A review of reiterations by Fortner Anderson

Published on November 1, 2022

Poet, artist, and performance artist Fortner Anderson has designed a highly conceptual book project that is available open access for download through his website. As Anderson explains in endnotes to the book, reiterations has “JavaScript software integrated [… that] recomposes the verses of its 24 sonnets to create 24 new poems; depending on the e-book reader, this recomposition may take place upon opening of the book, or at each turn of the page.”


Fortner Anderson

Oracular Dispensations Press

In some ways, then, this book is simultaneously unreadable and hyper-readable. On the one hand, the impossibility of returning to a poem or series of poems as they are constantly remaking themselves questions the status of the book as a stable object. On the other hand, this remaking offers consistently new texts that welcome ongoing and renewed engagement with them. The book’s concept also prompts a different kind of reading, a process that moves beyond the default cover-to-cover absorption to a more playful decoding of structures and patterns.


I became curious to see whether there were similarities built into the reformulation of certain texts. Three versions of the first line are, for example, “I counted rebellions of foiled potentates,” “I watched frigid entertainments of its reign,” and “I ate fictions of pleasant slow-moving flocks,” offering a clue to the regular syntax applied to each new construction. Similarly, the same pages of each version tend towards the same stanzaic form, the same ratio of long or short lines, and so on. 

This detective work comments perhaps on the closed form of the traditional sonnet and its ability to function according to a set of compositional rules, even as its words keep shifting. At the same time, reiterations is just a fun time, a lighthearted opening and closing of the book in order to see how poems transform themselves. As one of the versions of a line suggests, I, as reader, “was paddling within poesy.”mRb

Klara du Plessis is the author of Ekke and Hell Light Flesh. She is currently completing her PhD in English Literature from Concordia University.



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