Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Jonathan Price
Computer icons carry culture, history, and code. As buttons, they awaken functions deep inside the system. As images, they evoke old technology, memes, and mysteries. And, as artwork bearing their own titles, they come loaded with implications, overtones, and attitude. In this light-hearted study, Jonathan Reeve Price explores the complex powers of 100 icons. Price created the first style guide for Apple's writers and designers, and here recalls the invention of computer icons, when the developers were creating the new thing, a graphic user interface. How have icons evolved over the years? How have they managed to become ubiquitous, almost unnoticed, though we use them every day? Author of 30 books, conceptual artist and concrete poet, Jonathan Reeve Price shows visual poems in galleries, museums, and anthologies. He created the first style guide for Apple's writers and designers, and here recalls the invention of computer icons, and reflects on 100 examples of the current crop.
Interrogating the everyday digital images like shopping carts and the triangle-within-a-circle button you click to make media play, this collection of visual poems from Price (author of The Liquid Border) offers a humanist decoding of the symbols that govern our contemporary digital world. In a series of 100 poems, Price extrapolates from the functional images that we may take for granted—the icons for “format paragraph,” “restore from trash,” and more from Google’s Material Design set—what significance, resonance, and vibrations that he can, while exploring what it means to click on them and allow “a more powerful intelligence” than ours to “act on our behalf.” The poet describes, in an introduction, his history at Apple creating the first style guide for virtual icons, works that he now sees as “small poems, austere artworks.”

Sharp insights abound in Price’s crisp, plain-spoken verse (on the shopping cart icon: “Is this the archetype of America, the bin // We can never fill?”), and Price’s emotional range is broad enough to encompass satire, despair, and flashes of real feeling, especially in lines on icons whose designs harken back to the world before: paper clips, paint brushes, the three-columned facade of a bank. “Nothing says bank like a Greek temple // Holding your money, blocking // You from whatever is left”, Price writes. The poet’s voice is knowledgeable and often funny, exposing the strangeness and power of such easy-to-overlook images (like the “Angular and sharp” Bluetooth “rune”) with wry asides and deeply human expressions of longing for greater connection.

Price’s poems shine brightest when they reach to the tangible or some personal history. While well-articulated and eminently readable, their overall brevity (usually around five to six lines) at times limits their depth, and the deeper, near-religious experience of icons suggested in the introduction is often lacking in the poems themselves. Sill, Icons both invites and playfully rewards readers for thinking more deeply about the standardized symbols of our digital lives, with many striking observations.

Takeaway: Incisive poems urging a closer look at the iconography of the digital era.

Comparable Titles: Lan Donne’s Whispers from the Web, Wesley Bishop’s The Digital Self.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A