Josh Fisher began working on his first poetry application after his grandparents passed away, leaving him a box of their WWII-era love letters. He wanted to create something beautiful from the letters, that was faithful to their memories but that also embraced new storytelling methods. This resulted in “What We Mean,” an interactive app that allows users to read the original letters, to see Fisher’s process of creating the poems through erasure and that encourages users to develop and share their own erasure poetry.
The success of “What We Mean,” accepted into the App Store in December 2013, motivated Fisher to found Appoet earlier this year. Appoet is a digital publisher that works with organizations, artists and companies to create and develop unique apps that introduce poetry, and the humanities, into everyday life.
“I think of poetry as sort of secular prayer,” Fisher said. “I think it’s very important to have in the community and in society because it makes you think about the world differently.”
Appoet now has a team of more than five interns and volunteers who are working to develop and release four new apps this year. One of those is “Infused,” a GPS-enabled arts magazine that allows artists to post poems, stories, photographs, videos, music or other content to hotspots all around the world. For example, a writer could serialize a story and post pieces at certain El stations. Or a band could post a different song in each neighborhood in Chicago to create a musical tour of the city.
Fisher said that this kind of interactive media is the way he sees the arts going – and publishing as well. He believes that the traditional e-book format fails to take full advantage of what smartphones and tablets can do, and limits audience engagement.
“I really see e-books as just an intermediary format between traditional ways of reading literature and these extended, transmedia engaging mobile storytelling experiences,” Fisher said, adding, “Appoet is trying to learn how to do it now, so that in 10 years, five years, we’re positioned to be in a place where we can produce that kind of material for the next generation of interactive readers.”