Visual Poetry: Concrete Poetry and Calligrams

concrete poetryVisual art made with words.

Concrete poetry is a form of text art, like ASCII art and typewriter art. It’s also poetry, the genre known as visual poetry. Concrete poetry uses words and drawings to illustrate a poem. The words are in the image. The text itself forms a visible picture on the page, like a silhouette.

Calligram seems to be another word for concrete poetry. If there is a distinction between them I’m not sure what it is. Maybe calligrams are more about graphic art based visual poetry and concrete poetry is more text based. However they began the line between the two has become blurred.

You know concrete poetry when you see it because the word has become the art, the illustration and the picture holds the words inside it.

Sometimes the poem is written in a shape which can be read in different ways but still make sense. For example, a circle which can be read in any direction.

Concrete poets use use typography: fonts, shape, texture, colour, and sometimes animation to form text art into prose.

Concrete Poetry/ Calligram History

Simmias of Rhodes, a 4th century scholar and poet, created poems written in shapes relevant to the subject.

In the Middle Ages when Monks used concrete poetry to illuminate their written text.

Guillaume Apollinaire (Picasso’s friend) composed several calligrams.

Dolphin's Way

How to Critique of Calligrams/ Concrete Poetry

Is it easy to identify the picture with the text?

Is the image relevant to the poem?

Does the image add something (humour, deeper meaning, comprehension) to the poem?

Can the poem stand on it’s own as just a poem?

Does the text help form the image, does the text actually add something to the image?

Are there alternative ways of reading the poem?

Try Creating your own Concrete Poem

Get a general idea of something you could write about. Pick a topic or idea which creates images and thoughts in your mind right away.

Draw a sketch (like an outline) of the idea. Even if you want to work with ASCII art or typewriter art you sitll need a basic sketch to start with). Imagine yourself as a cartoonist who just has one panel, one image, to tell the story or explain the idea.

Write your poem, get the words at the end of each line to rhyme. Keep it short and keep it simple for your first try visual poetry work. Aim for a total of four rhyming lines.

Take your poem and fit it into your sketch. How do the words add to the sketch? Once you get this far you might change your mind about the sketch and draw it differently or start all over fresh, with a different vision for the image you use with your words.

Go from there and turn your sketch into text art and then type in your words. This adds another challenge as you will have limits imposed by the typewriter or word processing text itself. A hand drawn concrete poem can be moved in any way your hand chooses to draw it. If you create ASCII art, you will (hopefully) enjoy the challenge of concrete poetry and ASCII art.

text based art

Guillaume Apollinaire

Concrete Poetry: Artists and Links

Text Art to Get your Fingers Typing

Text art includes: ASCII art, ANSI art, typographic art, typewriter art, emoticons and Twitter art. They are all based on keyboard characters, more or less.

Text art includes more than ASCII art. But, ASCII art will come up first and be the largest part of the search results when you look up text art online.

The Text Mode blog on Tumblr has a mix of text art forms and techniques. It’s worth looking through the current posts and the archives too. There’s also a Pinterest account.

On Flickr I found a Text group with all kinds of art involving text. Another group for Text as Art.

What is Text Art?

ASCII Art

ASCII artists use the standard keyboard characters (if you have to use more than the shift key to type them they are not ASCII art characters) to create pictures (images/ graphics). This means artists who use more than the standard ASCII art characters are creating ANSI art.

ANSI Art

Artists have more flexibility with ANSI art because there are a variety of extended characters and colours which give far more options than ASCII art. It’s funny how ASCII art is still hanging around and is better known than ANSI art.

Typewriter Art

Typewriter art is easy to understand. Take away the computer keyboard and put an old fashioned typewriter down in front of yourself instead. Use the typewriter ribbon to add more effects to the art you create. You can smudge the ink, for instance. You can also hold the paper as you type and move it where you want to type, exactly. This means you can type one character halfway over another – easily done with the old typewriter.

Twitter Text Art

Twitter text art is a version of ANSI art. But, like Japanese ASCII art, it is dependent on which computer, software and operating system you are using. Not all keyboards, systems and languages work alike. These differences bring variety to ASCII/ ANSI text art and this difference is also use for creating text art which works on Twitter.

Emoticons/ Smileys

Emoticons are another simple form of text art, easily explained. You may have seen them as smileys/ smilies. Text art created to show expression and mood in the flat communication of email and online forums and chats. 🙂 The basic emoticon, with the nose in the middle. Confused or don’t see the face? Then tip your head to the left and use some imagination.

Typographic Text Art

Last of all are the typographic text art. These can have a variety of styles. But, they are all formed from text (assorted fonts) and created in a graphics program, like Gimp. Typographic art is the closest thing to being a cross over between ASCII/ ANSI art and typewriter art. If more artists got into this and really thought about how far it can be taken we would have some very creative and unique graphic arts text art.

ASCII Art

Typewriter Text Art

Typewriter Art: Creating Pictures from Text

KeiraRathboneArt
KeiraRathboneArt on Etsy.

Typewriter art could be read as making art using a typewriter (and it’s parts), or making art by typing with a typewriter. In this case, it’s about making art by typing on a typewriter.

I don’t know who the first typewriter artist was, or when they started. But, from what I have read, typewriters were invented in the 1860’s. I could see someone getting the idea pretty early on. Maybe they smudged a line of text and noticed how well it spread, like making a picture.

Typewriter art is like ASCII art (art created with the standard keyboard characters, usually digital/ computer based). Both typewriter and ASCII art use the keyboard characters which are visible on the keyboard layout. If you use the extra characters available it stops being ASCII art and becomes ANSI art. (See Wikipedia for more about ANSI art). Both typewriter and ASCII art make pictures out of keyboard text but, they are created differently and give different results.

The big difference between typewriter art and ASCII art is not so much the typewriter itself, it’s the fact that ASCII art doesn’t smudge, there is no ink involved. (Unless someone prints the ASCII art, but that would be after it was created fully). Typewriter art uses all the elements of the typewriter. Artists working with a specific form of creating art will always learn the idiosyncrasies of their chosen element, typewriters (with their ink and typing ribbons) included. Not all typewriter art uses the technique of smudging the ink, that’s just feature.

I’m an ASCII artist, which is how I became interested in typewriter art, but I have not tried typewriter art myself. At least not deliberately. I am old enough to have used an old, manual typewriter. There was some art form going on there, even before the creation of Liquid Paper.

MathCool ASCII Art Collection: Electricity

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 -=[ batteries ]=-

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