In this hardened digital age, promoting people to read poetry can be an unenviable task. While Twitter has brought the epigram into the modern era, we seem to have less and less patience.
It is hard to imagine a digital native penning “The Waste Land” or any of the other lengthy, opaque works of poetry that burst onto the scene around a century ago. But perhaps we need to wait for the new generation to find its feet.
One young Japanese poet has found a novel way to promote her poetry online and it also borrows heavily from a retro video game that we surely all know and love.
Shi Shooting (Poetry Shooting) is a website for the work of Tahi Saihate. Also a novelist, she has won several awards for her verses.
She came up with a brilliant way to introduce her poetry to audiences by having the words converted into the spaceships in a “Space Invaders”-style game in which you can control laser cannons to blast her poems to smithereens before their projectiles hit you or they reach the bottom. Yes, in a nutshell, rather than those waves of merciless advancing aliens you have Saihate’s lyrics to destroy — and presumably read as well.
The classic two-dimensional look is faithfully retained, though this time with just black (both the laser cannons, defense bunkers and poetry “invaders”) against a plain white background. You’ll be pleased to see the iconic pixellated design is also still there, along with the annoying habit the invaders have for speeding up as they get closer.
When it’s game over, the message on the screen even says “Thank you for reading”. We’re not sure how much actual reading most players will get when visiting the website (avoiding the projectiles and aiming for that pesky final comma that needs blasting surely is time-consuming enough!), but it is certainly a great way to get people to remember your work and interact with it in a fresh way.
Give it a try — you’ll be hooked!