L and the Empress of Sand

Evie Godfrey2023 Longlist, 2023 Shortlist - Main Prize, Opening Up

‘L and the Empress of Sand’ is a simple ludokinetic poem — that is, a poem that imbues the reader with responsibility for (and implicates them in) one or more outcomes via interactivity, in much the same way as an interactive story. It’s a poem about the power of language, specifically as a system of organisation. L meets the titular Empress armed with the knowledge that lists of carefully categorised words are the key to getting close to her, to lowering her defences. It’s also, perhaps less obviously, about inequality and rebellion.

It’s possible to ‘fail’ the poem on the two higher difficulty settings offered near the start. Picking the lowest difficulty means you just have to restart some sections. This mechanism is in place in order to compel the reader to pay attention to the words they’re clicking on.