Concrete/Spatial Poetry

I decided on the title of this post hesitantly. Concrete and spatial poetry might be likened to poems that rely on shape and typographical space to add a new dimension to the words on the page. Perhaps the best way to describe is to show...

Click this link to view some of my poems that rely on space and shape for poetic structure. All except the last of these might be considered kinds of spatial poetry. "I Sail" and "Words" would be considered concrete poetry, while "Metaphysics" and "I hear you say, I hear" would be spatial poetry. Another example of concrete poetry would be "Gum Tree" by Jennifer Phillips. Some spatial poetry you may like is Richard Smith's "not so concrete" or the work of the Finnish visual poet Jukka-Pekka Kervinen.

I was hesitant in the title of this post because of how difficult it is to nail down these forms considering the amazing possibilities offered to poets by digital media. Take for example the code poetry of Ted Warnell. I asked him about his work and the relationship of the form and the content one time and he gave me a great answer: "The form is the content and the content is the form. The poetry is non-representational." And just as the form and the content are braided, the spatial and concrete elements are, in some ways, intertwined.

It's also interesting to think about how hypertext can work in poetry to create new possibility for a single poem. Have a look at a hypertext poem by Mary Hedger if you're interested. Hypertext adds a dimension of depth to the poem, a new space and a new poem for each reading depending on how you choose to click through it.

If you'd like to experiment with concrete, spatial, or other kinds of visual poetry, leave me a comment so I can check it out. I'd love to see what you come up with.


Anonymous said...

I am no good with forms. They scare me. Rules scare me. I have no discipline.I just write what comes to me. But do you think, by keeping to the 'rules' is the only way such will be seen as 'real' Poetry.

November 25, 2009 at 8:29 AM
Jon said...


No, I don't think one must follow the 'rules' to make 'real' poetry -- rules are there to be broken. And in a way, all writing is a kind of spatial/concrete poetry, as long as there are words and a page/screen -- some writing space.

But another way to answer this question might be that the definition of poetry is not only about words:

"Poetry is a flash of lightening; when it is an arrangement of words on a page it is mere composition." (Kahlil Gibran)

Maybe the next post I'll do on this blog will be on free verse. Then I'll bamboozle you all by leaving a blank page.


November 25, 2009 at 10:45 AM
Harlequin said...

Jon-- well, I have posted a first attempt and I have to say that I have found the experience ( simple as it is) to be quite... liberating, actually.
I like the way that this blog has been a stimulus ( or maybe catalyst is a better word ? ) for contributors to explore the many ways that expressiveness can come into being... I am a self proclaimed amateur, and I am finding that I delight in both constraint and free fall... I especially like how you are able to model both ( and more!!) in your own writing and explorations. Please continue ;)

November 27, 2009 at 12:18 AM
ANNA-LYS said...

I like everything that goes beyond the information given and challenge us to think, act, and create outside the boxes.
have to get back here for more food for thoughts ;-)

November 27, 2009 at 3:42 AM
Derliwall said...

Hi Jon, here is my attempt.

The form and content are meant to coincide. I might be the only one who can see it though :)

November 29, 2009 at 7:11 PM
Jon said...

I've had a look at your shape poetry... WELL DONE!!! I like where you're going with this idea. Thanks for playing along.

Welcome! Glad that you like the blog and the writing prompts here. Come back for a visit whenever you like.

Nice poem that you link to here. I can see the dancer in motion on the page. Thanks!

November 29, 2009 at 9:30 PM
Crimson Flower said...

Hi Jon,

As a theatre practitioner/educator I'm currently researching performance poetry - so lifting words from the page. Could this come into the category or realm of spatial poetry? Or is it a form of its own?

Also - I love Friere's quote at the beginning of your blog. Can you say a bit more about how it relates to spatial poetry and the practice of freedom?

All the best,

November 3, 2017 at 5:40 AM
Crimson Flower said...

That should be 'how does spatial poetry relate to the 'practice of freedom' and education in the wider sense'. Thank you!

November 3, 2017 at 5:44 AM
Jon said...

Hello Crimson Flower,

Yes, this is all performance and all practice of freedom. Maybe that's what poetry is. But poetry is also in many ways institutional, at least in the sense that it's made academic. My view (and my hope) is that language and communication can play a part in (or be the catalyst for) liberation. I see that liberatory potential in simple acts of poetry... thus Freire.

I just uploaded a more recent paper that I hope speaks to you:

I'm happy to speak to you more and hope to hear from you again soon :)

November 3, 2017 at 6:34 AM