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Body Language and Interactive Poetry

Read Friday, 27 Feb 2015

As part of Taster, its public testing ground for new ideas and interactive programming, the BBC has launched an experimental poetry game called Body Language. Users are invited to compose one of ‘125 possible variations’ by selecting from poets’ feet, torsos and heads – and then to rate the experience.

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They’ve branded it ‘a new way to interact with poetry’, and recruited five poets – Doc Brown, Jane Yeh, Elvis McGonagall, Rachel Goss and Hollie McNish – charging them each with the task of writing and performing a verse inspired by the feet, torso and head. Visitors choose one of each body part (from the ground up), and then watch as their chosen poet/s perform each stanza in sequence.

‘[One] aim was to challenge the assumption that poetry is boring and inaccessible and I’d like to think we’ve successfully done that!’

Once you’ve created your favourite cut-up, you can share it via social media. The interactive also features interviews with the poets about their work, and once you’ve tried it, asks you to rate the experience – including whether it inspired you to find out more about the poets, and whether it increased your enjoyment of poetry.

Image: Screen capture of Body Language

Though it’s not just broadcasters who’re experimenting with digital poetry, the BBC’s experiment may be commendable for its accessibility. Given technology’s rapid pace, many examples of interactive poetry on the web rely on outdated coding languages for their interactions – or weren’t designed by professionally skilled designers – and thus age poorly. And memes like Google Poetics and @horse_ebooks bear witness to technology’s ability to create cut-ups of us.

Of course, there’s always that most time-honoured form of interactive poetry: magnetic poetry. That, too, lives online.

Our exploration of what stories our bodies can tell – also called Body/Language – takes place at the Malthouse Theatre this coming Monday night. It marks the first of our Subtexts series of talks, based on key themes from the 2015 Malthouse theatre program, and features speakers including Alice Pung, Kelli Jean Drinkwater, Karina Quinn and host Clementine Ford.

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