Poetry Becomes Moving Art in App Form
With Abra, writers and artists Kate Durbin and Amaranth Borsuk are trying to bring poetry back to the smartphone-obsessed masses.
Courtesy the artists
While Los Angeles-based artist Kate Durbin was exploring selfie culture at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2015, she and collaborators Amaranth Borsuk and Ian Hatcher were also busy hatching an interactive poetry app. This might not sound too exciting at first glance, because the mobile-obsessed masses could hardly be bothered to read rhyming or free verse. But that’s precisely the point with Abra, which Durbin tells The Creators Project is a touch-based “magical poetry instrument/spellbook” that creates a “new way for regular people and poets alike to create and enjoy poetry in the era of the Internet and smartphones.”
The trio’s app allows iOS users to touch words and watch them shift under fingers. Gestures “cast spells” to mutate text and set it in motion. “Write your own words and see them become part of Abra’s vocabulary,” the duo explain on the Abra website. “Read, write, and experiment to discover her secrets and make her poems your own.”
“Most people don't read books, let alone poetry—it can be a very alienating art form,” Durbin says. “With Abra, you can not only read but create poems right on your phone, using the language we all use every day (emojis, etc.), but you can then capture and share the poems you create on Twitter, Facebook, various other social media spaces with one button. You don't have to get editors or publishers to approve of your work.”
“It's a great app to play with when you have a free minute in an otherwise busy day,” she adds. “I play with it in the airport a lot. Also, it looks like a rainbow, and who doesn't love rainbows?”
In addition to the app, the artists produced an edition of 10 physical copies, and only a handful are still left. "The physical book actually has a slot for the iPad in the back," Durbin explains. "The app and physical book work in tandem, and as you flip through the physical book you can see apertures opening and the app text swimming around in the holes. We saw this relationship between the two books as speaking to the history and future of the book's technology."