“Sinking” into Ingrid Ankerson: A Poem That Goes

In the world of electronic poetry, the name Ingrid Ankerson is definitely one to know. The founder of the visual poetry project “Poems that Go” as well as the author and designer of numerous works of electronic literature, Ankerson is a profound influence and creative force within the genre. Many of Ankerson’s work’s utilize very basic and minimal effects and animations in congruence with much heavier story telling in order to access the weight of her discussions in a nuanced and progressive way.

In her electronic poem, “Sinking”, published in the year 2000, Ankerson wrestles with an intense reflection on life; ruminating on past interactions and potential future problems. The speaker reflects on the process of learning to swim, now feeling as if he/she is missing a mandatory skill for life, or that something was left untaught. The poem is presented initially on a blank, blue, page with a hyperlink marked “Sinking” standing alone in the forefront. 


Opening page of “Sinking”

 Upon clicking the link the poem begins and the reader is instantly sensationalized with ambient, discombobulated music and an extremely slow scrolling background, which is also blue. This background slowly shifts color, however, turning darker and darker as the poem progresses, adding to the aesthetic of ‘sinking’ as well as serving as a visual representation of the idea. The presentation of this piece is one of the strongest aspects of it. By manipulating the color blue, motion, and sound, “Sinking” automatically spurs anxiety from the reader, giving off an air of helplessness or predetermined fate. This aesthetic is only further amplified as the poem progresses deeper and deeper into the metaphor. 


ex. 1 (early in poem)


ex. 2 (later in poem)

 The poem itself is animated with PowerPoint-esque motion pathways attached to the lines, and they dissolve in and out of the screen, sometimes so subtly they’re easily missed. This animation style makes the poem feel very fluid and awash, an exceptionally effective tool in relation to the context of the poem and the mentions of the ocean and water that occur throughout. Upon completion of the poem, there is no marker to tell you that you’ve finished. Instead, you’ve reached a bottom. A place that you have sunk down to, and if you should so choose, you may stay there forever. The light blue hue on the page at the opening of the piece is gone, now replaced by a foreboding indigo-black. The churning audio track continues to play as if Ankerson is asking you, “is the poem over? have you finished?”


ex. 3 (poem end)

 It’s up to you to decide for yourself.


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