Sherwood Publishes Poetry Book, “Code of Signals”

Posted on 10/12/2017 1:08:11 PM

Kenneth Sherwood (English Department) has published a book-length serial poem, Code of Signals, exploring Western Pennsylvania, past and present, as a space and culture grounded in fossil fuels.

In 14 sections, the book moves from ancient dead organisms to historical remnants of nineteenth-century mining, and to current landscape and social transformations in the era of so-called clean coal, green energy, and fracking for natural gas extraction.

Code of Signals cover image Conceived initially as a digital work, Code of Signals flirts with, but largely eschews, the controlling energy of the lyric voice in order to compose itself as the reader “mines it,” using algorithmic rules to juxtapose original and found texts in dynamic, varying patterns.

Reviewers situate the book in an experimental/tradition beginning with Objectivist poetry in the 1930s and continuing with the contemporary Conceptual Writing movement.

What Others Are Saying about the Book 

Robert Farnsworth, author of Rumored Islands, Three or Four Hills and a Cloud, and Honest Water:

“It's moving to see the best and most ambitious instincts of a poet persist and find flower, as [they] have here. The book is woven beautifully, its elements and methods (threnody and list and historical excavation) culminating in memorably admonitory lament. Bravo!”

Martin Spinelli, Senior Lecturer, University of Sussex:

“Deceptively anachronistic, Code of Signals is part safety manual for nineteenth-century mine shaft lift operators, part algorithmic program, and part meditation on coal and the lives of its miners. Sherwood assembles these elements into a delicate allegorical architecture that invited me into deep reflection on the politics of our own particularly troubled moment in American history. As different signals are sounded, like bells communicated to mine engineers, coal is framed scientifically, aesthetically and culturally, but most poignantly and most prominently, as an instrument of and marker within the fraught class dynamics of the country then and now.”

More information, including a sampler and purchasing details can be found at digital prototype for this print volume, “Coal: First Seam” is also accessible via the website.

Kenneth Sherwood is an associate professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he co-directs the Center for Digital Humanities and Culture. He teaches graduate courses in electronic literature, digital humanities, documentary poetry, and ethnopoetics/orality.