How to look at visual poetry

"The Echoing Green" by William Blake as an example of how to look at visual poetry
“The Ecchoing Green” By William Blake taken from “Songs and Innocence and of Experience”


How to look at Visual Poetry

When looking at visual poetry, the point of focus is dependent on the placement of the poem and the artwork. The placement of the poem and the artwork is significant because it determines where the eye is drawn to upon first glance. By including artwork with the poem the artist can highlight particular themes and symbols of the poem that offer insight into the perspective of the artist. In the exhibited image, the poem itself is located on the lower half of the page and is surrounded by paintings of a boy and swirling leaves and branches. The first half of the page being dedicated to a single painting of women and children gathered around a large tree. The picture runs horizontally across the top half of the page which mimics the flow of how one would read a poem. As a result of this placement, the painting on the first half of the page becomes the focal point of the page. At first glance, the eye is drawn to the vivid green of the grass and the leaves of the tree. As the eye moves along the painting it falls on each individual woman and child gathered under the tree. As the eye moves away from the details of the individual aspects of the painting, the eyes begin to trace the textures provided by the short strokes evident in the tree trunk, the leaves, the grass, and the flowers in the background. Rather than the poem itself being the singular highlight of the page, the poem blends in seamlessly with the artwork in a way that compliments the artwork and the poetry both individually and as a joint piece of artwork.

Once the eye is drawn away from the painting, it moves down towards the bottom half of the page where the poem is highlighted by the use of a pastel pink and yellow background. Poems are often organized by stanzas that follow a particular theme. As the eye reads each line of the poem, it moves along to the margins of the page where there are small intricate paintings of swirling branches and a young boy pictured in a white shirt and blue pants. The paintings in the margins of the poem create a flow that highlights the flow of each stanza. The poem itself speaks of spring with a theme of life. Upon finishing the poem, the eye moves back towards the painting on the first half of the page with renewed perspective of the symbolism that is outlined in the poem.

Works Cited

Elkins, James. “How to Use Your Eyes.” (2000)

The Ecchoing Green, Object 6 (Bentley 6, Erdman 6, Keynes 6)

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.