Three students of Information and Library Studies have had enough of creating hypothetical prototypes as part of their coursework. They found inspiration in Prague and abroad and created a real machine: the Veršostroj ("Rhyming Box).
“It’s basically a machine that allows you to record your own or somebody else’s poems. Afterwards, you place it in some sort of public space and people can come and press a button to make the machine play back a poem,” explains Radek Dobrovolný, one of the designers behind the device, adding that it is an open source platform. Anyone can create their own rhyming box and place it anywhere, whether their own home or an institutional setting.
The prototype was created as part of coursework for the Creative Laboratory and was inspired by a similar machine called the Poeziomat in Prague as well as machines in Germany and elsewhere. “We found out that the Poeziomat cost the city about two hundred thousand crowns, so we wondered whether it would be possible to make one cheaper,” says Radek.
Radek was the one who worked on the technical side of the device. Josef Kocurek had it made and Veronika Moravčíková, the last of the team members, provided the visual design for the Veršostroj. As Veronika describes, “It’s not that I made it from scratch. Its look is given by the material that was available. However, the idea is that it can look whatever you want it to look like and it can be made from anything.”
Josef explains the reasons behind the creation of the machine: “We wanted to bring poetry to the public space to make it more lively.” Veronika adds, “When you encounter the Veršostroj, it disturbs your everyday routine. Even if you are not really interested in poetry, the fact that it is presented to you in this form makes it a very different experience.” At present, the machine plays the poems at random, so when you press the button, you don’t know what you are going to hear.
The Veršostroj is currently located on the ground floor of the C building at the MU Faculty of Arts and reactions to the machine have so far been mostly positive. “We were actually contacted by a publisher who offered to make some poems available for us to record them on the Veršostroj,” says Radek.
At the moment, the team is planning to create a smaller, portable version of the box. As Josef says, “This would make it possible for anyone to take it out to outdoor events in parks and so on,” adding that the design of the portable version will be very different, using glass or a similar material. The Veršostroj was also available at the intergeneration picnic that took place in Lužánky. The authors worked on a presentation about this topic for the Brno BarCamp conference.