Definition of poetry video and how it started

The combination of verses with visuals is a relatively new genre – its founder is considered to be Gianni Toti. Being an experimental poet in the early 80s, he created "Poetronica", an experimental mix of poetry, cinema, and electronic art. Since then, visual poetry has become a quite widespread practice.

Video poetry is a versatile genre. On the one hand, it looks like a classic short film, but, unlike it, the leading role belongs not to the actor, but to the poem itself. On the other hand, it’s a music video, although the poem is not sung, but recited or displayed on the screen. Another form of video poetry is a video recording of poetic readings, in which the video sequence can have an additional semantics, enrich the poem or emphasize a certain interpretation of it.

Convert poetry to video

Video poetry is not just a way to get a poem across to a visually oriented audience. The best poem videos demonstrate how a new, unified work of art is born from the combination of poetic text and video.

Visual poetry examples

After reading the description of the video poetry genre, it may seem that it’s both simple and complex at the same time. Simple, because it is clear from the description what the videos of this genre embody, and complex, because it’s not so easy to imagine or create such a video without seeing an example first.

Luckily, in our time, finding examples is not hard. Even if we discard the thematic sites of the creators or the genre as a whole, you can simply look up poetry videos on YouTube! Of course, there you will find mostly amateur videos, but they also have their charm – after all, poetry and its interpretation are very personal and reflect the creator’s vision.

We have selected several videos for the initial introduction to the video poetry genre:

"Embrace" by Willem Martinot

This is the author’s visualization of their own poem. It’s noticeable even if it’s not spelled out directly – every shot is coherent to the overall story and the actress conveys the emotions and thoughts which the author put into writing the poem.

"The Laughing Heart" by Jonathan Weaver

In this video poetry example, the author shows their own visual interpretation of the poem by Charles Bukowski. Unlike the previous example, this one consists of cinematic shots of nature accompanied by an inspirational reading of the poem, which makes it easy to relax and focus on the meaning of the text.

"The Peace of Wild Things" by Charlotte Ager & Katy Wang

As with all visual media, a story can be told in more than just live motion, and this video poem is an example of visual poems animation. It often takes more time than the usual video poetry since each shot has to be drawn and then properly edited together with others, but the result is a very expressive illustrated story.

How to make visual poetry

Alright, your interest in the genre is piqued, you watched a few examples and want to try creating your own visual poem – now what? Since you’re a beginner, try the linear process of making to not be confused with the details from different steps:

  • Firstly, pick a poem. It can be any existing poem that resonates with you or, if you’re feeling inspired, you can write your own one.
  • Write down an idea of what the end result should look like or make a rough storyboard. Thus you can easily follow the story while filming or drawing shots.
  • Find the right background music to add. It should have the same vibe as the poem, whether tense or calm. In case of the former, make sure the volume isn’t overwhelming while editing.
  • Record the reading of the poem. This step may be harder for someone who is not very good at expressive reading, but in such a case you can ask your friend or find an actor to do it.
  • Add subtitles. In some situations people watch videos without sound, and even though your visual poem may lose some of the atmosphere without music, its visuals, coupled with the text of the poem, can hook the viewer and they will rewatch it later in all its glory.
Convert poems to animation

Now that you’ve got the basics, let your imagination run wild! Even if you have no experience in making videos, you can do whatever comes to your mind, because you can edit your video as much as you like before uploading it to the Internet.