Visual Poetry

I’ve recently become interested in the idea of “watching a poem”. I think, apart from anything else, for a generation unaccustomed to reading poetry at least on the printed page, representing a poem visually is an interesting idea. Have a look at this visual poem made by Headgear Animation based on a short poem called Forgetfulness by Billy Collins. It clearly makes a cognitively challenging text much more teachable. How do you think you could exploit it in class?


The video clip is actually featured in English Unlimited Advanced self-study pack as well as Language Learning with Digital Video, published by Cambridge University Press. See the activities from the former: Forgetfulness Video Worksheet

Interestingly, Billy Collins has worked closely with animators over the years so much of his verse is available online in this format. In the following TED talk you can see five examples with some brief comments from the poet about the novel and the ultimate usefulness of working with animation. What I find interesting here is how he overcame his initial resistance to the idea and ended up embracing the notion:

Something else I take from the talk is Collins’ point about finding poetry in unexpected places – on an airplane, in the street- finding poetry in the everyday of course fits in very well with his world view – his notion of everyday moments caught in time.

Apart from Forgetfulness, one of my favourites of his is “The Best Cigarette”

I’ll be posting an activity based around this at digitalv shortly.