If you have just started reading poetry or want to start but are bored or intimidated by the numerous poetic devices that you encountered when studying poems in schools, fear not; concrete/shape poetry will give you a way to experience the joys of poetry but in a much more engaging and visually, auditory enticing way. It will go beyond the norm. It may even cause some confusion due to the alien use of space and words. However, it will only be felt in the beginning as you will get the hang of it.
I’ll start by giving you the simplest concrete poem I have encountered so far by Swiss-Bolivian poet Eugen Gomringe.
When one looks at the above image for the first time, it’s hard to envision it being a poem. To “read” this poem, there are many different ways and you might need a minute or two to finally get it. You can read every “silence” aloud and let the empty space be a “silence” itself. If reading the word aloud didn’t help in understanding the poem, do the opposite. Don’t read it aloud and just look at the poem and immerse yourself completely. You will find how the blank space suddenly became the poem’s essence. Even though there is no word, there is a hidden silence in this white space. The feeling of silence is felt. Through immersing our feelings completely in this and letting yourself be a part of the text, we have read a poem that was composed of a single word. Also, remember that there are more than these two ways to read and understand this poem. Use your own interpretation and see what makes sense to you the most.
Now if you did enjoy this little exercise and I have somehow sparked your curiosity, you are lucky because there is a plethora of poems waiting for you that you can read, feel or even listen to without having to feel like your interpretation may not be valid. It’s a different, fun ride that you take and experiment with. You can even start writing your own little short concrete poems to challenge yourself!
If you’ve found it difficult to read and write like John Keats, let concrete poetry be your tool to elevate words or even a single word to be something bigger than itself. Now just to give you a quick idea of how easy it is to get started with concrete poetry, I made a simple, single line poem with the word “Dance”.
dAnCE DANCE dance DancE Dance DANCE dance dAnCE
Even though it is overly simplistic, what I’m trying to convey is that anyone can get started and use words in ways that break the mould. You can use the techniques of concrete poetry to elevate traditional poems or just create some new ones, be it simple or complex. You don’t have to be a master of poetic devices or have a literature degree to start; all you need to do is think outside the box.
For those of you who are just beginning, this website will give you an idea of how to start. If you want to just read and challenge your senses with some concrete poetry, Poetry Foundation, and this website has an amazing collection of poems that you can study or get inspired by.