The Washington Post celebrates National Poetry Month with video

Washington Post celebrates National Poetry Month with digital poetry videos

The Washington Post brought designers to the table to create beautiful animations. Here, we see a portrait of Jimi Hendrix for the poem Not Fade Away by Michael Robbins.

The Washington Post brought designers to the table to create beautiful animations. Here, we see a portrait of Jimi Hendrix for the poem Not Fade Away by Michael Robbins.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, The Washington Post has put together a collection of 10 poems accompanied by video animations. It’s a nice treatment that ties into a larger movement of video poems, wherein poets collaborate with filmmakers to create art.

While I’m not a poetry connoisseur, I did enjoy the poems here and think the videos, especially the audio, added a lot to the experience of reading the texts. In a sea of hyper visual Internet content, the leading videos are also a good way to make the poems pop.

Complementing written content with attention-grabbing video is something I learned while studying multimedia journalism. Though it’s a seemingly obvious technique, it’s a time-consuming, costly one, and it’s great to see the concept applied to poetry. Note that I have yet to see the video technique applied to fiction (though I’m sure it’s out there somewhere).

The video for Face Down, by Mary Karr, is particularly compelling and adds another dimension to the character being addressed in the poem.

The video for Face Down, by Mary Karr, is particularly compelling and adds another dimension to the character being addressed in the poem.

The video interpretations, for the most part, take a chunk of each short poem and illuminate those sections via artwork and beautiful typography. Some contain more type than others (Visitation, for example, is entirely typographical). But for me, the strongest one is Face Down, which uses visuals to flesh out the character and environment contained within poem, adding another dimension to the text.

Of course, The Washington Post isn’t the first organization to do this kind of work. After going through this experience and doing a quick Google search, I found Motion Poems, a nonprofit which dedicates itself exclusively to this genre, as well as Moving Poems, a news site about video poetry. (*We’ll be sure to cover these more in depth soon*).

The art style can be very gentle. Here, we see some multicolored trees as well as some interesting typographical treatment.

The art style can be very gentle. Here, we see some multicolored trees as well as some interesting typographical treatment for Commencement by Kevin Young.

What’s also particularly interesting is the possibility of drawing new readership to poetry using video. Speaking as a person who generally dwells outside the poetry realm, I can say that the added video helps to guide an outsider into the experience (I’ve binged on quite a few poems today – motion poems are a pleasant way to spend an afternoon).

That being said, poetry enthusiasts, please let me know your thoughts – does experiencing these poems with the video add to or simply alter the experience? Is it better, worse, or just different than experiencing the poems alone? The jury may still out on these questions. In any case, it’s an interesting, 21st century way to celebrate National Poetry Month.

One of the most powerful poems is The Boss Calls Us at Home, by Victoria Chang, which reflects on the events of September 11th.

One of the most powerful poems is The Boss Calls Us at Home, by Victoria Chang, which reflects on the events of September 11th.

Be sure to check out the full experience at The Washington Post!

About the author

Ricardo Morales

Ricardo Morales is a programmer, digital literature enthusiast, and founder of AltSalt. Perpetually stricken with wanderlust, he enjoys playing music, social dancing, and making awesome work with talented people.

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