If you did childhood properly you probably had some sort of secret language you used to write letters to your BFF so your teacher couldn’t intercept them and find out you were the one who wet lumps of toilet paper and threw them at the locker room ceiling. If you’re doing adulthood properly you probably don’t do exactly that anymore, but perhaps the desire to communicate in code is something that never really disappears.
For Carina Finn and Stephanie Berger that code is emoji. Finn began sending Berger elaborate emoji messages that Berger would then translate into English and send back to her, creating collaborative emoji poems. Berger, who is co-executive director of the Poetry Society of New York and runs something called The Poetry Brothel, explains the process thusly:
“Carina Finn is the type of woman who carries her iPhone around in a pink, purse-shaped, silicone case that says, ‘Cliché’ on it. She also uses a lot of emojis when she texts. Sometimes, when she plans to send a text, she spontaneously writes a poem instead. As I understand it, that urge to write a poem suddenly came over her as she had her emoji keyboard open in August of 2012. Being best friends and preliminary editors of each other’s work, she texted me the poem and asked what I thought. Instinctively, I translated it and texted it right back to her. A few days later, I received another. Again I translated. We carried on for months just like that.
The emoji poems saw us each through a few different lovers, several jobs, three countries, three seasonal wardrobe changes, and even hurricane Sandy. I think of the poems as operating within a kind of secret language between girls; they are filled with our secrets, and only we know the code.”
The poets kindly agreed to let us publish two of their poems, which you can find below.
Editor’s note: The second poem was originally published in Smoking Glue Gun magazine.