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A night at the readies


Then a miracle occurs
I recently discovered an interesting piece of poetry history: In the 1930s, poet Bob Brown decided that the wonders of modern media technology (most obviously movies) should be applied to the boring old concept of reading texts in books. He envisioned a machine (though it's not clear if he ever actually built it, except for this possible prototype) in which you inserted "books" (or, as he called them in this case, "readies") written on rolled up strips of microfilm, and read the words as they automatically moved across a magnification screen. He imagined that this would be much more convenient, and saving both time and resources when you didn't have to print big books, but having them on small rolls that could be carried around in your pocket. This was in many ways very ahead of its time, his writing on the subject seems to anticipate things like e-books, maybe even Twitter. Even though no machine even made it to market, he did manage to convince quite a few famous poets of the day to write poems specifically intended to be viewed on it, rolling onwards automatically. These poems were in fact published in a regular book at the time, which feels kind of ironic.

Many years later, an enterprising soul decided to create a website where you can actually read the poems as they were originally intended, with buttons to increase or decrease the speed, moving them forward or in reverse. Unfortunately, the site seems to be a little buggy, since I can't seem to actually select a particular poem or author from the list, but get a randomly selected poem whenever I click anywhere. Still, it's a fascinating piece of history, and it's fun that modern technology finally has made Brown's vision possible.


That is wild, but the power of formatting, gaps and page breaks in poetry is significant for many poets. I suppose adding a bunch of blank spaces serves a similar purpose but likely not as much. I'm sure people could develop other ways to make similar impacts.

Commissioning poets to write poems specifically for that makes me think he considered the same issue though.


Then a miracle occurs
Yeah, I don't think the idea was to make texts/poems the "old" way, but to come up with new ways of writing for a new format. Which, again, reminds me of things like Twitter.