Lenni Sanders

An Introduction & Some Thoughts on Digital Poetry

Hello! For my first post I thought I would tell you a bit about myself. I am a writer and performer, I live in Manchester, and I write mostly poetry. My pamphlet Poacher came out May 2019 with the Emma Press: the poems in there are very much about night time, and there’s a lot of horror imagery in there too, usually sneaking in there in disguise as love poems – a pianist whose hands are spiders and his partner who likes to feed the spiders’ mouths – an assassin bug who loves every single ant they catch.

If you’d like to hear some of my work, I was thrilled to contribute a short story to Ross Sutherland’s Groundhog Day two-parter episode of his podcast Imaginary Advice last year. You can also watch a recording of my reading for a Bookchat event (a really lovely reading series) with the Emma Press last year here.

I wanted to talk mostly in this blog post about digital poetry, which I’ve been increasingly interested in learning more about for a while now. I’ve been writing flarf-adjacent poetry for a few years, having a lot of fun incorporating bizarre phrases that appear from Google search results, or combining them to make new meanings – but am now keen to look into not just the content of the internet, but its form.

In terms of recent some work that uses or interacts with the internet, Autodîneur by Steph Marsden and Harry Josephine Giles, which gives the reader computer-generated instructions for new ways to prepare and enjoy a meal, is completely delightful. I also really like Charlotte Geater’s poems written with neural networks – this link leads to a pamphlet that in Charlotte’s words behaves like “fragments of verse from a past that never was”, as the neural network has been trained on mostly Renaissance or Victorian text.. Jacob Sam-La Rose is a brilliant advocate of digital arts, and you can check out his Twitter bot that writes poetry here, and another bot by him (which crashes different ideas and concepts together to generate poetry prompts like this incredible provocation “The poem starts with an urgency, and ends with eyelashes.”) here. This bot will respond to you with a new prompt to try out if you tweet @_pr0mpt.

There are so many exciting tools with which to write poetry, or ways in which to write, and it’s something I’ve been getting more and more interested in lately. I’ve been really enjoying this line shuffling tool by Katy Gero, which has been so fun for drawing out different images and suggestions in texts.

I think the digital area in which literature and games can come together has been one of the influences for me to try and make something interactive, which I’ll be sharing during this residency. I was inspired to do this after seeing Kim Moore perform her Poetry and Everyday Sexism thesis, with its fascinating choose-your-own-adventure informed structure – I will be sharing a short interview with her in a couple of weeks’ time about her work. I also attended Jon Stone’s brilliant talk on ludokinetic poetry at Kendal Poetry Festival and as an audience we played some of his poems together, which was a lovely communal moment. And here is Queers in Love at the End of the World, a piece of interactive fiction by Anna Anthropy in which you only have ten seconds to read as much of the story as you can before the timer runs out (and the world ends.)

Moving away from the digital world for a minute now – The Poetry Business has asked me to say what some of my favourite recent releases are. Of books that came out last year, my two favourites were the beautiful My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long which brought me back from a period of feeling pretty withdrawn from reading and writing, read in a single sitting in the bath tub. And Hello by Crispin Best, whose work I have loved for a long time, beyond wonderful!

Lastly, if you are looking for a quick dose of poetry, I wanted to tell you about the Instagram account @poetryisnotaluxury, which I follow devotedly. Often really beautiful poems by a wide range of writers, posted with extreme frequency!

My next post will be collaborative poems me and Helen Bowell are writing together from her Twitter takeover. I really enjoyed reading her posts through February and I’m stoked to be collaborating with her! 

Till then,
Lenni x

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