnered with The Academy of American Poets to bring Poem Flow to life. She was interested in having me blog about their project. I'm not sure if she found me as a former technology blogger or a current poetry blogger, but nonetheless I took a look. Unfortunately, at that time, I could only see a brief Flash-based demonstration on their web site.
Holding my iPod Touch in my hands while it runs this application is a different experience. The font is lovely. The transitions between lines (and parts of lines) are thoughtful and well-executed. In fact, the deliberate slow-down of the reading experience seems to be one of the few actual enhancements I've seen technology make to literature--perhaps the only enhancement in this regard, since mostly when it comes to reading, technology encourages us to speed up.
So why do I feel hesitant to herald this as the great game-changer for poetry? I suppose some curmudgeonly part of me still remains of the opinion that literature, and poetry specifically, doesn't need smartening up through gadgetry. And yet, such gadgetry does, indeed, hold our eyeballs hostage--in some cases for most of our waking day. So perhaps I should be happy that poetry has a chance to greet those eyeballs.
Text Flows has certainly done a nice job. Ultimately, as a word-artist, the reading experience is paramount to me. And as much as I love the feel of turning a crisp page, Poem Flow does bring something new to my reading experience. Time will tell if this "new" will become the norm.
For now, you can see for yourself. iPhone and iPod touch users (and soon, no doubt, iPad users too) can download Poem Flow from the iPhone App Store. You can also demo the application in any Flash-enabled web browser on the Poem Flow site.