Kindle Makes Its Way into Contemporary Poetry

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Surely something is important if today’s poets are writing about it. And it’s National Poetry Month, so what better time to read a poem. In the new issue of Poetry Magazine, poet Robyn Schiff mentions Amazon’s wireless reading device in a poem about the H1N1 virus.

Here’s an excerpt (click here to read the whole poem):

I’m taking my temperature again;
my thermometer is digital and pink
and its beep is my name

being read from the book of life,
which is available on Kindle
and allows me to avoid the public library

but contains peculiar punctuation
errors and is transcribed by
evangelists while they wait

in line at gates you can’t see from here.

Is “the book of life” indeed available on Kindle? Is it available anywhere? Oh dear, it’s up to poetry to ask the great questions. It’s doubtful that this is the book Schiff means, though Life’s Little Instruction Book is what comes up when you search Amazon’s Kindle store for “the book of life.”

In an interview Poetry conducted about the poem, Schiff has a few words about the Kindle: “Digital media seems to me particularly well suited for so protean a text as The Book of Life! I suppose there is a social commentary there: that a spiritual ledger – God’s actuary records – would be available for cheap and instant download. It strikes me as funny that Amazon’s wireless reader, the Kindle, has such a holy-sounding name, and the downloading function is called Whispernet – a perfectly haunting term. It gives me goosebumps.”

So there you have it: Kindle enters the Western cannon.